South Carolina Football: Getting to know the opponent: Missouri Tigers

Shane Beamer's South Carolina football team will take on Eli Drinkwitz' Missouri Tigers in the seventh game of the season. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Beamer's South Carolina football team will take on Eli Drinkwitz' Missouri Tigers in the seventh game of the season. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /

This week, Kevin Miller of Garnet and Cocky had the opportunity to speak with Sammy Stava of Rock M Nation to discuss this week’s matchup between South Carolina football and the Missouri Tigers.

For the other side of this interview, check out this link on Rock M Nation.

KM: Missouri was expected to be better in 2023, but not many were expecting the Tigers to be a top-25 team who might finish in the top-4 of the SEC. What is the biggest change for Mizzou that has brought them from relative mediocrity to legitimate players in the SEC?

SS: I think for the most part, Mizzou is an experienced group as they brought back most of their key pieces on offense and defense this season. Missouri also lost a lot of close games last season so they have been competitive, but this is the season where they have gotten over the hump.

Eli Drinkwitz had some highly ranked recruiting classes a couple of years ago, and now those recruits are upperclassmen. All in all, this Mizzou team has the necessary talent and experience to compete and be a legitimate factor in the SEC.

KM: Some Missouri fans wanted Brady Cook benched this offseason. He has proven his haters wrong by being a top-5 quarterback in the SEC so far this season. How has Cook’s play and the emergence of D-II transfer Cody Schrader transformed an inconsistent Missouri offense into a really good unit?

SS: I think the biggest reason for Brady Cook’s progress for this season is that he is, for the most part, healthy – and he has two stud receivers in Luther Burden and Theo Wease. As for Cody Schrader, he has delivered a steady, veteran presence to the running back position. He might not be flashy, but he gets the job done in a workmanlike kind of way. As a result, the offense is a well-oiled machine right now and a lot of that credit goes to new offensive coordinator Kirby Moore.

KM: Eli Drinkwitz is not afraid to talk a little smack in press conferences and interviews. In the past, it has appeared that he has had a little extra “something” to throw toward the South Carolina football program. From a Missouri perspective, does Drink value the game against Carolina highly each year, or does he have zings for almost everybody?

SS: In the past couple of years, Eli Drinkwitz did have some “zings” for opposing teams – but it’s not just South Carolina. He took a shot at Tennessee’s recruiting violations, and he also mocked Dan Mullen after beating Florida in 2021.

However, this season is strictly business for Eli Drinkwitz as I think he’s matured as an SEC head coach. He was relatively quiet as SEC Media Days back in July and I think that’s a good thing.

This team’s motto is “Something to Prove” this season and they’re doing that on and off the field. While Missouri has had South Carolina football’s number as of late, I think Drinkwitz will fully respect Shane Beamer and the Gamecocks heading into this one – because he knows that they will be desperate for a win.

KM: Let’s talk about Luther Burden. What makes him so special for Missouri? (There’s also a rumor that he and Cody Schrader might be a little too banged up to play on Saturday. Do you have any information about these guys? How will Missouri adjust without one or both of their best players on offense?)

SS: Luther Burden has the speed, size, quickness, and athleticism that make him special. As a wide receiver, he’s built to overwhelm opposing secondaries. As for the injury report – Burden has been banged up a little bit as he was sidelined in the win over Memphis in Week 4. In his press conference this week, Drinkwitz did say that Schrader is “questionable”. Mizzou’s official injury report doesn’t come out until Thursday evening, so stay tuned for that.

***Added note after that Thursday night injury report came out: Schrader is listed as “questionable” and Burden is not listed on the injury report.

KM: The Missouri defense has been at its best this season when it can cause issues with their pass rush. With South Carolina football’s inconsistent offensive line play, is this a matchup that you feel could really push the game toward Missouri?

SS: We’ve seen the highs and lows of Spencer Rattler. The offense isn’t the problem for this Gamecocks team as that unit has the potential to be dangerous. Make no mistake about it: Mizzou’s defense is in for a challenge in this one – but they’re at their best when they create havoc under defensive coordinator Blake Baker. And with the inconsistencies of South Carolina’s offensive line play, I believe it is a good match-up for this Mizzou defensive line as they will be able to sack Rattler a couple of times in this one. 

KM: Other than the stars on offense (Cook, Burden, Schrader), who should fans know about before this weekend? Which Tigers stand out on defense?

SS: On the offensive side, two freshmen stand out in wide receiver Marquise Johnson and tight end Brett Norfleet who have been making big-time plays for this team. On the defensive side – Kris Abrams-Draine might be the best cornerback in the SEC and maybe one of the best in the country as he’s been named to mid-season All-American teams. Watch out for him to get an interception in this one.

KM: Missouri is the favorite on Saturday, sitting with about a touchdown lead in the spread. What needs to happen for Missouri to win and even cover on Saturday? What would it take in your opinion for the Gamecocks to sneak up and bite Missouri?

SS: Mizzou is playing at a high level and with a whole lot of confidence right now. Since it’s at home and it’s Missouri’s Homecoming – I think the Tigers win this by double-digits 31-20. However, if South Carolina plays in desperation mode and Spencer Rattler lights it up, that could cause some problems. Either way, they can’t afford to overlook the Gamecocks because they have the potential and they’re better than the record shows.

South Carolina football will kick off against Missouri at 3:30 on Saturday on the SECNetwork and ESPN app.

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