COLUMBIA, Mo. — In another world, Missouri would have opened its football season Saturday against Central Arkansas at Faurot Field in what would have been the debut for Eliah Drinkwitz and the offense the Tigers pulled him away from Appalachian State to implement.
Instead, the team held its second closed scrimmage of the fall, with three weeks still to go until Missouri hosts Alabama to open this strange 2020 campaign.
"We're supposed to have played today, man," Drinkwitz said Saturday afternoon on Zoom after the scrimmage. "Feel like I'm in that movie with Tom Hanks in it, 'Castaway.' I feel like Castaway. We can't quite get to that game yet. Every time I think we're close, the waves throw me back on the beach."
The Tigers ran 120-150 plays in their approximately 2-hour scrimmage, Drinkwitz said, a mix of live clock action as well as red zone or end of half situations.
Drinkwitz gave the impression he is not yet happy with the program's offensive install, which struggled in the first scrimmage against an established defense, both in terms of personnel and scheme.
Saturday was better, though he said there is still a long way to go to be game-ready.
"Yeah, we got a couple first downs, was a huge positive, and we scored a couple of touchdowns, which, again, was a huge positive," Drinkwitz said. "I thought our guys did a nice job of staying in front of the chains, staying out of negative plays, which has been an issue for us."
He added the group of quarterbacks — Shawn Robinson, Taylor Powell, Connor Bazelak and Brady Cook — worked in some new concepts this week and looked comfortable calling them and working through their progressions in the scrimmage, which saw playing time for everyone on the roster.
One of the offense's challenges has been the lack of a consistent group of offensive linemen during practices, because of injuries and coronavirus, contact tracing and quarantine.
Missouri's offensive line gave up some of the fewest sack totals in the nation in each of Drew Lock's final two years but struggled somewhat in pass protection last season.
Three of those starting offensive linemen moved on in the offseason: center Trystan Colon-Castillo; guard Tre-Vour Wallace Simms, who did not make the Jaguars' 53-man roster Saturday; and left tackle Yasir Durant, who did make the Chiefs' 53-man roster.
"Honestly for them, I think it's very similar to the quarterback, and that the situation was we were rotating a lot of guys," Drinkwitz said Saturday. "We had some guys quarantine, we had some guys with COVID, we had some guys with some injuries and we've just been rotating a group. I think today is the first time that we've really played with the same five for five or six consecutive practices, and it's been really nice."
Missouri has otherwise avoided a serious run-in with coronavirus, at least according to the information Drinkwitz provided. The Tigers sent someone for symptom testing and isolation Friday, and had another symptom test performed Monday return a negative result. The team also got three individuals back from quarantine Thursday and will have two more out by the end of the weekend.
The Tigers missed several contributors in Saturday's scrimmage, including linebacker Chad Bailey (2-3 weeks, hand), offensive lineman Hyrin White and running back Elijah Young (shoulder), defensive lineman Markell Utsey (upper torso), wide receiver Maurice Massey (lower knee), wide receiver Damon Hazelton (soft tissue) and running back Simi Bakare (hamstring).
Missouri added its fourth 4-star commitment to the 2021 class Saturday afternoon, as Pike (Indianapolis) defensive end/outside linebacker Kyran Montgomery gave his verbal pledge on Twitter.
The Tigers offered Montgomery in January and worked hard to stay in touch with him, making his list of final three schools earlier this summer. Missouri beat out Minnesota and Florida State, thanks to the efforts of Drinkwitz and defensive line coach Brick Haley, but also fellow commits, including defensive lineman Mekhi Wingo and defensive back Daylan Carnell, who is also from Indianapolis.
Montgomery had 99 tackles for the Red Devils as a junior in 10 games, 65 solo, and added 22 tackles for loss and five sacks. In two games this season, he's registered nine tackles, two for loss, and a sack.
Montgomery joins East St. Louis quarterback Tyler Macon, Lutheran North defensive end Travion Ford and Carnell as the Tigers' 4-star commits in this class, according to Rivals, the 19th total commit and the fifth at defensive end. Both 247sports and ESPN have Macon, Montgomery and Carnell as 3-star prospects.
Rivals has the Tigers' 2021 class as the No. 19 class in the country, 10 spots higher than 247sports.