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Recruiting Reset: Tionne Gray is here to help re-establish ‘D-Line Zou’

Mizzou has now added an in-state 4-star interior defensive lineman in back-to-back recruiting classes.

Quick, can you name the last time Missouri signed multiple 4-star defensive tackles out of high school over a 3-year stretch? I know, tough to do on the spot. If you’re having trouble thinking of the last time it happened, there’s a reason for that.

How about this: It had never happened. Not once. Not in the Rivals era, at least, which dates back more than 20 years.

That changed over the weekend when Missouri got a commitment from 4-star defensive tackle Tionne Gray. The Hazelwood Central product committed to Missouri over offers from Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon and Tennessee, among others. Missouri added former 4-star defensive tackle Marquise Garcial to the mix in the 2022 class, and he’ll (hopefully) be paired with Gray next fall.

Eli Drinkwitz has done an admirable job of adding talent to the defensive line since being named the head coach at Missouri. A lot of ink has been spilled over the transfers he added to the group last offseason (for good reason), but not enough has been made about the high school talent he’s added along the defensive line. Gray is the fifth blue chip defensive line commit Drinkwitz has added to the roster since the 2021 recruiting class, joining Kyran Montgomery, Travion Ford, Marquis Gracial and DJ Wesolak. The on-field results have been mixed thus far, but the hope is that group can start to making their presence felt as early as the upcoming season.

Where he fits: Tionne Gray plays offensive and defensive line for his high school team at Hazelwood Central, but the expectation is he’ll line up along the interior in college. He’s a prototypical 3-technique with the ability to add interior disruption for the Tigers. In other words, he’s more Jordan Elliott than Josh Augusta. He’s not here to plug the middle against the run. He’s a player that can add some serious pass rush potential to a defensive line that could use exactly that.

When he’ll play: This is where things get a little more tricky. Missouri’s recent history indicates it likes to get defensive linemen into the program for a couple years before really giving them a significant opportunity on the field. That’s probably a smart way to play it. Give these talented players time to get adjusted to the college level and build up the necessary playing strength to hold up against SEC opponents. That was one of the under-the-radar (positive) consequences of the transfer additions last season; they bought Missouri some time with the young players on the roster. The hope is that decision will pay dividends this season with extra playing time going to Johny Walker Jr., Arden Walker, Ky Montgomery and Marquis Gracial.

What it all means: The Tigers added a legitimate blue chip recruit early in the process. That can only be considered a positive. Gray is the fourth known Mizzou commitment in the 2024 class, joining 3-stars in quarterback Daniel Kaelin, offensive tackle Ryan Jostes and tight end Whit Hafer. Three of the first four commitments are in-state products. The overall product is such that Missouri’s current class is ranked the 22nd best nationally by Rivals.

Drinkwitz has made it abundantly clear based on both actions and words in his first few years on campus that he values offensive and defensive lineman, and he puts a priority on adding in-state players. He was able to add a high quality in-state defensive lineman in Gray. It’s another good get to keep momentum building for the 2024 class.