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Should fans be concerned that Mizzou has just two football commits in late May?

Is Mizzou’s high school recruiting off to a slow start?

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Two commits? In late May? That seems bad. Is it bad?

If that was your first thought upon hearing the news that Daniel Kaelin decommitted from Mizzou shortly before announcing his new commitment to the University of Nebraska, I get it. I shared in that sentiment.

Two commitments this “late” in the cycle seems... light? Especially with neither recruit being ranked as a blue chip prospect. For context, the only other SEC program with fewer than five commits is Kentucky. The only SEC programs with fewer than four blue chip commits are Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Missouri. Not exactly the company the Tigers are hoping to keep.

If Eli Drinkwitz was building a program like Gary Pinkel, whatever. No harm, no foul. Pinkel’s programs consistently outperformed its recruiting rankings because of his staff’s ability to develop talent after arriving on campus. That has, well, not exactly been the case for Drinkwitz (at least not yet).

So the coach known for his recruiting prowess is having a sluggish start on the recruiting trail? That is — at a minimum — worth exploring, and it’s fair to describe the situation as mildly concerning.

Mizzou’s Recent Pre-June 1 Recruiting:

Year Total Pre-June 1 Commits: Pre-June 1 Blue Chip Commits: Post-June 1 Blue Chip Commits: Final Class Rank: Final Class Size:
Year Total Pre-June 1 Commits: Pre-June 1 Blue Chip Commits: Post-June 1 Blue Chip Commits: Final Class Rank: Final Class Size:
2024 2 0 N/A N/A N/A
2023 3 1 4 32 19
2022 6 3 4 12 20
2021 9 2 5 19 23
2020 3 0 0 54 18
2019 1 0 1 34 22
2018 1 0 2 39 26
2017 3 1 0 49 25
2016 3 1 2 47 22
2015 6 4 2 27 25
2014 10 0 2 34 28
2013 10 1 0 41 21

Drinkwitz has now been part of three “full” recruiting cycles at Missouri: 2021, 2022 and 2023. Those classes finished with a ranking of 19th, 12th and 32nd by Rivals, respectively, and they were buoyed by a pretty hot start on the trail. At this point in 2021, the Tigers had nine commits with two of them being ranked as blue chip recruits. At the same point in 2022, Missouri had six commits with half of them ranked as blue chippers. And at this point in 2023, Missouri had three commits, one of which was a four star recruit. That means nearly half of Missouri’s blue chip commits over the past three seasons were committed by the end of May in that year’s cycle.

Alright, that’s a lot of numbers. The truth of the matter is this: Missouri is behind, both relative to its own recent track record and based on the current recruiting trends across the conference. There’s no way to spin it.

That doesn’t mean things can’t get better. Missouri had a combined 18 commits by June 1st over the past three recruiting cycles, and the Tigers finished with 62 high school commits in that span. There is a lot of time remaining in the 2024 recruiting class.

There is also a new wrinkle to recruiting with the transfer portal, and Drinkwitz’s staff has proven quite adept in that regard. The Tigers have added the likes of Michael Maietti, Damon Hazelton, Keke Chism, Mookie Cooper, Akayleb Evans, Allie Green IV, Jayden Jernigan, Ty’Ron Hopper, Josh Landry, Nyles Gaddy, Tre’Vez Johnson, Marcellus Johnson, Jake Garcia and Cam’Ron Johnson via the transfer portal over the past few offseasons.

I don’t believe the transfer portal should be the primary method of talent acquisition for a college football program, but it does serve as a bit of a failsafe if a class (or two) don’t work out. Projecting a role for a former power five contributor, for example, is a heck of a lot easier than projecting what a high school recruit will be when he’s ready to play in three or four years.

So, yes, Missouri is behind in this recruiting class. It’s fair to be concerned, but it’s also not the end of the world. The Tigers will have a big recruiting weekend sooner rather than later. If things don’t pick up in a meaningful way by the start of the high school football season, that’s when I’ll join the chorus of complaints.

Until then, watch some Mizzou defensive highlights from 2022 on repeat.