Here are the highlights from our weekly chat with Post-Dispatch readers.
Q: Haven’t heard much love for Tyler Badie among the draft touts, but finally saw him at No. 100 in a CBS Mock. All-SEC back. May not be a round one pick or starter on Sundays, but he’s the versatile tough runner, pass catcher, a lá the “wide back” role Deebo Samuel plays for the Niners. You hearing anything about pro prospects for Tyler?
A: Badie and his agent believe he could go high as the third round. Fourth might be more realistic, maybe fifth depending on how quickly the top backs in the draft come off the board. It’s not a great year for running backs, so that means teams with a need at the position can afford to wait later in the draft. That could certainly impact a prospect like Badie who’s not considered to be in that elite class of backs this year. He’s had a lot of Zoom calls with various teams in the last couple weeks and met with every team multiple times both at the Senior Bowl and the combine. I think he’ll bring a lot of value to a team as a second running back. He’s durable. He’s fast. He’s a great receiver. He fits the mold for a modern multidimensional playmaker at the position.
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One team I’m told to watch: Denver. They have Javonte Williams as the No. 1 back but haven’t resigned veteran Melvin Gordon. Williams and Badie would be a dynamic tandem. The Broncos have four picks in the third and fourth rounds: 75, 96, 115, 116.
Q: I follow the women’s basketball team and they signed two good high schoolers, but if they don’t add some inside presence to compete in the SEC it will be a very long year. Their existing roster could finish in the bottom three of the sec. I hope Coach Pingeton will add some good players.
A: Robin Pingeton feels really good about her team and the chemistry of the returning group, plus the two additions, Averi Kroeke and Ashton Judd. But she knows they need to add a couple players through the portal. She hopes to sign two to three more this offseason. Obviously losing leading scorer and rebounder Aijha Blackwell is a blow. No one is going to spin her loss as a positive. But it’s also fair to point out that Mizzou’s two best wins this year — against South Carolina, at Florida — came without Blackwell on the floor. Maybe you can say that was a fluke. I don’t think so.
Q: Good morning, Dave. I’m not sure of the caliber of talent that Coach Gates is bringing in. Will it be possible for Cleveland State Junior College to compete in the SEC?
A: We’ll find out. Though I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. Junior college players can turn into great Division I players. They’re usually not at the junior college level because they don’t have the ability to play at the D-I level.
Mo Diarra was an international player who was raw and needed to develop. He did that at Garden City. Sean East had already transferred once at the Division I level and needed a year in junior college to raise his stock so he could transfer immediately back to a Division I program as a junior.
Some skepticism over the two Cleveland State players would be more than fair if any other coach in America landed them; but Gates knows what he’s getting in Tre Gomillion and D’Moi Hodge and knows their value and their upside. I give him the benefit of the doubt on those two because he knows them better than any coach in America. Noah Carter had other high-major offers from programs that are better than Mizzou — or at least in the same tier.
Q: LOVED your story today about the tragic passing of Mizzou pitching coach Brian DeLunas. Well done, sir! Your thoughts on the way Coach Steve Bieser has held this team together in light of that tragedy?
A: Thank you on the DeLunas story. I give all the credit to the Brian’s brother, Adam, Austin Cheeley and Mitch Plassmeyer. They took some time to help me tell the story.
Bieser has done an admirable job of putting a much better team on the field in the wake of a tragic situation. And he would deserve credit for the Tigers’ play regardless of the DeLunas situation. This team is far more competitive at the plate and on the mound. At just 26, Plassmeyer has done an impressive job figuring out his staff and working in newcomers to figure out the best roles for the best situations. Over the last month this team is doing exactly what it should: win SEC home series against the average teams (Kentucky, South Carolina), consistently beat nonconference opponents (Kansas, Illinois, Missouri State) and play competitive series against the elite SEC programs (Arkansas, Tennessee).
Q: With so many upperclassmen on the roster now, it would seem that Gates is not concerned about the roster class imbalance and plans to keep transfers as well as high school kids part of his recruiting approach. Do you think this is the way of the future for most D1 teams and that fewer HS kids will go power school D1 as freshman?
A: Ideally, he wants to add transfers who have two to three years of eligibility — not just the one-year rent-a-players. He wants to develop relationships with the top high school sophomores and juniors to lay the foundation of the program with HS recruits — and then supplement roster needs with transfers.
In the age of the transfer waiver, high-major teams will probably be less inclined to recruit the under-the-radar high school prospect who needs a few years to develop. There’s just not enough patience on anyone’s part to invest that kind of time in a player who can’t produce immediately. The players are less patient in that process and the coaches are most certainly less patient when they can go into the portal and find a more seasoned player who’s ready to contribute right away.
Q: How would you grade the first half-year of Desiree Reed-Francois compared to the same time period for her predecessors? And do you have thoughts on whether President Mun Choi has been a net positive/negative for athletics compared to those before him?
A: I really don’t like assigning grades for ADs. So much that happens on their watch is beyond their control, but it’s still how they’re measured as administrators. Every AD also steps into a different situation. A few months into the job Jim Sterk got hit with the tutor scandal that dragged on for years. It’s impossible to know/analyze how Reed-Francois would deal with something like that. Sterk quickly got the ball rolling on the football team complex that was nixed by the previous regime. He also didn’t waste any time getting rid of Kim Anderson and made a solid hire in Cuonzo Martin without a whiff of drama or controversy during the search. That was all in his first year on the job.
I think Reed-Francois has done a good job addressing challenges with new ideas: changing the seating sections at home football game; she made a coaching change in men’s basketball that a lot of fans didn’t think she’d have the gumption to make; then she made a hire in Dennis Gates without any of the typical interference from outside voices that usually try to influence coaching searches. I’ve talked to some folks around the program who usually are kept in the loop on such hires who this time were kept out of the process — but still came away impressed with how she got it done. There has been A LOT of turnover in the athletics department since last summer. Some left on their own; others didn’t have that choice.
As for Choi, Mizzou chancellors and system presidents have a history of being visible and active in athletics endeavors. Tim Wolfe (president) and R. Bowen Loftin (chancellor) certainly wanted to have influence in major decisions. On the flip side, Brady Deaton probably did more for Mizzou athletics in his time as chancellor than any recent campus leader while at the same time allowing Mike Alden and Gary Pinkel to do their jobs in the spotlight. He was an excellent leader without having to let everyone know he was the leader.
As their turnaround season unfolds, the Tigers pay tribute to their late pitching coach, who died from kidney disease in January at 46.
John A. Logan head coach agrees to become Dennis Gates’ third assistant after spending 10 years at Carterville, Illinois, junior college.