College football has changed. No longer is the expectation for the vast majority of a high school recruiting class to finish out their eligibility at the school where it began. Heck, it’s a success if half of the high school recruits in a class remain on campus for the full four years.
And if there’s a coaching change? All bets are off.
This new reality makes it that much more special when kids do stick it out. That doesn’t mean everyone should. But those who do and are paid off for doing so earn a special place in my heart.
Senior days are always special. Every class has a story. Every player within that class left a mark on the program in one way or another. To make it four years at any power five program is an accomplishment. Especially when scholarships are as year-to-year as they’ve ever been.
And this Mizzou graduating class — specifically those who began their careers at Mizzou — they’ve seen some stuff, man.
The most tenured Mizzou football scholarship players expected to walk for Senior Day are Javon Foster, Xavier Delgado and Chad Bailey. That trio was part of the 2018 recruiting class which included the likes of Harry Ballard III, Nick Bolton, Dominic Gicinto and Tyler Badie.
Yeah, it’s been a minute.
Think about how much has changed in the nearly six years since Foster, Delgado and Bailey arrived on campus.
Foster and Delgado played for two different head coaches, three different offensive coordinators (including Eli Drinkwitz) and three different offensive line coaches. Bailey played for two different head coaches, three different defensive coordinators and three different linebackers coaches.
In the meantime, the recruiting class they arrived on campus with seemed to lose a player every month they were on campus. Many didn’t make it more than a year or two on campus. The COVID year and a coaching change sent the vast majority elsewhere.
The players walking on Saturday have seen a bit of everything within this program. Foster, Delgado and Bailey saw Missouri put together a really solid — yet ultimately disappointing — 2018 campaign with Drew Lock leading one of the more productive offenses in the country. The 2019 season was Darius Robinson’s first on campus; he’s the only 2019 commit that remains with the program as a scholarship player.
His introduction to Mizzou football was a road loss at Wyoming. Woof.
The final six weeks of that 2019 season included five defeats. The coach who recruited Foster, Delgado, Bailey and Robinson to Mizzou was fired. A complete stranger was brought in talking a big game.
They didn’t bolt. They wanted to see it through.
Boom. COVID hits. Spring football is cancelled. The season itself was full of ups and downs. The Tigers beat the defending national champions in LSU. They also had multiple games postponed due to COVID outbreaks, and played the final week of the season with (don’t quote me on this) roughly 12 players available. The bowl game against Iowa was cancelled due to COVID, as well.
Three seasons. Two head coaches. Not a whole lot of on-field success.
The 2021 season was full of twists and turns. The defense was a disaster under former NFL defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. The offense couldn’t get much of anything going through the air in the final half of the season with a (clearly injured) Connor Bazelak at quarterback.
The defense finally gets things turned around in 2022. The Tigers kept it close against Georgia. They just can’t seem to finish games against Auburn, Georgia, Florida or Kentucky. A 6-6 season is a sign of life, but plenty of questions remained.
There was still something left to prove. So they did.
Darius Robinson, Javon Foster, Xavier Delgado, Chad Bailey, Kris Abrams-Draine, Jaylon Carlies, Ennis Rakestraw and Harrison Mevis are the scholarship players expected to walk on Saturday who originally committed to Missouri out of high school. They will be known for many things, most notably getting this program back on track. The path was not easy. I’m sure there were plenty of days in which each one of them woke up wondering if this was the right place for them. There were probably plenty of opportunities to jump ship. They stayed the course.
The goal for every senior class is to leave the program in a better place then when they arrived. Not every class is able to accomplish such a goal. For this group, they absolutely did.
They have three games remaining in their Mizzou careers. This group deserves to end on a high note. Here’s to hoping they do exactly that in the final home game of their respective careers.