Eli Drinkwitz has done it again. And again. And again. The recruiting success never seems to end with Drinkwitz at the helm.
Maybe it’s getting old reading about how Drinkwitz is finding legitimately unprecedented success recruiting at Mizzou. But I’ll tell you this much - it’s not getting old writing about it.
My single biggest question about Drinkwitz when he arrived at Missouri was whether or not he would be able to recruit at this level. He seemed charismatic. He has a youthful energy about him. He seemed to put together a personable staff.
But we’ve said all of these things and more about hundreds of staffs both at Missouri and elsewhere. Recruiting in college football is a dirty game and it can suck the life out of even the best coaches.
Drinkwitz has found a way to rise above. He’s convincing blue chip talent to choose Missouri over the best programs in the country. He’s convincing top-flight transfers that Columbia is the place for them.
In the past week, the Tigers have flipped 4-star cornerback Marcus Scott II from his commitment with LSU. They added Connor Wood, a former FCS freshman All-American in 2018 and All-American honorable mention in 2019. And, oh by the way, they landed another commitment from former Tulsa star cornerback Akayleb Evans. Evans chose the Tigers over offers from Texas and Notre Dame.
CB Akayleb Evans has early mid-round NFL draft grades from several scouts around the NFL. Great pick up for Mizzou.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) June 12, 2021
Verified 6017 and 200 pounds w/ 32 1/2" arms. https://t.co/0uihI8ChAW
Let’s take a step back for a moment. Choosing Mizzou over Texas, Notre Dame or LSU. That’s no small feat. Especially given the unit where many of these high profile commitments are coming from.
In the last 18 months, Drinkwitz has added a flurry of talent to what has been arguably Mizzou’s weakest positional group over the last two decades: the secondary.
It started with Ennis Rakestraw. Drinkwitz got into the recruitment late after getting the job at Mizzou, and found a way to stave off late offers from Texas and Alabama. Rakestraw arrived at Mizzou and contributed immediately as a starting corner on opening day. Not too shabby for a freshman.
'We’re on the rise.'— Blake Toppmeyer (@btoppmeyer) June 14, 2021
Eli Drinkwitz exceeded Year 1 expectations at Mizzou.
The Tigers have momentum. They're recruiting well.
Their coach is full of swagger, and he's hungry for Mizzou to become a bigger thorn in the side of the SEC East.
It’s continued this offseason. Drinkwitz knew the Tigers needed another immediate contributor in the secondary. He and his new defensive staff went to work. The new cornerbacks coach, Aaron Fletcher, had quite the relationship with one of the top cornerback transfers on the market, Evans, having coached him at Tulsa. Most of the national analysts seemed to expect Evans to land at Texas or Notre Dame. Who could blame them? It’s Texas and Notre Dame vs. Missouri. Conventional wisdom would suggest that ends with Evans in Austin or South Bend.
Not anymore. Not with Drinkwitz at the helm.
The winds are shifting. Drinkwitz is the captain now. A secondary that had been deprived of talent has now added a handful of blue chip talents within the past 18 months.
That’s just one unit, in particular. The secondary is just one example of the upgrades Drinkwitz is making on the roster as a whole.
Rivals has been ranking recruiting classes since 2002. From ‘02-’19 (pre-Drinkwitz), the Tigers landed two top-25 recruiting classes: 2008 (25th) and 2010 (21st). Drink’s first full recruiting cycle landed the Tigers the 20th best recruiting class in the country. His 2022 class is currently ranked as the 15th best class in the country. Last year was the highest ranked class in program history. It’s possible (and maybe even likely) that he breaks his own record in his second year on campus.
Drinkwitz’s first season on campus left us plenty of reasons to believe he has what it takes to turn this program around. But college football is about more than X’s and O’s. They say recruiting is the lifeblood of a program for a reason, and Drinkwitz is proving quickly that he can compete with the best of the best in that regard.