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Scholarship Management: Let’s count to 81!

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Get off your ath, let’s do some math

West Virginia v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Our boy Drink is on quite a heater, huh?

There’s only so many roster spots available, though, so I’m assuming that the recruiting will cool off at least a little bit. And, if that’s true, we might as well revisit our scholarship chart and math it up to see where the Tigers stand as of June 29th, 2020.

Last time we did this was February 3rd and there’s been quite a bit of change since then. So first we’ll update the roster demographics:

Roster Demographics

As a reminder, for the numbers involved in class and state, the first number is scholarship players and the number in parenthesis is adding walk-ons. I’m not sure how many walk-ons will be with the team this year so I just kept the ones from last season for our purposes today.

Here’s the full scholarship count:

2020 Scholarship Roster

40 scholarships on offense, 38 scholarships on defense, 2 scholarships to kickers, plus two walk-ons - Dawson Downing and Barrett Bannister - who earned scholarships, bringing the grand total to 82.

Uh-oh!

Missouri needs to operate at 81 for the 2020 season before getting back to 85 in 2021. So the Tigers will have to offload one of those scholarships for ‘20. We’ll get to that later.

Let’s look at each position to see who they’re losing after this year, who they’re currently planning on bringing in, and opportunities to add to the ‘21 class.

2020 Quarterbacks

Current Quarterbacks: 4

Projected 2021 Quarterback Recruits: 1

Thanks to a lack of a spring game and a plethora of options, there were no transfers from the position most prone to transfer. All four guys are, conceivably, in the running to be the 2020 starter although Shawn Robinson is presumed to be the guy who wins the job. With a lack of practices and a super young team at hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if Drinkwitz has all four see playing time at the beginning of the year. So I foresee all four guys to stick around. Although, my free predictions are guaranteed wrong or else I’ll give you your money back.

As far as the recruiting crop of quarterbacks, it’s Tyler Macon and that’s it. Assuming he stays true to his verbal I can’t imagine the Tigers will be looking to add any more in this class.

2020 Running Backs

Current Running Backs: 5

Projected 2021 Running Back Recruits: 2

We were all surprised to see Anthony Watkins leave the team, especially after hearing rave reviews from the Odom staff. But he didn’t get much action in 2019 and the depth chart is pretty stacked up top; add in a new staff who’s looking to get their own guys in and move some scholarships around and the decision started to make more sense. Watkins is now at Tulsa and Mizzou now has five backs, two for sure who will be graduating at the end of the year and one (Tyler Badie) who might find an opportunity in the NFL. That would leave Simi Bakare and the most-hyped-athlete of the offseason, Elijah Young, as the only guys left for 2021 if Badie does make an early jump.

Luckily Drinkwitz nabbed two high 3-star runners: St. Louis product Taj Butts and one of the most recent additions, B.J. Harris. Both are in-demand and both should get an excellent shot at cracking the rotation in ‘21. If these two stick then I think the Tigers are good on recruiting running backs for 2021.

2020 Wide Receivers

Current Wide Receivers: 13

Projected 2021 Wide Receiver Recruits: 1 or 2

Drinkwitz added two impact receiver recruits but both are graduate transfers that will be off campus after this year. The only other receiver the Tigers are for sure losing is our beloved quarterback-turned-receiver Micah Wilson. So that means that ten receivers will be returning for ‘21 and, while there needs to be an infusion of talent, there’s not enough scholly’s to go around to get a massive infusion in this class, especially with half the receiving corps being a version of freshman (both redshirt and true). Based off of the offers still out to receivers, it seems that Drinkwitz is thinking at least some of those five youngsters will hit this year. Demetrius Cannon recently committed to Louisville but there’s still four offers out there, two of which are top priority for Mizzou: East St. Louis products Dominic Lovett (4-star) and Keontez Lewis (3-star). Missouri will take both if they can get ‘em, but I can’t imagine more than three receivers being added.

2020 Tight Ends

Current Tight Ends: 5

Projected 2021 Tight End Recruits: 2

Missouri has a lot of tight ends. I’m no football coach, but from my dumb blogger perspective, I certainly wouldn’t want more than three, maybe four on the roster at any given moment. The Tigers currently have five and are only planning on losing one, Brendan Scales, at the end of the year. Odom’s staff was big on talk and small on delivery, but if even half the stuff they mentioned about Scales was true, he was primed to have a big impact before injuring himself before the season started. It would be great for him and DPJ to have solid seasons this year and make the Missouri #TightEndPassingGame legend continue to grow.

As far as reinforcements, they have two— Memphis’ Gavin McKay and Washington, MO’s own Ryan Hoerstkamp. These were some of the earliest verbal commitments and Hoerstkamp has so far stayed committed, even with Alabama barking in his ear. Missouri hasn’t sent out any additional offers to tight ends so they’re overtly sticking with Hoerstkamp and hopefully that commitment stays true for both parties. Regardless, I feel confident that Missouri won’t be adding any more tight ends to this class.

2020 Offensive Line

Current Offensive Linemen: 15

Projected 2021 Offensive Line Recruits: 2 or 3

I said this back in February and am reiterating it now: the line and receivers are light on experience and big on young depth. Since February, Drinkwitz added Rutgers transfer Michael Maietti as a graduate transfer so he’ll be gone after this season, as well as JUCO project Angel Matute. So of the 13 linemen who aren’t Maietti or Matute, ten are sophomores or younger, while the three juniors have some starting experience. Clearly, the competition for the 10-man depth chart is wide open.

It’s tough to come in as a freshman and start right away — Elvis Fisher was the only redshirt freshman to start on the line and Evan Boehm was the first true freshman to do so — because your strength and weight in high school doesn’t translate well to the college level and most need a year in the weight room to bulk up correctly. Maybe the massive Mitchell Walters, at 6’8” 275, is ready to start as a swing tackle but I wouldn’t count on seeing any of the three true freshman playing this year. So if all three take a redshirt, the scholarship balance is actually pretty manageable going forward...minus the five-man bulk class of 2022.

So going forward I would expect the coach staff to add, at most, three guys in the ‘21 recruiting class. They already have Connor Tollison verbally committed, but had some other targets commit elsewhere. There’s been a run of new offers to linemen — seven, as far as I’ve seen — so it’s clear that they’re not cool with just one, but certainly can’t take all seven. I’d assume that they keep the classes balanced and bring on two more if they can nab them; JUCO’s will probably not be the route they want to go since that would put six/seven in the graduating class of ‘22 which is tough to lose at once.

2020 Defensive Ends

Current Defensive Ends: 6

Projected 2021 Defensive End Recruits: 3 or 4

Give the bulk of the exodus of defensive linemen after this year, most of the scholarships should be going here and to the defensive tackles. They already have Travion Ford verbally committed and got the recommitment of Shemar Pearl’s services after his JUCO sojourn. Ford will have 5 years to play 4 while Pearl has 3 years to play 2. With the desperate need of a pass rush, I’d assume both get a shot at avoiding a redshirt; we’ll see if any are successful enough to push Chris Turner or Tre Williams for playing time.

With Turner, Williams, and Sci Martin scheduled to leave at the conclusion of this year, that leaves 5 guys, so the staff will probably take one more— either a high school kid or JUCO product. The highest priorities right now are 4-star Kyran Montgomery out of Indianapolis’ Pike High School and local boy Tobechi Okoli from Kansas City’s Lincoln College Prep, alma mater of Charles Harris. If they can both of them, the staff (and us!) will be happy and complete, but there are other offers out to some other kids, including one to Arden Walker, a product from Drinkwitz’s still-under-construction Colorado pipeline.

2020 Defensive Tackles

Current Defensive Tackles: 9

Projected 2021 Defensive Tackle Recruits: 4 or 5

This is not a balanced position in regards to scholarships. Five guys will be graduating at the end of the year, leaving four guys behind who are currently on the roster. That means the coaching staff will have to bring in four or five prospects in the ‘21 class to bolster the ranks and mix in some JUCO’s to not only balance the classes but also litter the depth chart with guys who have college experience. Don’t rule out a grad transfer here, especially if they strike out on any of their higher-priority targets.

The first commit of the ‘21 class was Mekhi Wingo, and assuming he signs on the dotted line when the time comes, there could be another three or four guys joining him. The Tigers have their eyes on three JUCO tackles: Daniel Robledo (teammate of ‘20 JUCO commit Ben Key), Jalen Williams, and Isaiah Coe. Coe is an interesting case on the “dark side” of recruiting: he verbally committed to Oklahoma but there was no confirmation on OU’s socials celebrating his commitment. Turns out, they told him he had an offer but, apparently, it wasn’t a “commitable offer” so when he announced it, the OU coaching staff told him that was great but they wouldn’t take him at this time. So if he’s back on the market, Mizzou will certainly take him! Georgia high school product Matthew Alexander is also a primary target for the Tigers. Three JUCOs plus Wingo and Alexander gives Mizzou five tackles and spreads the experience out.

2020 Linebackers

Current Linebackers: 10

Projected 2021 Linebacker Recruits: 2

The Tigers will be for sure losing Brooks and Miller to graduation, and probably Bolton to an early-entry for the NFL. However, with the move to a base 4-2-5 Ryan Walters’ defense needs a lot fewer linebackers than a 4-3 scheme would and they’ll have seven guys on the roster with two more coming in. I was surprised that they ended up with two linebackers committing; they certainly didn’t need more than one unless they’re trying to bring in “their guys” and are going to force some transfer portal entries? Regardless, this position doesn’t need a lot of studs to stand out and with Bolton at the helm at one spot, they just need two or three other guys out of the rest of the ten to step up.

2020 Cornerbacks

Current Cornerbacks: 6

Projected 2021 Cornerback Recruits: 4

Drinkwitz and his recruiting team has been knocking it out of the park in the recruitment of defensive backs which is good since corner is a huge position of need. Luckily, if all commitments hold, I think they’re full on what they want.

Adam Sparks is the only guy graduating from the cornerback room, but that would only leave 5 guys on the roster for 2021. Enter: The four guys in the ‘21 class. Daylan Carnell, Darius Jackson, Zxaequan Reeves and Davion Sistrunk are all over 6’1” and weigh more than 180 pounds and will have lots of opportunity to crack the starting rotation next year. As for this year, the Chris-es (Mills and Sheari)n will have first dibs on the starting spots while Ishmael Burdine and the crown jewel of the ‘20 recruiting class, Ennis Rakestraw, should have equal chances of earning a starting spot as well. This secondary is incredibly young and will probably be pretty bad this season but the future is certainly bright.

2020 Safeties

Current Safeties: 7

Projected 2021 Safety Recruits: 2 or 3

The corners will probably be bad, but the safety corps is in good hands. Tyree Gillespie and Joshuah Bledsoe will have two of the starting spots on lockdown and might be one of the better safety tandems in the SEC. Martez Manuel and Jalani Williams will probably rotate into the third spot while Stacy Brown and the freshmen, Tyler Jones and Jaylon Carlies, will provide some young depth.

Tyler Hibbler just gave his commitment to the Tigers last Tuesday, but I’d assume they’ll take at least one more safety prospect, if not two. They have an offer out to Dreyden Norwood of Fort Smith, AR but there’s a laundry list of blue bloods that are also gunning for his services. If they take a third safety I’d imagine it’ll either be a JUCO prospect or a FBS transfer.

2020 Foot People

Current Special Teamers: 2

Projected 2021 Special Team Recruits: 0

Having two specialists on scholarship is certainly not unheard of (Missouri did it in 2016-2018 with Tucker McCann and Corey Fatony), but it’s not common. The surprise commitment of graduate transfer and former Kentucky Wildcat, Grant McKinnis, gives the Tigers a senior kicker and a true freshman kicker. It’s unusual but certainly not misguided: this staff has no idea what kind of specialists they have in the walk-on crew and haven’t had a spring practice to find one. Bring in a seasoned guy for a year, either redshirt Harrison Mevis or have him punt, then once you (hopefully) have a “normal year” to work with the walk-on pool of kickers or recruit a freshman from next year’s crop. Regardless, two kickers for ‘20 and one kicker for ‘21 tells me that they’re not going to put any on scholarship for next year; they will have access to a full roster starting next year and need to use those scholarships to build the roster back up.

So that’s 82 scholarships for 2020...

...and my University of Missouri education tells me that 82 is greater than 81. So what does Coach Drinkwitz do?

Let’s first agree that all of these dudes deserve to go to school for free and having conversations about removing scholarships has to be the absolute pits, even for a hardened football coach. But Mizzou needs to get to 81, so someone is losing a scholarship.

Do you look at the walk-ons who earned a scholarship, Downing and Bannister? That would be a jerk move, especially for Downing who will be graduating this year. Even though it wasn’t this staff who put those two on scholarship, I can’t see the Drinkwitz regime starting their tenures out by removing a scholarship from some hard working dudes. So let’s rule them out.

I also find it hard to talk to a senior, junior, or sophomore and say, “Look, just for this year your parents are going to have to pay your way.” Again, that’s a super negative move and I can’t imagine that kid would want to stick around or work hard for a staff that doesn’t feel the need to keep paying for their education.

So... do your force another transfer? They did it to Anthony Watkins, who was a position of need, so maybe they look at a position of plenty - linebacker or tight end, perhaps - and ask a guy who has been buried on the depth chart to look for a roster spot elsewhere?

Or do you greyshirt one of your incoming freshman? Greyshirting is a common practice at the blue blood schools where an incoming recruit doesn’t enroll until the second semester, therefore preserving his eligibility but also preserving a scholarship spot once the season is over.

I’m not sure what they’ll do but, for now, the Tigers have 82 scholarship players, 16 verbal commitments, and room to take at least 25 commitments, if not more, for 2021. I have them projected to take 23-28 in this class, so that all checks out. That means we can expect 7-12 more commitments in this class!

See? Math can be fun!