<
>

Three observations from Missouri's spring game

Missouri wrapped up its first spring under new head coach Barry Odom on Saturday with its annual Black-and-Gold game. Here are three observations of what took place at Faurot Field:

The defense hasn’t missed a beat: The Tigers didn’t have a full complement of defensive starters (second team All-SEC selection Charles Harris was out, as was defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. and defensive end Walter Brady left in the first half with an injury) but still held the upper hand throughout the day. In 15 offensive series, the defense held the offense scoreless on 12 of them. The Tigers looked good at linebacker, led by the effort of senior middle linebacker Michael Scherer (team high six tackles and two tackles for loss) and Donavin Newsom, covered well in the secondary and the defensive line consistently stopped the run and pressured the quarterback even without being full strength up front. In 2015, Mizzou was third-best nationally in yards allowed per play (4.31) and fifth in scoring defense (16.1 points allowed per game) and looked sharp enough on Saturday (3.9 yards allowed per play, 21 points) to indicate that another strong season is ahead.

Drew Lock still appears to be the best option at quarterback: Odom hadn’t publicly named a starting quarterback this spring, even though Lock returns after starting eight last season (it was a rough eight games for the then-true freshman, who struggled throughout his debut season). On Saturday, Lock looked sharp and confident and had the best performance of the contenders for the position. Lock finished 9-for-13 passing for 134 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Lock also showed his running ability on a couple of designed runs, picking up a first down twice with his legs. Marvin Zanders was also solid (8-for-13 passing, 83 yards, one touchdown) and led a nine-play scoring drive in the second half while junior college transfer Jack Lowary (2-for-9 passing, 1 yard), struggled. Lock put the first two touchdowns on the board with 4-yard scoring toss to Richaud Floyd and a picturesque 64-yard touchdown pass to J’Mon Moore that hit the receiver in perfect stride.

The offense still needs work: For as good as the defense was in 2015, the offense was poor and a big reason why the Tigers went 5-7. While Lock looked good, it’s clear there is still improvement to be had in the running game. Running back Ish Witter led all ballcarriers with 43 yards on 13 carries, a meager 3.3 yards per carry average. There were also some mistakes, namely two shotgun snaps that went awry and combined to lose the Tigers’ 39 yards. Even if you take those out of the equation, the Tigers as a team averaged only 2.9 yards per carry. Receivers still appear to be a work in progress; Alabama graduate transfer Chris Black left Saturday’s game early with an injury. Eric Laurent led the group with four catches for 42 years. Outside of Moore’s big scoring reception from Lock, there wasn’t much in terms of spectacular showings. One positive: no turnovers for the offense.