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How have Missouri’s blue chip recruits performed under Eli Drinkwitz?

The early returns on Missouri’s usage and success with blue chip recruits under Eli Drinkwitz is a mixed bag.

Vanderbilt v Missouri Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

Eli Drinkwitz’s recruiting prowess at Missouri is hard to overlook. Drinkwitz has now been at the helm for three full recruiting cycles, with the Tigers’ hauls ranking 19th, 12th and 32nd, respectively, by Rivals.

This kind of success on the recruiting trail comes with some serious expectations. Missouri has added 12 blue chip recruits over the past two recruiting cycles, the kind of players one would expect to see the field sooner rather than later.

So, how have those players performed at Mizzou? It’s been a mixed bag, to say the least. It’s important to note it’s still extremely early to make any kind of sweeping conclusions about the group, or what it says about their time at Missouri. But it’s the offseason, and this feels like a good time to check in on where things stand with Missouri’s current (and former) blue-chip players.

Blue Chip Recruits in the 2021 Class:

QB - Tyler Macon:

Missouri v Florida Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images
  • Macon took 54 snaps on offense in 2021 and just two snaps in 2022 (you probably remember both). He has attempted a total of 17 passes in his Missouri career with a combined 14 rushing attempts for 39 yards. He has two total touchdowns. And that’ll do it. Macon entered the transfer portal this offseason and landed at Alcorn State.

WR - Dominic Lovett:

  • The former East St. Louis star saw the field for 278 snaps in 2021 and 400 snaps in 2022, according to Pro Football Focus. He was utilized primarily as an outside receiver in 2021, but broke out with more than 800 yards receiving as a slot receiver last season. Unfortunately, he entered the transfer portal at the end of last season and will spend the 2023 football season playing for the Georgia Bulldogs.

DE - Travion Ford:

  • Ahh, what could have been. Ford played 14 snaps in 2021, but he did not see the field this past season. The former St. Louis standout never really translated to the college level at Missouri, and Ford is hoping for more success after landing at Toledo via the transfer portal.

DB - Daylan Carnell:

  • One of my favorite Missouri Tigers of the past few seasons, Carnell saw limited opportunities with just 16 snaps in 2021, but he flourished as a significant contributor defensively last season with 380 snaps. The Indianapolis native seemed to create havoc every time he was on the field, finishing last season with two tackles-for-loss, five pass deflections, two fumble recoveries, three interceptions and a defensive touchdown. Not bad for a rotational player! Carnell is expected to take over as the starter at the STAR position this season.

DE - Kyran Montgomery:

  • Montgomery is the most compelling of this group. He has yet to see the field due to a number of injuries that have kept him on the sideline the vast majority of his first two seasons. It seems as if he has made the transition this spring full time to the interior of the defensive line. It remains to be seen how much of a factor he will be, given the relative depth of the position for the Tigers.

Blue Chip Recruits in the 2022 Class:

QB Sam Horn:

  • We all know Horn’s story. He saw just six snaps in 2022, but he has been under consideration this spring to become Missouri’s starting quarterback in 2023. This feels like a significant season for Horn. He was not able to steal snaps from Brady Cook as a freshman, and the Tigers brought in Jake Garcia to compete with both Cook and Horn to be the starter next fall. How this competition goes could go a long way in determining how Horn’s time at Mizzou will be remembered.

RB Tavorus Jones:

  • Jones showed some legitimate skill in just 16 snaps this past season. The El Paso native is expected to compete for more playing time this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him become a more significant piece of Missouri’s third down plans, in particular.

WR Luther Burden III:

  • What is there to say? Burden was second among Missouri’s wide receivers with 535 snaps in 2022. His freshman year gave off a lot of the same vibes as Lovett’s. Burden was on the field a lot, had a decent amount of opportunities, but was highly inefficient. Why? Because, frankly, he wasn’t playing in the right spot. Much like Lovett’s freshman year, Burden struggled to adjust to playing on the outside in Missouri’s offense. I would not be surprised to see Burden have a similar sophomore year as Lovett after adjusting to the slot.

DT Marquis Gracial, DE DJ Wesolak and DBs Isaac Thompson & Marcus Scott II:

  • I’m combining these four because none of them saw the field in their freshman season. This is something that I do think Drinkwitz needs to get better at, specifically in the blowout games. There is no harm in getting young players playing time in (up to) four games under the new rules. It doesn’t burn a redshirt, and only stands to give these players legitimate in-game reps. I’m not suggesting they need to start or see a ton of playing time. But getting on the field is meaningful, and not having any of these four see the field at all seems like a waste of a season. All four are returning for 2023, so we’ll see how much playing time they’ll see as sophomores.

So, there you have it. The Tigers added 12 blue chip recruits in Drinkwitz’s first two full recruiting cycles. Among those 12 players, three have transferred, five have yet to see the field and two have seen extremely limited playing time. The two standouts that remain at Missouri are Carnell and Burden. The hope is that at least one or two other names are added to the list by the end of the season.

What does it mean? Well, for one, it means we probably shouldn’t have exceedingly high expectations in the first couple years for Missouri’s five blue-chip recruits in the 2023 class (TE Brett Norfleet, QB Gabarri Johnson, WR Joshua Manning, OL Logan Reichert and DB Marvin Burks). It also serves as a reminder that Drinkwitz tends to lean on his veterans - especially transfers - over the young players he’s brought in via high school recruiting.

Adding blue-chip talent is a heck of a thing to do. Seeing that blue chip talent flourish at the college level, though, requires development and that development requires playing time.