Missouri’s football season kicks off against Alabama in 10 days, but a season in the midst of a pandemic is providing some unusual hurdles for first-year coach Eliah Drinkwitz.
Missouri will have 12 players unavailable next Saturday from either a positive COVID-19 test or from being contact traced to a positive test, Drinkwitz said on a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday.
Drinkwitz said no positives have been traced back to team workouts or the team facility, adding that some of the players being contact traced are roommates of players who tested positive.
“We haven't, not that we know of. I'm not a doctor and our trainers aren't doctors, but we don't know of anything that's caused that to be the case,” Drinkwitz said when asked about team activities being a cause of positive tests. “So I don't think so, but I can't speak empirically on that data.”
Missouri could see more players sidelined by the end of the week with the team being tested Wednesday, Friday and Sunday each week. If a player tests positive or is contact traced over the next week and a half, they would be out for the Alabama game..
Teams like TCU and Virginia Tech have already postponed games due to positive tests this season. If Missouri has a large increase in players becoming unavailable, especially if the majority of a position group is wiped out like LSU’s offensive line was in late August, then a postponement could be on the horizon.
Drinkwitz isn’t considering that yet, though.
"I just take the results that come to me right now," Drinkwitz said. "We got 12 guys missing and we got — I think — a 111-man roster, so I don't know. Right now, we're fine. I'm not worried about it."
In addition to the COVID-19 inactives, Drinkwitz also said redshirt freshman wideout Maurice Massey and redshirt senior defensive tackle Chris Daniels have opted out of the 2020 season.
Massey redshirted last season after having no receptions in limited action in Missouri’s first four games. Daniels is a transfer from Texas who played in two games in 2019.
Some players in the Big Ten, like Ohio State's Wyatt Davis, have opted back into the season now that games have been scheduled. Drinkwitz didn’t hint that as a possibility for either of the two Missouri players.
"I don't anticipate either one of those guys wanting to opt back in based on our conversations," he said.
Massey was pushing for playing time during fall camp, but after opting out a backup spot is now open for a younger receiver. Missouri has multiple experienced options at the position with returning starter Jalen Knox and grad transfers Keke Chism and Damon Hazelton.
“We've got multiple receivers,” Drinkwitz said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that have been playing really well in fall camp. We feel good about that position and that's why we went and got two grad transfers.”
Drinkwitz said Missouri’s offensive line is one of the position groups with the most turnover because of injuries and players out because of COVID-19.