It's a new year for the Missouri Tigers, and quarterback Jake Garcia is looking to turn the program's offense around in 2023.
Despite finishing with a 6-7 record, the Tigers showed plenty of promise in 2022. That exciting upside, however, was mostly limited to the defense. Sophomore Brady Cook started at quarterback last year for Mizzou and was one of the worst in the conference, struggling with accuracy and decision making in the red zone. The Mizzou offense features plenty of playmakers who could be dangerous with the right quarterback.
Luckily, the Tigers might have found the answer at QB this spring, with Jake Garcia transferring from Miami. Garcia was a 4-star recruit out of high school but only saw limited playing time in his first two years. He will have to battle to earn the starting job, but Garcia could unlock the full potential of head coach Eli Drinkwitz's offense.
Garcia's high school career was eventful, mostly because of COVID-19 restrictions. The California native went to five different high schools in his four years. He received offers first from Georgia and then Florida, LSU, USC, Miami, Tennessee and Alabama, among other Power Five schools, before committing to Miami in December 2020.
Garcia backed up Tyler Van Dyke for most of his time at Miami, but he did see the field in four games in the 2022 season. In his limited playing time at Miami, Garcia showed off his excellent arm strength, throwing for 803 yards, five touchdowns, and four interceptions.
What Can Jake Garcia Bring to Missouri's Offense?
For the Tigers' 2022 offense, the inability to push the ball down the field severely restricted their success. Cook was dealing with a shoulder injury for nine weeks of the season, causing him to be shaky on deep balls. In 2022, only 15.2 percent (59) of passing attempts for Missouri went over 20 yards, and only 32.2 percent (19) of those were completed, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Drinkwitz's offense relies quite a bit on pre-snap motion; but the opposing defense's job to diagnose this motion is made significantly easier when the threat of the deep ball is as nonexistent as it was last year. Especially with explosive playmakers in Luther Burden and Oklahoma transfer Theo Wease at wide receiver, the Tigers' offense needs a strong-armed quarterback such as Garcia for the group to reach its full potential.
The Missouri head coach recognized the lack of explosive plays and other struggles in his offense this offseason and decided to hire Kirby Moore as his offensive coordinator/QB coach. Moore had the same roles at Fresno State and is coming off a promising year as a play-caller after guiding quarterback Jake Haener to a 2,896-yard, 20-touchdown and three-interception senior campaign. Not only is Moore the first offensive coordinator that Drinkwitz has ever staffed at Missouri, but Moore will also be taking on play-calling responsibilities.
In an interview with PowerMizzou, Garcia commended Moore's ability to relate to his players and mentioned that the young coach "definitely wants to put the ball down the field, give guys a shot down the field." At SEC media day this summer, Drinkwitz addressed the lack of big plays, telling reporters that "we've got to complete vertical balls down the field outside of the numbers and push the ball vertically down the field, and we've got to complete them. Whether that was injury or protection ... it's got to get fixed, and whoever is going to give us the best opportunity to do that is going to be our quarterback." Drinkwitz also mentioned that he isn't opposed to using Missouri's non-conference schedule to test out multiple quarterbacks in the lineup.
The 2023 season can be considered a make-or-break year for Drinkwitz and his staff. The quarterback decision will be one that will determine whether the Tigers see another season of a top-tier defense being held back by a lackluster offense or the Tigers being a serious competitor with their SEC foes. While Garcia will have to win the quarterback job, the potential he has to unlock this offense's talent should excite Mizzou fans.
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