COLUMBIA, MO. • Barrett Banister was still on a high Jan. 21, the day after his beloved New England Patriots rallied to beat the Chiefs in Kansas City for another AFC championship. Banister had been at Arrowhead Stadium to witness the overtime victory, as always wearing his Julian Edelman jersey.
Things got even better the next day, when Missouri coach Barry Odom called the walk-on receiver into his office. That’s when Odom told Banister he had a scholarship for him.
“I’m super grateful and indebted to him for giving me that,” Banister said Saturday, a day spent proving his coach was right for the reward.
Last season Banister became one of Mizzou’s trustiest targets: Of his eight catches for 88 yards, three came on third down, going for 51 yards. All three moved the chains for a first down. The redshirt freshman from Fayetteville, Ark., had earned quarterback Drew Lock’s faith, and in that January meeting with Odom, turned faith into a tangible prize.
With senior starter Johnathon Johnson nursing a hamstring injury for parts of the last five weeks, Banister took the bulk of the first-team reps at the slot receiver position and started there in Saturday’s Black and Gold spring game. To no one’s surprise, the sure-handed sophomore led all players with eight catches for 73 yards on 10 targets.
“The same thing you saw today is what he does in every practice,” Odom said. “He runs really good routes. He comes up with the catch. He always gets a few yards after the catch. Dependable, accountable. We need to continue to find ways to get him in the game because he’s always doing the right thing. And he’s earned it. He works every day and you know what you’re going to get.”
Banister came to Mizzou two years ago not only with the hope of a scholarship but with the expectation he’d earn one and contribute. Saturday was the latest step in that process.
“I always want to prove to somebody that this is where I belong,” he said “I deserve to be here, so especially when an opportunity is given to you, you have to take advantage. It was fun to get out there and compete with those guys.”
But how does a kid from Arkansas become a die-hard Patriots fan?
“In Arkansas there’s not a single professional team except minor league baseball, so when I first started seriously watching football was when Wes Welker and (Tom) Brady were doing their thing up there,” he said. “That was kind of who I saw myself as, being a little kid dreaming about that. It stuck from there. I love their mentality they have. Do your job. No excuses. Everything is about a winning culture up there and there’s not a lot of gimmicks and games that go on. I just really respect the program they run.”
IN THE NICK OF TIME
Nick Bolton has big shoes to fill as Mizzou’s new weakside linebacker, replacing two-year starter and team captain Terez Hall. On Saturday he was given every opportunity to prove he’s ready for the job, playing all 36 snaps for the Black team in MU’s spring game. Bolton shared the team lead with three tackles and helped hold the Gold team to just 13 rushing yards on 15 attempts. The Tigers will confidently pair the sophomore with senior starter Cale Garrett this season.
“He stepped in and maybe exceeded what I thought he’d do this spring,” Odom said. “He’s got a chance to be a special player. The guy’s got all As in the classroom. He’s just dependable and cares about being really good. He works at it. He spends extra time. He’s a competitor. I’m excited to see how he’s going to continue to move in that role and grow and become a veteran in some sense.”
BACKUP QB RACE
Missouri knows Kelly Bryant will be the starting quarterback in the Aug. 31 season opener at Wyoming. The backup is to be determined. Sophomore Taylor Powell played the entire second half with the Black team, working with MU’s top receivers and linemen, but mostly struggled, completing 10 of 20 passes for 142 yards, a touchdown and the day’s only turnover, an interception to walk-on safety Mason Pack.
Powell’s competition for the No. 2 job, for now, is junior Lindsey Scott Jr., who completed 6 of 11 passes for 38 yards and was sacked twice for the Gold team. Shawn Robinson, a transfer from TCU, also played with the Gold team, completing 3 of 10 passes for 44 yards, but he’s not eligible to play until 2020. Another option could be incoming freshman Connor Bazelak, who attended Saturday’s game and visited with MU’s coaches after the game. For now, though, the backup job is a battle between Powell and Scott.
“Taylor and Lindsey battled all spring,” Odom said. “If you go back and look at the entire body of work, both made a lot of improvement, did some good things. We’ve got to get that sorted out and see how it goes. It would be foolish to think Kelly’s going to take every snap of the season. The thing both of them have done is they’ve made progress. I feel good we have them on our roster. Now we’ve got to find out which one it is.”
Starting center Trystan Colon-Castillo left the game in the first quarter with a sprained ankle and was replaced by Jonah Dubinski, a former starter. … Starting running back Larry Rountree III led the day with 53 yards on nine carries and a 4-yard touchdown. Backup Tyler Badie added 46 yards and a 6-yard score. … Kam Scott caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Powell late in the fourth quarter but appeared to step out of bounds inside the 5-yard line. There was no replay review. … The Black team, composed of starters on offense and defense, finished the day with zero penalties.