Connor Bazelak is not a boat for the Missouri football team, he is the tide.
There is arguably no player with higher expectations than Connor Bazelak. SEC coaches voted him the 2020 SEC Co-Freshman of the Year and Bazelak also earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team. Those accolades alone should put an SEC spotlight on him, if not a national one. Former SEC Freshman of the Year award winners include A.J. Green (2008), Jadeveon Clowney (2011), and Jaylen Waddle (2018). All have gone on to be highly-touted draft selections and national stars for their programs.
Now can Bazelak follow that formula? With Drinkwitz, anything seems possible.
But it was proven in 2020 that Bazelak’s performance can be the difference between winning and losing for the Tigers. 2020 was a good sample year for Bazelak. In five losses, he averaged a 45.3 QBR, including an abysmal 19.6 QBR against Mississippi State. On the other hand, he averaged an 82.4 QBR in wins, including a 406 yard, 4 TD performance against LSU.
That nearly 40 point difference is huge to any program. Couple a more consistent rating performance with his seven-game streak of passing for 200+ yards, and Bazelak could take a step forward.
But what is different between 2020 and 2021?
There are two major differences between now and then. First, a new system in a shortened year. Similar to Trajan Jeffcoat’s progression, Bazelak’s could be chocked up to not having a normal or full season to grow or prepare. Even professional players can see a step pack statistically when transitioning to a new system. Add this to Bazelak suffering a knee injury in the 2019 season finale against Arkansas and 2020 does not add up to an ideal offseason.
But neither of those excuses apply this year.
While some pandemic mitigations are still in place, most programs are back to normal operations and full speed ahead. Following the spring football game, Drinkwitz described his quarterbacks play as “blah”. Not a very good sign of confidence.
"“We didn’t execute at a high enough level,” Drinkwitz said. “I thought Connor made a couple good throws but overall, we can improve. So that’s a good sign — you want to make sure you continue to have an opportunity to get better.”"
But, that was in March. It has been four months of opportunity for Bazelak to grow and study the system. Bazelak has flashed his potential on beautiful throws.
All the speculation and possibilities have landed Bazelak on the 2021 Davey O’Brien Award Watch List, an award presented to the nation’s best college quarterback.
The question remains if the potential translates to the team record and stat line. Many signs point that the redshirt sophomore will grow into the quarterback the program knows he can be.