When Eli Drinkwitz took over as the head honcho of Mizzou football, his first thought was the 2020 recruiting class — he said as much in his introductory press conference.
It’s not as if Mizzou fans don’t care about recruiting (or why would you be reading this?), but one of the last priorities upon Drinkwitz hiring was the urgency behind 2020’s crop of newcomers. At that point, early signing day was just over a week away and Drinkwitz would have received an, “atta boy!” from everyone had he just stopped the dam from bursting.
Drinkwitz, to his credit, did more than that — he practically kept the ship afloat. Aside from a few notable decommits, Drink managed to keep many of Missouri’s big-time recruits in the fold (Javin Hester, Elijah Young) while landing another who had remained on the outside looking in during Barry Odom’s tenure (Montra Edwards, Jr.)
As the end of the 2020 cycle draws ever nearer (February 5), we’re starting to zero in on possibly late additions to this class. One of the big-time targets that has emerged is three-star cornerback Ennis Rakestraw, Jr. out of Duncanville, Texas. And while Missouri was early to get in touch with the fast-riser, they certainly aren’t the biggest name in pursuit. You only need to check Rakestraw’s Twitter feed to get a sense of that.
NICK SABAN came to visit me at home @AlabamaFTBL pic.twitter.com/cz2p9jpSkl— Ennis Rakestraw Jr (@EnnisRakestraw) January 21, 2020
Alabama, Texas and Georgia have all levied offers, and Rakestraw plans on visiting several more schools before he makes his ultimate decision (he’s in Tuscaloosa this weekend).
Obviously, this looks like a tall task for Eli Drinkwitz. Maybe once or twice a decade does Missouri beat out a school like Alabama for a recruit, and they’re almost always kids from in-state. If Saban really wants Rakestraw — and the latter is very high on the Crimson Tide — there doesn’t seem to be any way of stopping him from getting his man.
That is, unless Drinkwitz has really connected with these recruits in a way that delivers on the high energy and promise he’s exuded in his short time at Missouri.
Where he fits:
Missouri is returning 12 of the 14 defensive backs from last year’s roster and has another (Tyler Jones) already signed up as part of the 2020 class. Rakestraw would likely be the last piece of the secondary puzzle. In addition, four of those returning DBs will graduate after the 2020 season, opening a big hole in playing time.
When he’ll play:
When you come to Missouri — and this is not an insult, rather a reality — you play whenever you’re ready. Like it or not, Mizzou doesn’t have the luxury of sitting four and five-star (or even high three-star) players when they get to campus in favor of grizzled vets. When a player shows up to camp and proves he has what it takes to see the field, he’ll suit up on Saturdays. Christian Holmes and Adam Sparks are the incumbent starters, but all bets are off under a new coach. If Rakestraw wants early playing time, he’d certainly have the opportunity to make his case at Missouri, especially if the veterans can’t impress their new coach.
What it all means:
Let’s not get too over our heads. The recruitment of Rakestraw is a big one, and it would be quite a feather in the cap of a class that we had resigned to, “hey, whatever the new guy can piece together.”
But if Drink is able to land the coveted cornerback, it will definitively tell us one thing: whatever he’s selling, young guys are buying. Drinkwitz has leaned full tilt into the #NewZou branding, and even long-time Mizzou die hards have to be intrigued. It’s been a long time since a coach set such high expectations for himself and his program right off the bat, and Drinkwitz doesn't seem to have any intention of backing off. This combination of high hopes and high expectations has generated a lot of buzz amongst the fans, but are recruits responding in kind?
The recruitment of Rakestraw could tell us one way or the other.