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Pourover: Eli Drinkwitz plays catch-up

After a very quiet start to the 2024 recruiting class, the Missouri head coach has kicked it into high gear.

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

Eli Drinkwitz’s first full recruiting class, the 2021 class, was a good one. I’m giving him a bit of a mulligan for the 2020 class since he took the job in late 2019 and had to duct tape together the recruiting class. But for the 2021 class, Drinkwitz hit the ground running and secured commitments from 16 different players before the month of July started. The 2022 class had 10 commitments before July. The 2023 class had just 7 commits.

Before Friday, June 30th... Missouri had just three commitments, and one of those hit in mid-June with Tennessee quarterback, Aidan Glover. The recruiting class was so bleak that even Nate and BK had to poke fun at it by asking if the staff was even interested in high school recruiting.

But last week Mizzou Football hosted a big recruiting event they dubbed the Gold Rush.

The headliners were 5-star recruits Ryan Wingo, a wide receiver from St. Louis, and Williams Nwaneri, a defensive lineman from Kansas City. But there were a host of other players on campus and if the last few days are any indication, Gold Rush was a success.

Jude James, a 3-star St. Charles wide receiver, committed first on Friday. He was followed very quickly by unranked Georgia athlete Jackson Hancock. Then yesterday, on Saturday afternoon, Alabama defensive back Cam Dooley pulled the trigger for the Tigers. All three players were on campus this last weekend for Gold Rush.

There are more announcements forthcoming as well. Today, Justin Bodford, a Florida 3-star defensive tackle, announces his college decision after spending his last weekend at Gold Rush. Then on Monday, 4-star Florida linebacker Nicholas Rodriguez will announce his decision. Both Bodford and Rodriguez are teammates at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale. Their other high school teammate is James Madison II, who has Missouri in his top two with Florida State. And Madison is announcing on Tuesday, July 4th.

Another attendee at Gold Rush was Cole McConathy, a 3-star defensive lineman from Alabama. McConathy is announcing on Thursday. And Brian Huff, a 4-star linebacker from Arkansas is making his announcement on July 12th.

That’s seven announcements from Gold Rush attendees, and an additional 8th with Madison, who wasn’t at Gold Rush but was on campus recently. If Missouri goes 8 for 8 here, they’ll have gone from 3 commits to 11 in the matter of a few weeks. 11 is closer to the 2022 class. That’s making up ground in a hurry.

In some ways, Drinkwitz is probably smart to de-emphasize high school recruiting. At least a little. For a program like Missouri, they really can emphasize being the land of second chances for players by getting depth and talent out of the transfer portal. But high school recruiting is still going to play a huge role. And landing and developing players straight out of high school is still the key to building a good college program.

It remains to be seen whether Gold Rush will result in either of the elite recruits ending up at Missouri. Both Nwaneri and Wingo have great options. Of the two it seems like Wingo may be more likely, but both are long shots.

The Tigers hosted 4-star Michigan DL Jeremiah Beasley as well, and he’s already committed to Michigan. But landing Huff and Rodriguez would basically mean the Gold Rush weekend might have been the single most successful recruiting event in Mizzou Football history. Or at least in the discussion. And if they were able to reel in either Wingo or Nwaneri, well then the Gold Rush would go from great to GOATed in a hurry.