I was recently talking to a Georgia fan from my hometown (Alpharetta) about the 2023 season and what he thought of it.
One of the first things that came out of his mouth was this:
“Missouri is going to be a problem very soon.”
For the first time since 2014, people are taking notice of Mizzou football on a national scale. The on-field success plays a large role in that, but so does constantly winning on the recruiting trail, renovating physical elements of the program and having a top-tier culture from top-to-bottom.
The Tigers have accomplished all of that and more under Eliah Drinkwitz, and he’s become somewhat of a transfer portal tycoon in the meantime.
Names like Ty’Ron Hopper, Theo Wease, Joseph Charleston and Cody Schrader come to mind when one thinks about the recent transfers that have jumpstarted their careers in the black and gold. Players in the transfer portal take notice of that, and it’s lead to this program landing three of top players in the country at their respective positions. Toriano Pride out of Clemson is a high-caliber cornerback, Marcus Carroll can be a game-changer at running back and the recently committed Cayden Green can be a key cog in an offensive line that has holes to fill.
And, all of them committed early on in the cycle of the portal. Drinkwitz and this staff knew what the positions of need were for 2024, and they quickly sought them out. The head coach even stated that, for the first time in his tenure, he’s having to turn quality players away purely because this team now has the depth and talent to be able to that.
The brand of Missouri football now resonates strongly in the transfer portal, but it translates far beyond that.
I was talking to another friend recently, this one a Florida State student. We were discussing James Madison II’s commitment and he heavily emphasized how confident the Seminole fan base was in landing him...and then how stunned they were when he chose to be a Tiger.
The Oklahoma fan base had a similar reaction when Williams Nwaneri made his decision. Those are two blue blood programs that were left speechless by the recruiting prowess of this staff.
For the first time in a while, Mizzou is ahead of the game in college football. NIL is prioritized, the program attacks the portal and high school ranks in the right ways and the product on the field is innovative and highly entertaining.
The result has been consistent success in bringing talented players into the program, and in-state stars are now opting to stay home rather than head off to join one of CFB’s giants. Mizzou has ranked in the Top 40 of 247 Sports’ national recruiting rankings in every year since 2020 and is on pace to do that again in 2024. The Tigers have also reeled in a Top 30 transfer class in every year over that span, and with a couple more commitments during this cycle, they could also do that again.
A lot of this can be traced back to two things.
Number one is the coaching. Players see that Blake Baker and Kirby Moore are up-and-coming figures in the sport that are ahead of the curve, and their respective units are plain fun to play within. And, other coaches like Al Pogue (CBs), Al Davis (Interior D-Line), Brandon Jones (OL), Curtis Luper (RBs), Jacob Peeler (WRs) and Kevin Peoples (DL/Edge) form a star-studded cast of assistants that have proven that they can develop and put guys in the NFL. Retaining many of these names in the long-term will be difficult given their success and growing reputations.
Number two is culture. From just being around the program and hearing how the players speak of it, I can just tell that this is a well-connected organization that has its priorities in order. A lot of that can be attributed to Desiree-Reed Francois, who has ensured that this program will reach new heights with her tireless and concerted efforts to improve it. But, culture is represented in every person that works within that facility, and Drinkwitz has found a way to spread great energy to every corner.
The key now, of course, is maintaining this momentum. Just as quickly as it has built up, it can fade away. All signs point towards Mizzou heading for consistent future success, but plenty of teams have failed to keep up this level of connection and efficiency.
Green was just the most recent example of the aforementioned momentum, and he won’t be the last over these next couple of months. House money is the best term to describe what Drinkwitz and Co. are working with right now, and they are cashing in.