Refreshed and repaired, Mizzou's Brady Cook aims to secure quarterback job again this fall

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri quarterback Brady Cook had a choice last fall. When he tore part of the labrum in his right shoulder at Kansas State on the second weekend of the season, he could have opted for surgery that likely would have ended his season just as it was getting started.
“It was definitely something I thought about,” he said recently. “It was a conversation.”
With the injury occurring on the back side of Cook’s labrum, Mizzou’s medical and training staff cleared him to resume playing the next week — a frontal tear would have been more serious — but if he put off surgery until after the season, he’d have to gut and grit through some discomfort the rest of the year.
For Cook, the St. Louis native who dreamed of quarterbacking his home-state team, it was game on.
“Ultimately,” he said, “I made the decision to just battle through it.”
The battle continues a year later. Cook, who had shoulder surgery Dec. 29, once again faces competition for the starting job. With first-year coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kirby Moore installing a new offense, Cook opened preseason camp taking the first-team snaps, which by all indications hasn’t changed through the first week of camp. Redshirt freshman Sam Horn has worked with the second unit, with Miami transfer Jake Garcia in the mix, too.
Mizzou Football Practice
Missouri quarterback Brady Cook, right, drops back to pass during a drill at Mizzou Athletic Training Complex in Columbia, Mo., on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023.
Cook, a redshirt junior, knows all about preseason competition. Last August, Drinkwitz barely waited a week into camp before announcing Cook as the season’s starter. He’s indicated he won’t publicly announce a starter so soon this fall.
“This isn’t anything new,” Cook said. “Same thing. Just got to compete. Go out, compete with these guys and push each other to be better.”
Once he was cleared to start throwing in April, Cook was under what he called a “strict pitch count” for a few weeks. By June, he took part in the team’s passing workouts and by July was fully “unleashed,” he said. Cook’s arm feels stronger now than before he suffered the injury, he said.
“Just because there’s been so much focus on it,” he said. “So many different little exercises and treatment and rehab on (the shoulder). And then just such an emphasis on throwing. I’ve probably thrown way more this offseason than last offseason. So I do think it’s going to actually help.”
For Cook to secure the job again this fall, he’ll have to prove he’s the most reliable option to fit Moore’s plans to push the ball vertically. That part of Mizzou’s passing game was inconsistent last season. On passing attempts targeted 20 yards or more downfield, Cook completed 32.2% of his passes and averaged 12.5 yards per attempt. Eleven starting quarterbacks in the SEC averaged more yards per downfield shot.
“Physically, I was not very confident last year,” he said. “It was tough emotionally having that (injury) in the back of my mind.”
Better pass production and a sturdy running game should strengthen Mizzou’s downfield passing, but Drinkwitz has also emphasized Cook’s production throwing on first down. Among the SEC quarterbacks who attempted at least 50 passes on first down last year, Cook ranked 12th in efficiency with a rating of 135.9 — slightly better than his overall passer rating of 133.0. Cook’s first-down rating was better or on par with former All-SEC quarterback Drew Lock’s first two seasons at Mizzou: 90.5 in 2015; 133.3 in 2016.
Cook plans to be more judicious absorbing hits in the open field this year, but his scrambling ability remains a strength. His 585 rushing yards last season were the most for a Mizzou quarterback since the program joined the SEC in 2012.
“That’s who I am,” he said. “That’s going to be there. I want to run as much as I did last year — but getting down when I need to and avoiding unnecessary hits.”
Gasparilla Bowl Football
Mizzou quarterback Brady Cook throws a pass against Wake Forest during the first half of the Gasparilla Bowl on Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.
Chris O’Meara, Associated Press
But with those hits came respect each time he picked himself off the turf. Ask any teammate who paid attention last fall.
“He’s one of the toughest kids,” running back Cody Schrader said. “He never wanted anybody to know that he was hurt. He never portrayed that. He just came to work every day and gave it his all no matter what type of pain he was in.”
“I think that was kind of my persona,” Cook said. “I want people to know that unless my leg’s broken in half, I’ll be out there playing.”
Cook’s injury kept him from taking part in live action during spring practices as Garcia and Horn, plus junior college transfer Dylan Laible, got work in Moore’s offense. He’s quickly made up for lost time under Moore’s watch. When asked about the team’s new play-caller, Cook sounded refreshed by the change.
“It’s just a new vibe on offense,” he said.
For Cook, his important connections come through the air with the team’s fleet of wide receivers. Drinkwitz isn’t prepared to name a starter any time soon — and might not before the season’s first snap Aug. 31 against South Dakota — but MU’s most celebrated pass-catcher likes what he’s seen from the team’s incumbent QB.
“I found out he’s a dog. A real dog,” slot receiver Luther Burden III said. “And I believe in him, just like he believes in me. Our chemistry got way better this offseason when he recovered from his injury. Shoot, he’s just ready to rock and roll.”

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