Even while a return date to normalcy can’t be pinpointed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Missouri football is starting to understand what these next weeks and perhaps months may look like.
Hopefully this period will involve lots of becoming familiar with schemes and plans for this coming season. Unfortunately it will involve no time spent in the same place.
There are unusual challenges aplenty in this transitional offseason for Missouri.
The Tigers retained only three full-time assistant coaches from Barry Odom’s staff, all of which are coaching the defense.
New head coach Eliah Drinkwitz chose to bring back defensive coordinator Ryan Walters, defensive backs coach David Gibbs and defensive line coach Brick Haley. Seven new assistants have come to MU and are trying to establish their regimes.
Due to the Southeastern Conference canceling all spring football practices and spring games due to the global health crisis, the best any Tiger can do now to comprehend information is take detailed notes from a group video chat. Workouts, likewise, are dependent on individual discipline more than regular structure.
While practicing social distancing, Drinkwitz has tried to stay in constant contact with staff, current players and recruits within new guidelines. This week, the SEC announced it would allow teams two hours per week to break down film or anything that can be done through the internet while they’re not allowed to conduct workouts.
The most valuable factor of spring football is that Missouri focuses almost exclusively on itself. As of now, the Tigers’ season opener isn’t for more than five months, as they are scheduled to play Central Arkansas on Sept. 5 at Faurot Field.
"We're still getting to know our team," Drinkwitz said Wednesday during a Zoom conference call with reporters. "We still don't know the strengths and weaknesses of our individual players, relative to the scheme that we're going to try to utilize."
Few Power Five Conference staffs stayed completely intact this offseason, but while the changes in Columbia aren’t unparalleled, the change to new leadership nevertheless makes for an uphill battle during this stoppage.
Drinkwitz said he doesn’t know who will start at quarterback for the Tigers this fall, but he intends for Missouri to have a pro-tempo style offense that emphasizes an aggressive run game and a spread-out pass attack.
Drinkwitz has yet to determine whether the offense will mirror more of Ryan Finley, North Carolina State’s quarterback when he was the offensive coordinator for the Wolfpack in 2018, or Zac Thomas, Appalachian State’s starter last season when he served as the head coach.
The Tigers should, however, see similarities on the defensive side from recent years, with Walters providing stability — even amid the current challenges.
"I’m really glad now that we retained coach Walters and the defensive scheme with seven returning starters," Drinkwitz said. "That scheme is going to stay the same, which is an aggressive mentality, but it's a lot of man-to-man and multiple-front defenses to stop the run and get after the quarterback in multiple ways."