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.”
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.
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.”
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 13 rushing yards on 15 attempts.
“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.”
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 until 2020.
“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.”