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Matter: Drinkwitz faces winnable road tests in Mizzou's first month

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Here are the highlights from our weekly Mizzou chat with Post-Dispatch readers. 

Q: How do you feel the first few football games play out? Drinkwitz needs a good showing this year and momentum would go a long way to help fill the stands. The last several years haven't gone that way, though, with either bad losses or very close wins against teams they should've handled easily within the first two games of the season.

A: A 2-2 start shouldn't be a surprise. A 3-1 start is very possible. If Drinkwitz figures out the QB situation and the defense isn't another disaster, don't rule out 4-0.

Week 1: Missouri should beat a Louisiana Tech team that went 3-9 last year. First-year coach Sonny Cumbie is an offensive guy and has the element of surprise with a new system in place. But this is a game Mizzou should win by double digits.

Week 2: At Kansas State. The Cats will be favored at home but not unbeatable. Chris Kleiman is breaking in a new quarterback in former Nebraska starter Adrian Martinez, but it's a proud program that's beaten solid teams from Oklahoma, Iowa State, West Virginia, Mississippi State and a shell of LSU in the last three years. This would very much go down as a quality win for Mizzou — but not a terrible loss.

Week 3: Home against Abilene Christian. Anything less than a win by double digits is a major red flag.

Week 4: At Auburn. Again, Mizzou will be a road underdog, but Auburn will probably be picked last in the SEC West preseason poll. Bryan Harsin has a great running back in Tank Bigsby and an NFL defensive lineman in Derick Hall, but lots of question marks. Much like K-State, there's no shame in losing a competitive game on the road at Auburn, but a win would be impressive.

From there, Georgia comes to town the next week and Mizzou will be a decided underdog against what’s left of the national champs.

Q: What must the next president of the NCAA bring to the table when they start in 2023?

A: My opinion might not be popular, but it's time to allow the athletes to unionize and create their own collective bargaining agreements so they can be paid as employees. That way, with salary/contractual structures in place you can avoid endless free agency where athletes are constantly following the highest bidder from one school to the next and using the transfer portal as leverage for better NIL deals. Blow up the entire system. The NCAA should exist to host championships and little else.

Q: What is your projected starting five for Mizzou basketball?

A: It’s really hard to say until they fill these final two scholarships. Jamarion Sharp, the 7-5 transfer from Western Kentucky, would be an obvious starter at the five if he picks Mizzou. The staff is hoping to get him on campus tomorrow for a visit. He's not a lock for MU by any means.

But, let's assume he picks the Tigers.

5: Sharp

4: Kobe Brown

3. Noah Carter

2: D'Moi Hodge

1: Sean East

Or ...

5: Sharp

4: Brown

3: Hodge

2: East

1: Nick Honor

You can have two point guards on the floor — think Dru Smith and Xavier Pinson — and then mix and match the other guards and wings off the bench. Then at the 2 and 3 positions, you also have Tre Gomillion and DeAndre Gholston. Where do Aidan Shaw, Mo Diarra and Ronnie DeGray fit in? They're probably natural 4s, but Shaw can play on the wing some ... Diarra and DeGray can play minutes at the 5 if you don't have better options.

Q: Do you believe the sports media will now push for the revamping of NIL? Nearly all of them dismissed the fans' concerns on NIL and said we were overreacting and the NIL is going to work well and it would not lead to pay-for-play.

Well, what a shock, the elite media was wrong and we have legalized cheating now. The media should sometimes get out of the comfort of their free tickets in the press box and actually listen to the fans. And please don’t just put the blame on the NCAA, the media pushed for this more than anyone.

A: The elite media? What the heck is that? Am I included in that elite company? If so I need to update my business card.

I don't recall the media ever saying it wouldn't lead to pay-for-play. Just the opposite. Most figured it was inevitable ... but also realized it's a more transparent way of paying players than under-the-table payments that have gone on forever. I still think the current setup is better for college athletes than the old way of doing things. It's more chaotic for the coaches, but ... that's fine. They're making millions of dollars to deal with headaches. Nobody forced them to become college coaches.

What's the downside to all of this? Young athletes making money? Nobody is holding a gun to the boosters forcing them to pay. If athletes use their leverage for more money, how is that different from any other industry? It's the American way.

I still believe allowing players to earn money off their NIL is the greater good and a net positive for college sports. Look at all the talented college basketball players who are choosing to return for another year of college because of NIL opportunities. Oscar Tshiebwe, Caleb Love, Armando Bacot. That's just three in men's hoops. Auburn got to watch Suni Lee compete in gymnastics this year solely because of NIL.

Now, can the NCAA and the conferences add some reforms to eliminate some of the blatant pay-for-play shenanigans? Sure. That's possible — and probably will happen. But here's the truth: As long as there are rich people who love college sports, they'll find ways to pay great athletes to play for their team. That's never going to change — unless you blow up the structure and make the players employees and pay them as you would in professional sports with structured and binding contracts.

Q: Dave, do you have any news on Bohannon? I think Brady Cook could be a fine quarterback, but he lacks Bohannon's experience. I wonder if Tyler Macon has the passing skills to be a Division I quarterback. Thanks.

A: I'm intrigued by Bohanon. Strong leader, true dual threat. The Big 12 has quietly become a very good defensive league. (The Big 12 had five top 25 defenses in scoring defense last year; the SEC had just three.) And that adds credibility to his numbers last year.

One of Mizzou's goals is for the quarterback to produce two rushing first downs per game. In 12 games last year — he missed two with a hamstring injury — Bohanon ran for 29 first downs. He's not an elite passer but, again, in an improved Big 12 he was one of the better QBs in the league last year.

Q: Obviously Gates is looking at Sharp to fill one of the two open scholarships. What skill mix/position should be looked for to fill the last spot and are there any names out there still that would fit?

A: No clear contenders, but I would think they'd still want to add a proven shooter.

Here's the best single-season Division 3-point percentage for each player that's committed to next year's roster:

Gomillion: 42.9 (42 attempts)

Carter: 40.0 (40 attempts)

Gholston: 37.4 (123 attempts)

DeGray: 37.0 (27 attempts)

Honor: 36.7 (202 attempts)

Hodge: 32.9 (173 attempts)

East: 32.1 (81 attempts)

Kaleb Brown: 28.6 (14 attempts)

Kobe Brown: 25.3 (75 attempts)

Shaw and Diarra haven't played in a Division I game yet.

So, what you have are a couple of 40% shooters, but those were low-volume shooting seasons for Gomillion and Carter. What you don't have is a proven high-volume 3-point shooter who's been 40% or better from deep — and especially at the high-major level.

Q: Hey Dave, I love reading all your stuff on Mizzou. Why has there been such a drop-off in NFL talent for the football program over the last few years? Is it bad recruiting? Lack of development? And who is the next first-round round pick going to be for the Tigers?

A: Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting.

There's no other answer.

The 2022 NFL draft was essentially players from the 2017-18 recruiting classes. Mizzou's 2017 class ranked No. 49 nationally by Rivals. The 2018 class ranked No. 39 — but had massive turnover. That class had 26 players. Guess how many either exhausted their eligibility at Mizzou or are still on the roster as fifth-year seniors? Eight.

Tyler Badie (NFL)

Nick Bolton (NFL)

Chad Bailey

Trajan Jeffcoat

Javon Foster

Tauskie Dove

Xavier Delgado

Bobby Lawrence

Eleven of the 13 top-rated players in that class left Mizzou before their eligibility expired or never made it to campus, including SMU receiver Danny Gray, who was drafted last weekend.

As for the next first-rounder ... I'm not sure there's a returning player on the roster who's a first-rounder. From last year's defense, McGuire, Jeffcoat, Carlies, Manuel and Abrams-Draine could all be drafted in 2023 or 2024.

Burden is the easy answer, but I'll hold off on a guy who hasn't played a college snap yet.

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