Signing day has a bit of a different feel to it when your team has recently fired its coach. It’s uncomfortable, really. This is supposed to be a day of celebration. Instead, a “win” for a new coach coming from a lower level is doing everything he can to keep not to hemorrhage the previous coach’s commits to stay committed to the school.
For Eli Drinkwitz, today isn’t about winning another press conference. It’s about survival. And it looks like he’s going to be able to keep his head above water for the time being.
Drinkwitz is reportedly expecting to sign approximately 20 players in the 2020 recruiting class. Barry Odom had 17 players committed prior to his firing. Maintaining 10-15 commitments should be viewed as success. It looks like Drinkwitz will lose no more than a handful of players to de-commitments.
There are a few players in Drinkwitz’s first class at Mizzou who have signed or will sign with Mizzou that really jump off the page to me.
The crown jewel of Mizzou’s 2020 class: 3-Star RB - Elijah Young - Knoxville, TN
Elijah Young has been one of the crown jewels in Mizzou’s class for quite some time. If the previous staff was known for anything, it was identifying under-the-radar running backs who developed into quality players (i.e. Damarea Crockett, Larry Rountree III & Tyler Badie). Young is more of the same.
He took some time to consider his options after the coaching change, but he ultimately decided Mizzou is still the right place for him. And given his style of play, I think he made a wise decision. Young is fast, he’s shifty, he’s good in space and I think he’s going to be a tremendous fit for Drinkwitz’s zone running scheme.
If you’re looking for a player comparison, think Marcus Murphy or Tyler Badie. He’s not the biggest guy in the world (5’11, 180 pounds), but he runs behind his pads and when he gets into the open field, he’s gone. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Young on the field right away if he picks up the scheme.
A player who could come in right away and contribute: 3-Star WR - J.J. Hester - Tulsa, OK
JJ Hester is long, he’s physical, and he has unbelievable ball skills. He’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds. On film, you can tell he uses every bit of his 6-foot-4 frame to body up defenders and to high point the football.
There are few things I look for from receivers in high school:
1 - Are you absolutely dominating the competition?
2 - Is anything you’re doing in high school replicable at the next level?
3 - Do you have the speed to make it work at the next level?
Hester checks all of those boxes and then some. His HUDL film shows great hands, the ability to go up and get it, and he’s able to finish plays by making contested catches.
A potential diamond in the rough: 3-Star ATH - Jaylon Carlies - West Orange, FL
I don’t mean to focus too much on wide receivers, but I’m not sure I’m doing that honestly - I think Jaylon Carlies’ future is very much in the air. It’s been reported that Mizzou might be looking at him more as a safety than a receiver. If that doesn’t work out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them give him an opportunity at a receiving tight end.
Carlies flashes some obvious ability on film to go up and get the ball. His tape primarily of him playing receiver in high school - and I get it. He was a pretty impressive player on that side of the ball. But if the Tigers want him to play defensive back, he certainly has the skills to translate. At 6-foot-3, he has the length to be a really unique matchup piece at corner. And if he adds some size to his frame, he could be an intriguing player at safety as well.
Carlies is unlikely to see the field in the near future. He’s a project, no doubt about that. But his physical traits make him an interesting player to keep in the back of your mind as he develops within Drinkwitz’s system - whether it be on offense or defense.
Drinkwitz’s first class won’t make his time at Missouri. That’s not what today is all about. But it very much had the potential to break it. Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program. A school like Missouri lives off two and three-star players who out-perform their rankings and four-star players who live up to expectations.
Mizzou’s 2020 class is off to a decent start. It’s up to Drinkwitz and his staff to keep the momentum through National Signing Day in February.