The Missouri Tigers took the field for the first time as a team on Friday, and head coach Eli Drinkwitz is hoping to “engage the fan base” with two spring practices open to the public and the annual spring game at the end of the month.
“It's going to be an awesome opportunity for people to come and watch our football team, to get a chance to be around and cheer on in a COVID friendly environment,” Drinkwitz said after Friday’s practice.
The Tigers will let fans get a glimpse of the team on March 6 and March 13, and the annual spring game is set for March 20.
Drinkwitz said the game serves as an opportunity for people who want to buy season tickets to get a chance to see where in the stadium they could potentially purchase those tickets.
A handful of players were nursing injuries, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, and missed the practice. Senior wide receiver Jalen Knox and junior tight end Niko Hea are both recovering from offseason surgeries and are expected to be fully recovered by the summer. Redshirt junior defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat is considered day-to-day, and senior cornerback Jarvis Ware is rehabbing a torn ACL that will keep him out of the entire spring.
The second-year head coach confirmed earlier in the week that graduate student defensive linemen Kobie Whiteside and senior Jatorian Hansford are out for the spring, as well as redshirt junior linebacker Cam Wilkins and redshirt sophomore safety Jalani Williams.
Redshirt sophomore Connor Bazelak is the returning quarterback, but Friday’s practice was the debut of another touted newcomer — freshman quarterback Tyler Macon.
“You’ve got to remember Tyler Macon didn’t even play his senior year of football because of COVID,” Drinkwitz said. “Today is the first time he's seen live action since last year. I think a reasonable expectation or all we're wanting is for him to get back in the saddle and get a groove.”
All eyes will be on Ohio State receiver transfer Mookie Cooper — a four-star wideout prospect from the St. Louis area and picked Ohio State straight out of high school — but he will need to earn his place on Mizzou's team.
“Mookie’s fast,” Drinkwitz said. “So that was my impression today: Mookie’s fast. It’s day one. He does a lot of good things … But we’ve got a long ways to go. For him, each day is another day to improve. We're gonna have good days and bad days. He's learning the offense, so I don't try to put too much into any one practice or any one day but just keep stacking the good days. He stacked a good day today.”
Mizzou finished the 2020 season on a two-game losing streak against Mississippi State and Georgia and finished the season 5-5 overall.
The Tigers will have an opportunity to face non-conference opponents on the schedule this year, starting the 2021 season against Central Michigan on Sept. 4.