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Recruiting Reset: Can Cameron Keys fill an Ennis Rakestraw-sized hole in Mizzou’s secondary?

Keys has the size and speed to be a potential instant-impact defender in Missouri’s secondary.

Don’t let the Rivals recruiting ranking fool you, Cameron Keys is a massive pickup for Mizzou in the 2024 recruiting class. Rated as a 3-star on Rivals will mislead some folks. Keys is a 4-star prospect on both 247 Sports and On3. In fact, On3 ranks Keys as one of the top 30 cornerback prospects in the 2024 class.

There’s legitimate reason to be excited. Keys has the size (6-foot) and speed (a reported personal best 10.85 100-meter dash) to be a premier cornerback at the next level. SEC teams certainly took notice.

The Lynn Haven, Florida native claimed SEC offers from Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Tennessee. He ultimately chose the Tigers over an all-SEC top four that included Kentucky, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.

Keys finished his junior high school football season with 26 tackles, nine pass breakups and two interceptions in nine games. He followed that up with quite the track season, posting an official 10.96 100 meter dash at the district finals. That time is now the second best in the history of his high school, and it would have finished in the top-15 of Missouri’s Class 5A state meet in the 100 meter. For comparison sake, 5-star wide receiver prospect Ryan Wingo finished with a 10.87 in that meet.

Cameron Keys: He’s pretty fast! Let’s break down the rest of his game, shall we?

Where he fits: Keys is a cornerback in every sense of the word. In fact, he’s one of the more polished cornerback prospects I’ve watched in my time breaking down Mizzou recruits. In fact, if you’re looking for a comparison, it’s Ennis Rakestraw. They are remarkably similar from a size, speed and length perspective. At times, Keys looks like he is running the route for the wide receiver. He also does an excellent job of high-pointing the ball when the opposing wide receiver has a chance to ‘go up and get it,’ and he does an impressive job of not biting for double moves. Even when he does get a bit out of position, he has plus-plus closing speed to make it up.

Oh, and did I mention he’s not afraid of contact?

If you can’t tell, I’m a fan. Scouting cornerbacks is incredibly difficult. It’s as much about traits as it is anything else. Even the smartest players at the high school level can be exposed in college if they don’t have the speed to keep up with SEC wide receivers. That’s not a concern with Keys. He’s got speed for days.

When he’ll play: This is where it gets interesting. Missouri is expecting to lose both Kris Abrams-Draine and Rakestraw at the end of this season. That will leave just Marcus Clarke, Dreyden Norwood, Nick Deloach and Shamar McNeil at cornerback. It would come as quite a shock if the Tigers don’t add a corner (or two) from the portal, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if Keys works his way into the rotation either in year one or two on campus.

What it all means: The Tigers added one heck of an athlete who can also play his position at a high level with Keys. I personally think Rivals is too low with their ranking. This has the makings of a 4-star recruit in every way I’ve seen since covering Mizzou recruiting. That does not guarantee that he’ll be an impact defender at the next level, but it does suggest he has all the necessary tools in order to become exactly that.

Missouri has not exactly had a loaded history of success signing prospects from Florida since joining the SEC, but I think Keys has a chance to buck that trend. The Tigers’ first foray into Florida took place with Gary Pinkel in the early years of the transition to the SEC. The Tigers landed 10 prospects combined in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 classes, but the only notable starters were Sean Culkin and Ish Witter.

Missouri has made a couple signings from Florida over the past few classes with varying degrees of success. Tyree Gillespie and Jaylon Carlies certainly worked out at the safety position. Maybe Keys can add his name to the list of Florida defensive backs to thrive at Mizzou.