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Eli Drinkwitz lost quantity but added quality in this year’s transfer portal

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The transfer portal is there for a reason, and Eli Drinkwitz isn’t afraid to utilize it.

NCAA Football: Tulsa at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency is upon us, college football fans. It’s not technically called free agency, of course. Because these are “student athletes” and they’re not technically paid. But, let’s be honest, what we’ve witnessed over the last six-plus months has been the collegiate version of the NFL’s free agency period.

Of course, I’m referencing the transfer portal. If you’ve spent any amount of time consuming Mizzou content this offseason, you’ve probably read about the pros and cons of the portal.

It started with a boom, adding exciting talents like former Rice linebacker Blaze Alldredge, former Ohio State wide receiver Mookie Cooper and former Oklahoma offensive guard EJ Ndoma-Ogar. Everything was coming up sunshine, lollipops and rainbows in Columbia, Missouri.

And then it changed. The mass exodus began and the celebrations of the transfer portal turned into complaints. The system was broken, and college football as we knew it had come to an end.

The truth, as usual, is somewhere in-between. Mizzou has benefited from the transfer portal just as much, if not more-so, than it’s been hurt by players who decided to go elsewhere. At this point, we believe the Tigers have used all of their allotted scholarships for the 2021 transfer class (unless the Jadarrius Perkins transfer changes things... who knows). Regardless, the vast majority of Mizzou’s transfer portal activity is in the books. How did Eli Drinkwitz perform on the portal?

Let’s take a look position-by-position at what the Tigers gained, and what they lost throughout the offseason.

Wide Receiver:

  • Added - Mookie Cooper
  • Lost - Jalen Knox, Dominic Gicinto, Maurice Massey, CJ Boone
NCAA Football: Arkansas at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers’ early flurry of transfers began in earnest during the 2020 season when Gicinto, Massey and Boone announced their intent to pursue other options. Massey and Boone didn’t record a catch in their time at Mizzou. Gicinto showed some flashes, but finished his Mizzou career with 23 receptions for 285 yards and two touchdowns. The vast majority of his production came in his first year on campus.

The real loss of the group was Jalen Knox. It appeared early last season the Tigers had finally unlocked Knox’s potential. Then, the production... disappeared. It seemed as if Keke Chism’s expanded role came at the expense of Knox.

And then came the replacement. The Tigers’ addition of Cooper probably should have been the sign that Knox wouldn’t be back. Cooper seemingly earned the starting role from the moment he stepped on campus. In terms of pedigree, it’s really no contest. Cooper was the top-rated athlete in the country coming out of Pattonville High School in 2020. Knox was a mid-tier converted running back coming out of the Dallas area in 2018.

Bottom Line: The Tigers added quality while losing quantity. Cooper should serve as a sizable upgrade in the slot while Gicinto, Massey and Boone weren’t expected to have significant roles for Drinkwitz in 2021.

Offensive Line:

  • Added - EJ Ndoma-Ogar, Connor Wood
  • Lost - Jack Buford, Thalen Robinson, Dylan Spencer
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 26 Oklahoma at Kansas State Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The buzz started early for Mizzou’s offensive line additions. Former Oklahoma guard Ndoma-Ogar announced in October his intention to transfer to Missouri for the 2021 season. Ndoma-Ogar is a mammoth of a human, weighing in at more than 340 pounds. He was also one of the top-rated offensive line prospects in the country in the 2020 recruiting class.

Drinkwitz didn’t end there. He also added former Montana State starting offensive tackle Connor Wood. At a minimum, Wood adds much-needed depth to the position. It’s also possible he becomes a future starter. He started 20 games in two seasons at Montana State, earning freshman All-American honors in 2018 and sophomore All-American honors in 2019. He arrives at Missouri as a graduate transfer, but he still has two years of eligibility after his 2020 season was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Bottom Line: The offensive line additions and subtractions are much like the wide receiver situation. The Tigers technically lost more players in the portal than they gained, but the quality of the players coming in should exceed that of the players who left. Wood is a proven commodity at the collegiate level. Ndoma-Ogar has a higher pedigree than any of the three players who left. From the outside looking in, it appears the Tigers upgraded the position.

Defensive Line:

  • Added - None
  • Lost - Tre Williams, Markell Utsey, Chris Daniels, Sci Martin, Montra Edwards
Alabama vs Missouri Photo by Kent Gidley/Collegiate Images/ Getty Images

Yeah, so there’s no spinning this one. The Tigers lost a good bit of talent in the transfer portal and didn’t make any additions (through the transfer portal) to replace it. It would have been nice to see Utsey finish his career in a Missouri uniform, but he decided his best situation would be to transfer back home and play for Barry Odom at Arkansas. Hard to be mad about that. Williams’ up-and-down tenure at Missouri had come to its logical end. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand Edwards’ very short time in Columbia.

Bottom Line: Drinkwitz used high school talent, not the transfer portal, to replenish the talent along the defensive line. While Mizzou lost a solid contributor in Utsey, it brings back Kobie Whiteside, Darius Robinson and Akial Byers to play on the interior. The Tigers also added two four-star defensive ends and seven defensive linemen in total in the 2021 recruiting class. The defensive line might take a bit of a step back in 2021, but it should be set up for a big rebound in 2022 and beyond.

Linebacker:

  • Added - Blaze Alldredge
  • Lost - Jamal Brooks, Aubrey Miller Jr
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 05 Rice at UAB Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Linebacker might be the single biggest question for the Tigers going into the 2021 season. Who will start next to Devin Nicholson? And how in the world does Missouri replace Nick Bolton’s production? The answer, frankly, is they probably won’t. But Alldredge might be able to help piece things together.

Alldredge is a two-time First Team All Conference USA member. He racked up more than 200 tackles, 29 tackles for loss and six sacks in 28 games for the Owls. That’ll play.

That said, it stinks to lose Brooks and Miller. Those two were critical in helping the staff recruit their fellow players in the 2017 class. You won’t find many players who bleed black and gold more than Brooks did in his time at Mizzou.

Bottom Line: Missouri’s linebackers will be under the microscope early in the season. It’s impossible to replace someone like Bolton, but Drinkwitz did well to add a player as productive as Alldredge.

Cornerback:

  • Added - Akayleb Evans & Allie Green IV
  • Lost - Chris Mills, Jarvis Ware, Jadarrius Perkins, Adam Sparks
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 Tulsa at ECU Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The single biggest upgrade Missouri made at any position this offseason - by far - comes at cornerback. I’ll be honest, I was one of the Mizzou fans that felt a bit concerned when both Ware and Perkins announced their transfers this spring. That left the Tigers extremely thin at the position.

And then one of the top corners in the transfer portal, Akayleb Evans, announced his decision to transfer to Mizzou. AND HIS TEAMMATE FOLLOWED SUIT!

I can’t overstate how significant it is for the Tigers to add both Evans and Green. They combined to form one of the most imposing cornerback duos in the country last year. Tulsa allowed just 6.1 yards per pass attempt and a total of 190 passing yards per game, both of which ranked among the top 20 nationally.

There’s a reason both Evans and Green are legitimate NFL Draft prospects. They fit the mold of a typical Mizzou cornerback with impressive length, and both are not afraid to come up and play with some physicality.

The Tigers might not have had a bigger weakness on their defense a year ago than their corners. The additions of Evans and Green helped build that weakness into a massive strength.

Bottom Line: Evans, Green and Ennis Rakestraw have the potential to form the best Mizzou cornerback trio since... I legitimately don’t know when. Maybe the the last 20 years? I know that sounds like hyperbole, but EJ Gaines is the only Missouri cornerback to hear his name announced during the NFL Draft in the last 30 years. Evans and Green are both expecting to hear their names during next year’s draft.