Brady Cook runs with the ball

Brady Cook runs with the ball Nov. 6, 2021, at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.

As game day draws near, Missouri quarterback Brady Cook is getting less anxious by the day.

“I’d say a week ago, I was more nervous than I am right now,” Cook said. “For me, the nerves kind of go away as I get more and more prepared for game day, and I think that’ll continue on into Thursday.”

Cook is set to start his second career game and his first as Missouri’s unquestioned QB1. He’s from St. Louis, went to high school at Chaminade and didn’t spend much time considering the transfer portal despite spending the better part of his first two seasons on the bench.

“I spent my whole football career up to this point working to get here,” Cook said. “I just wasn’t ready to throw in the towel and give up this opportunity I had. I knew it would be hard, and it didn’t always go my way, but I’ve known for a long time I wanted to be the starting quarterback at Mizzou, so I wasn’t gonna let that opportunity slip.”

Since last year, Cook has spent time working on his ability to read defenses, which he said has paid off. Everyone wants to know how slowly the quarterback is seeing the game — when the game feels slow, signal-callers make better decisions — and Cook said it’s slowed down for him.

Cook said that last season’s game against Georgia felt really fast. He feels more comfortable in the pocket now, and his receivers see it, too.

“The composure,” receiver Mookie Cooper said when asked what part of Cook’s game has improved the most since last year. “Just being confident on the field, running the offense. He’s more comfortable and really just trusting us and delivering the ball and giving us chances to make plays.”

Drinkwitz shares excitement for Thursday in ‘Tiger Talk’ segment

The beginning of fall signals the start of football season and Missouri football, but it also means the return of “Tiger Talk,” coach Eli Drinkwitz’s weekly 7 p.m. radio show on KTGR.

In the first show of the 2022 season, Drinkwitz discussed everything from the quarterback battle to his thoughts on his team’s season-opening game against Louisiana Tech on Thursday.

Drinkwitz said he was very pleased with how fall camp went and how players look ahead of the new season. He wanted practices to be hard, adding a toughness week as well as occasional NCAA-compliant two-a-day sessions.

He also discussed the running back room and how excited he is about the talent in the backfield. He anticipates Stanford transfer (and Columbia product) Nathaniel Peat to be available but acknowledged that he is still banged up and dealing with soft tissue injuries picked up during the fall. With Peat not at 100%, Missouri fans will get a good glimpse at another running back the Tigers are high on this year.

“Fans are going to know about (Cody) Schrader (on) Thursday night,” Drinkwitz said.

Schrader is from St. Louis, an area Drinkwitz and his staff have heavily prioritized since taking over ahead of the 2020 season. If you are curious just how much of a priority Missouri has put on recruiting the talent-rich area in its own backyard, look no further than the Tigers’ backfield when they take the field against Louisiana Tech.

“There’s a chance it’ll be all St. Louis out there,” Drinkwitz said. “You’ll have Brady Cook, Cody Schrader, Luther Burden, Dominic Lovett and Mookie Cooper. That’s going to be really exciting for that city and our state.”

To top everything off, Thursday’s season opener will kick off at 7 p.m, Missouri’s first night game since hosting Alabama in 2020. As Drinkwitz emphasized on “Tiger Talk,” the excitement around the team couldn’t be any higher.

“It gets us all eyes on Mizzou,” Drinkwitz said. “You have a chance to go up against a tough opponent on national television. (Louisiana Tech) isn’t going to be scared”

Mookie Cooper enters 2022 at ‘200%’

It was never a secret that Cooper spent a significant portion of his redshirt freshman season at Missouri dealing with nagging injuries that hampered his game. That shouldn’t be a concern this year, as Cooper enters Week 1 close to “200%,” or at least that is the percentage he tabbed when asked how he feels physically.

A four-star wide receiver from St. Louis, Cooper redshirted his freshman year at Ohio State before transferring to his home-state SEC program ahead of the 2021 season. Cooper finished his first year in Columbia with 212 all-purpose yards and a touchdown but believes bigger things are in store for year two.

Cooper spent 2021 in a slot role where he utilized his breakneck speed and elusiveness after the catch to help the Tigers gain positive yards after receiving the ball in the backfield. This year, Cooper shifts from the slot to the outside, where he will test himself against taller and more physical cornerbacks.

What prompted the switch? The young receiver acknowledged that to receive looks at the next level, he has to evolve his game and be multidimensional, capable of playing both the inside and outside receiver positions.

This fall, Cooper has placed a lot of focus on improving his physical strength with the goal of improving his ability to make contested catches. Most importantly, he feels healthy, which bodes exceptionally well for the Tigers ahead of another grueling SEC season.

“Last year, I felt there was a lack of strength in my foot when it came to breaking tackles,” Cooper said. “This year, I want to be able to show who I really am.”

Banister high on frosh Miller

Entering his final home opener for Missouri, Barrett Banister captains a deep receiving corps of six rostered on the depth chart. Two freshmen are listed among the starters: Luther Burden and Mekhi Miller.

Banister admired Miller’s willingness to learn after a conversation the two had last season after a practice regarding Miller’s progressions. The veteran reiterated the same confidence in Miller on Monday.

“(Miller’s) had countless conversations with me and other receivers about how he got this look, how should you approach it differently and all that,” Banister said. “Because we’ve seen these looks. ... I’ve been here for six years. I’ve seen all that stuff.”

Chepyator bouncing ideas off experienced Stephens

The tight end room looks different this season for Missouri with Daniel Parker transferring and Niko Hea medically retiring. With walk-on graduate student Kibet Chepyator stepping forward, Buffalo transfer Tyler Stephens is also meshing in the system.

“Ever since (Stephens) got here, we have been working as a team, helping each other out with certain techniques, stuff like that,” Chepyator said. “It’s just nice having another person to bounce ideas off of like you said, just getting the best answers possible.”

Former Missouri safety Gillespie cut by Titans

Tyree Gillespie was released Monday by the Tennessee Titans, per Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. Gillespie was traded from the Las Vegas Raiders for a conditional 2024 seventh-round pick on Aug. 16.

Gillespie was drafted by the Raiders in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft after playing four seasons at Missouri. The 23-year-old totaled eight tackles, playing most of his time on special teams.

Originally published on columbiamissourian.com, part of the TownNews Content Exchange.