Observations from Faurot: More Mookie, new position for Carlies

Missouri football practiced at Faurot Field on Saturday, March 6.

Missouri football opened its Saturday practice at Faurot Field to fans and media, and those in attendance witnessed an action-packed morning.

Here are The Maneater’s observations and takeaways from that practice.

Update on “Mookie is fast”

Whew. Ohio State transfer receiver Mookie Cooper has a number now — No. 5 — but he doesn’t need any help distinguishing himself from the rest of the Tigers’ receiving corps.

In one-on-one drills, precisely zero defensive backs had a prayer against Cooper. He ran by any and all comers and didn’t even really look like he was going 100%. That’s not a knock on his effort, which Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz has lauded multiple times. Cooper just makes blazing speed look effortless.

Drinkwitz clearly loves Cooper, for multiple reasons.

“He’s got a tremendous smile,” Drinkwitz said. “God, I love that guy’s smile. He’s got great energy, great work ethic. His attitude is about ‘How do I improve?’ He called me after Thursday’s practice and was asking me what the next install was so that he can get ahead. He’s on a mission right now, and I appreciate that and I’m on a mission with him.”

Drinkwitz also featured Cooper on jet sweeps multiple times in the team portion of practice, and Missouri’s secondary had exactly as much of a chance to catch up to him on those plays as they did in one-on-ones.

Cooper would be ten, fifteen yards downfield before anyone even got close in pursuit. With that running start on the jet sweep, his speed eliminated any angle whatsoever for the EDGE rusher who had contain responsibility and made it difficult to impossible for the second-level defenders. Those defenders have to worry about a run play coming back the other way, too.

“I’m not sure that if we were playing live, they would’ve been able to tackle Mookie,” Drinkwitz said.

That jet sweep and the plays that stem from faking it are bonafide fixtures in Missouri’s offense, which The Maneater has written about before, and the team practices like it. During one of the individual drill phases, Drinkwitz oversaw an entire drill dedicated to jet sweeps.

Only Cooper, true freshman receiver Dominic Lovett, receiver D’ionte “Boo” Smith and senior running back Tyler Badie participated in that drill. Jalen Knox ran jet motion well last year before he started to have injury problems down the stretch. Cooper could take it to the next level.

J.C. Carlies, free safety?

Sophomore defensive back J.C. Carlies started the last two games of the season at cornerback after Jarvis Ware went down with an injury. Ware is still out, but Carlies took every single first-team rep at a different position: free safety.

The roster doesn’t specify whether he’s a corner or a safety, and he was recruited as someone who can do both. Based on Saturday’s practice and Drinkwitz’s comments afterward, the team has decided he’s a safety.

“He’s doing a nice job at that position,” Drinkwitz said. “He’s a natural with the ball in his hands. He’s got that length and ball awareness. So yeah, we’re very excited about what his potential is at that free safety position.”

Carlies showed his range on Saturday, picking off a too-high Connor Bazelak pass over the deep middle and taking it to the house. His size and range make him a fit for the position and a threat for smaller receivers over the middle, much like Tyree Gillespie was last year.

Carlies is close with fellow sophomore Ennis Rakestraw, who is all but guaranteed to get his starting spot back. He also went to high school with Tyler Jones, a backup safety in the same class. There’s a long way to go before Drinkwitz will make any official declarations regarding the depth chart, but based on their comments last season, Rakestraw and Carlies must be ecstatic about the opportunity.

“When we got here, we were the only three freshmen DBs that committed here,” Carlies said in December. “That just kind of brought us closer, so we always hang out together.”

Newcomers in the trenches

Realus George Jr, a junior college transfer and the bottom-ranked recruit in the 2021 class, earned No. 91 on Thursday. On Saturday, he showed why.

George’s best moment from practice came against fellow newcomer EJ Ndoma-Ogar, a transfer from Oklahoma. During the team segment, he blew by Ndoma-Ogar with a swim move and reached the quarterback, practically untouched.

“Spring’s usually a struggle period for the junior college player, just because of the tempo, the amount of reps, the intensity, the detail with which we practice,” Drinkwitz said about George and junior college transfer defensive end Daniel Robledo. “But if they can absorb it and then utilize the next four months to improve, they’ll put themselves in a position to help us in the fall.”

Ndoma-Ogar struggled at the point of attack a couple of times, including that rep against George, but he was particularly impressive when he got to the second level.

If fans in attendance watched the offensive line play, they could have seen Ndoma-Ogar about 30 yards down the field, blocking a safety on a screen pass. Once he gets his hands on second-and third-level defenders on screens and outside zones, he’s capable of taking them anywhere he wants.

Ndoma-Ogar and George went head-to-head in a one-on-one drill early in practice twice in a row. It was a fairly even competition. George won the first battle, but Ndoma-Ogar walked him back moments later.

Other notes

Analyzing the depth chart on defense doesn’t do much good right now. Ware, safety Jalani Williams, defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat and defensive tackle Kobie Whiteside are not practicing due to various injuries, and graduate transfer linebacker Blaze Alldredge hasn’t arrived in Columbia yet.

That’s five potential defensive starters unavailable. However, the noteworthy name working with the ones on Saturday was new safety Shawn Robinson, rotating with Chris Shearin as the third safety during the team and seven-on-seven portions.

“If our whole team would practice the way Shawn Robinson is practicing right now, with urgency, intensity and great focus on detail, we’ll be a championship football team,” Drinkwitz said.

Other receiver news: Returning graduate Keke Chism looked very good, hauling in multiple jump balls. Redshirt freshman Jay Maclin made two one-handed catches but dropped an easy one that went directly into the hands of true freshman safety Daylan Carnell, who would have taken it to the house.

An interesting commonly-run play at practice was some variation of a roll-out to the right and a throw-back to the tight end on the left. The tight end would usually run a drag route across the formation. Sometimes it came off of play-action, other times it came disguised as a designed rollout to the right.

Niko Hea, the team’s top receiving tight end, isn’t practicing this spring after an offseason surgery. But based on how often the team ran it, Drinkwitz — who found creative ways to use tight ends last season — could see it as a staple of his offense.

Injury update: Freshman defensive end Travion Ford will miss the rest of spring with an injury, but he should make a full recovery and be back at full-strength for the summer.

Edited by Kyle Pinnell | kpinnell@themaneater.com

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