COLUMBIA — The news didn't exactly come as a surprise, but Tuesday's depth chart put out by the Missouri football program confirmed Saturday's starter at quarterback will be either Connor Bazelak or TCU transfer Shawn Robinson.
Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz did not release a depth chart for the few days of spring practice the Tigers were able to hold before the coronavirus pandemic cut things short, and kept things unofficial throughout fall camp to reinforce the idea nobody's starting spot from last season was safe.
On the defensive end, things played out pretty much as expected, with one or two surprises, and only one "or" between starter and backup. The defensive line (with backups in parentheses) will be Tre Williams (Cannon York), Markell Utsey (Darius Robinson), Kobie Whiteside (Akial Byers) and either Chris Turner or Isaiah McGuire (Z'Core Brooks); linebackers feature Nick Bolton (Chad Bailey, Aubrey Miller) and Devin Nicholson (Cameron Wilkins, Jamal Brooks); and the defensive backs will be cornerbacks Jarvis Ware (Ishmael Burdine) and true freshman Ennis Rakestraw (Adam Sparks) and safeties Martez Manuel (Stacy Brown), Joshuah Bledsoe (Chris Shearin) and Tyree Gillespie (Jalani Williams).
Rakestraw was a high-profile recruiting target in early February, thanks to a strong senior season and good track times, and chose the Tigers ahead of offers from in-state Texas and the Crimson Tide. He will be tasked with covering either Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith, players Drinkwitz called "elite NFL players" Tuesday.
The other true freshmen seeing the field immediately for the Tigers come on special teams: place kicker Harrison Mevis and punt returner Kris Abrams-Draine (ahead of Barrett Bannister and Jarvis Ware). The Tigers will have Kentucky transfer Grant McKinniss punting and holding, and will send Tyler Badie, Dawson Downing, Abrams-Draine and Larry Rountree III out for kick return.
On offense, Missouri has been comfortable for the majority of fall camp with its starters at running back, receiver and the right side of the offensive line. Rountree or Badie will start in the backfield, ahead of true freshman Elijah Young or Downing.
Damon Hazelton (D'ionte Smith or Javian Hester, Chance Luper) and Keke Chism (Tauskie Dove or Micah Wilson) will occupy the outside receiver positions, while Jalen Knox (Bannister or Dominic Gicinto) gets the nod at inside receiver. Daniel Parker Jr., Niko Hea or Logan Christopherson will start at tight end.
Offensive line, from right to left, will be tackle Larry Borom (Javon Foster), guard Case Cook (Luke Griffin or Jack Buford), center Michael Maietti (Drake Heismeyer), guard Xavier Delgado (Dylan Spencer or Mike Ruth) and at left tackle either Zeke Powell or Bobby Lawrence will start.
Missouri added the first commit to its 2022 class Monday evening with the decision of Lee's Summit tight end Max Whisner.
Whisner chose the in-state Tigers rather than offers from Arkansas and Nebraska, who were in his final three schools. Missouri extended an offer July 13 of this year, his second offer after Kansas.
Listed as a 3-star prospect and the No. 14 player in the state by both Rivals and 247sports, Whisner got the Tigers' class started with a video posted on social media.
"It was a very tough decision, but at the end, I wanted to play in the SEC. With that being said, I will be committing to the University of Missouri," Whisner said in the video. "Go Tigers."