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More Offense Coming for Mizzou

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Though current sanctions have it so that there won't be a bowl at the end of the season, the Missouri offense will still eat.

Gone is Missouri legend and SEC record-holder Drew Lock, a soon-to-be first round NFL Draft pick at quarterback who threw for 12,193 career yards and 99 touchdowns. In addition to having the second-most yards and third-most scores in league history, Lock, in 2017, set a single-season mark with 44 touchdown passes. Also preparing for the next level is running back Damarea Crockett, a former 1,000-yard rusher who reportedly ran a 4.40 forty yard dash and had a 37-inch vertical leap at 224 pounds at the team's pro day. Another future pro, wideout Emanuel Hall, is one of ten Tigers ever with 2,000 career receiving yards.

Even with such talent to replace from a unit that has finished in the top three in the SEC in total offense three years running, Missouri is poised to have one of the premier offenses in all of college football yet again.

There are still stars all over the field, most interestingly Kelly Bryant under center. The former Clemson quarterback chose the Tigers over a number of suitors and is eligible immediately as a senior graduate transfer. Noted for his leadership, Bryant helped take Clemson to the College Football Playoff in 2017, with the Tigers' lone loss in the regular season coming at Syracuse in a contest where he had to leave due to injury. Bryant ranks first at Clemson all-time in interception avoidance, second in completion percentage and seventh in passing efficiency. He, perhaps most impressively, has a 15-1 record in games he has both started and finished.

Bryant is a different signal caller than Lock, a dual-threat talent who keeps pressure on opposing defenses with his running ability. As a junior, he completed 65.8% of his passes for 2,802 yards with 13 touchdowns, but added 665 rushing yards and eleven more scores on the ground. The only other Power Five quarterbacks to meet those minimums in a single season this millennium are: Brett Hundley, Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota, Kyler Murray, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Tim Tebow, Deshaun Watson and Vince Young.

That fall, Bryant set a Clemson record for wins by a first-year starter with 12 and set a new mark for victories over ranked teams with six. Before stepping on the biggest of stages at the College Football Playoff, Bryant was, first, named ACC Championship Game MVP after the Tigers' blowout win over Miami. Looking around college football, four programs have quarterbacks with final four wins on their resumes; Alabama with Tua Tagovailoa, Oklahoma with Jalen Hurts, Clemson with Trevor Lawrence and, now, Missouri with Bryant. 

Joining Bryant in the backfield for the Tigers, and likely forming a prolific read-option duo, is Larry Rountree III. Fresh off 1,216 yards, the third-highest total by a running back in program history, and eleven touchdowns, he is capable of carrying the offensive load. Rountree finished this past season on an absolute tear, rushing for 458 yards over Missouri's final three games, including 204 yards against Oklahoma State in the Liberty Bowl. Rountree has arguably been more important than most realize. In games where he has rushed for over 90 yards in his career, Missouri is 7-1.

Speaking of playmakers, there is no tight end in the country quite like Albert Okwuegbunam. At 6'5'', 255 pounds, he has the athleticism of a basketball player and, with 881 receiving yards through his two underclassman years, the production of a wide receiver. Of Okwuegbunam's 72 catches, 17 of them have been for touchdowns. He tied for the SEC lead with eleven scores as a freshman. Before getting hurt last season, Okwuegbunam caught six passes for 159 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Memphis.

The consistent Johnathon Johnson paces a playmaking rotation outwide that will also debut former Arkansas standout Jonathan Nance, the Razorbacks' leading receiver in 2017. Ahead of the start of his senior year, Johnson has at least one catch in all but one of his college games, with totals of 124 career grabs, 1,896 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Add in some promising young talents, led by Jalen Knox, and Missouri will have notable options on the perimeter.  

Tying everything together will be an offensive line that has quietly been extremely effective in recent seasons. Remarkably, the Tigers have either allowed the fewest sacks in the SEC, or have tied for the lowest total, in three consecutive years. There is a lot of returning beef at the line scrimmage, most notably tackle Yasir Durant and guard Tre'Vour Wallace-Simms, a pair of all-conference candidates. 

Missouri offensive coordinator Derek Dooley has a balanced, experienced and productive foundation with which to work and a successful standard that has clearly been set. For an offense that has been about as good as it gets in the SEC for some time now, the potential is in place for more of the same. Expect current trends to continue. The aforementioned names will make the Tigers a threat to win a lot of games and, potentially, any game on their schedule.   

Though current sanctions have it so that there won't be a bowl at the end of the season, the Missouri offense will still eat. 

Few units can lose stars like Lock, Crockett and Hall, along with some accomplished linemen such as Paul Adams and Kevin Pendleton, and still be confident in what lies ahead. The Tigers are looking to add to the status quo. Missouri, bolstered by the transfer of Bryant and the return of a number of his new teammates, has expectations set high.

In the "Show-Me State", a dynamic offense has been on display for years. Somehow, there is still more to see.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports