Missouri quarterback Jake Garcia waits for a snap during practice Thursday at Devine Pavilion in Columbia. The transfer from Miami has been taking a majority of the snaps with the first team as Brady Cook and Sam Horn recover from injuries. Dylan Laible, a Hutchinson Community College transfer, has been receiving additional opportunities as well.
Wide receiver Demariyon “Peanut” Houston runs through drills with quarterback Brady Cook on Thursday at Devine Pavilion in Columbia. Houston appeared in five games during the 2022 season and ended his season with a touchdown in the Tigers’ bowl game against Wake Forest.
When he first spoke to reporters before the beginning of spring practices, MU coach Eli Drinkwitz had only seen Miami transfer quarterback Jake Garcia throw on video.
With five practices now in the books, Drinkwitz is beginning to form a better idea of what he has in the former ESPN top-25 recruit.
“I’ve been pleased with Jake’s progression,” Drinkwitz said Thursday. “He’s got really good arm talent and does a nice job of handling the offense.”
With Brady Cook recovering from shoulder surgery and Sam Horn still limited from a recent forearm injury, Garcia is continuing to take the lion’s share of first-team reps in practice. Drinkwitz said Garcia has had good days and bad days like any player but that the good has outweighed the bad thus far.
Dylan Laible is another QB receiving additional opportunities. The Hutchinson Community College transfer has impressed Drinkwitz with his physical traits and ability to read the game.
“He’s taken advantage of every rep he’s gotten since Sam is not full speed,” Drinkwitz said. “You can tell that he’s played a lot of football; the speed of the game doesn’t bother him.”
Both Garcia and Laible have earned jersey numbers after going through the first week of practices in blank uniforms. They will wear No. 6 and No. 18, respectively.
‘Chasing two dreams’
A theme of this offseason has been players staying additional years and buying into the program’s culture. A large part of that, Drinkwitz said, is because of the program’s mantra of “chasing two dreams” — one football-related, one academic.
Barrett Banister, who completed his sixth season of college football for the Tigers in 2022, is still in Columbia preparing for Pro Day. The former walk-on is chasing his NFL dream while also working on a master’s degree in athletic administration. Banister has been working with the quarterbacks and MU training staff and then observing practices afterward, per Drinkwitz.
“He wants to still be around football, and it’s a good outlet for him,” Drinkwitz said.
Another graduate staying around the program is Tyrone Hopper, the former North Carolina transfer defensive end who spent his final year of eligibility with the Tigers in 2022.
According to MU’s coach, Hopper is finishing his master’s degree this semester in addition to completing an internship and working as a student assistant with the football staff.
A hot-button topic among SEC fans and coaches alike has been the changes coming to the conference’s alignment. With Texas and Oklahoma slated to join the conference in July 2024, it is expected that the SEC’s divisional lineup and scheduling patterns will change.
Some of the suggested changes include a seven-to-nine-game schedule with randomized opponents. Others suggest a conference schedule in which every team faces three permanent “rivals” yearly. When asked about changes coming to the conference, Drinkwitz said he’s in favor of keeping things traditional.
“Call me old-fashioned,” he said. “I am for keeping regional rivalries. I am for keeping consistency of opponents.”
Drinkwitz is a native of Alma, Arkansas, and grew up going to Arkansas games. He said he couldn’t imagine certain conference rivalries not being yearly.