Missouri football lands record-breaking 2022 recruiting class with heavy Show-Me State influence

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"Adapt or die."

Missouri head football coach Eli Drinkwitz quoted Brad Pitt's mantra as Oakland Athletics executive Billy Beane in the 2011 film "Moneyball" on Wednesday to describe his approach to recruiting.

Amid the rise of name, image and likeness as well as the transfer portal into the forefront of college athletics, Drinkwitz's assertion that adjustments are required to achieve sustained success may be the biggest factor playing into the long-term results of his tenure in Columbia.

For Wednesday alone, the first day of college football's early signing period — otherwise known as National Signing Day — Drinkwitz had the hard data to back up that his course-corrections gave the Tigers needed progress.

At press time, Missouri had secured a top-15 national class for the first time, smashing last year's record-setting 27th-place class.

After Boonville four-star defensive end DJ Wesolak signed with the Tigers, Missouri's ranking vaulted up to fourth in the Southeastern Conference and No. 11 in the nation.

With a flurry of commitments taking place over the next several weeks, those numbers will likely fluctuate.

Missouri head football coach Eli Drinkwitz has secured a 2022 recruiting class that ranks in the top 15 nationally.
Missouri head football coach Eli Drinkwitz has secured a 2022 recruiting class that ranks in the top 15 nationally.

Missouri secured the signatures of 15 players, with only one recruit previously committed to the program not putting pen to paper at the first opportunity: Omaha, Nebraska, offensive lineman Deshawn Woods.

"This is just a start. Today is just a start of what you're trying to build your roster towards for next year," Drinkwitz said. "... We're going to be looking to continue to add to our program as we have attrition, whether that's voluntary or not, whatever we need to do to replace the players who may or may not leave on our team. And whether or not we find a few more high school players that want to sign with us in the second signing period in February."

Among the 15 high school seniors to sign with MU on Wednesday were 10 who are Missouri natives or from the St. Louis or Kansas City metropolitan areas.

Included in that group is the nation's No. 1 wide receiver and the third-highest-ranked prospect in the Class of 2022 nationally: Luther Burden. St. Louis-area four-star prospects Marquis Gracial, Isaac Thompson and Ja'Marion Wayne also officially signed with the Tigers on Wednesday.

On the other side of the state, four three-star prospects in Armand Membou, Mekhi Miller, Jalen Marhsall and Max Whisner signed their national letters of intent.

Drinkwitz also secured the signing of Lebanon offensive lineman Tristan Wilson, who went to the same high school as former MU standout Justin Britt and current Tiger Cannon York.

"I think we've done a tremendous job of our stated goal, which is to recruit the state of Missouri first, and to make sure that we do a tremendous job of signing the best players in this state," Drinkwitz said.

Drinkwitz took 36 flights over the last two weeks to put the finishing touches on the early part of the Class of 2022, he said.

By securing the signatures of many talents from the Show-Me State, Drinkwitz and his staff were more selective with the athletes they pursued outside state borders.

The highest-rated out-of-state signee was quarterback Sam Horn from Suwanee, Georgia, who just lifted a state championship with Collins Hill High School over the weekend.

Horn was pledged not only to MU football, but Missouri baseball as well. Horn won't be an early enrollee in order to complete his senior prep baseball season. Horn is a pitcher with a fastball velocity of more than 90 mph.

"Anytime that you can secure your quarterback and build your class around him, it's a huge advantage for your recruiting. There's no wonder about who it's going to be," Drinkwitz said. "And for us to be able to sign one of the elite quarterbacks in the country ... it was an easy sell.

"I think it was something that made not only Luther, but Ja'Marion and Mekhi Mlller, very comfortable in joining us. And I know it was instrumental in getting (Tavorus Jones) to come on board with us, too."

Jones is rated as the No. 13 running back in the Class of 2022 and is a top-200 prospect nationally. He's rated as the 29th-best player in the ultra-competitive state of Texas.

"We've got to go wherever we can to find great players," Drinkwitz said of Jones. "Obviously, we had seen his tape and he was a young man that had some tremendous offers out of high school, and I think people had kind of figured he was a lock to maybe one school or another in the state of Texas.

"As we did more investigation and research, we realized that wasn't the case. And so it allowed us an opportunity to get in and recruit him."

Drinkwitz expects to add more players to the team in the coming weeks, pointing to tight end as possibly the biggest hole left on next year's roster.

Contact Eric Blum at eblum@columbiatribune.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Mizzou football's Eli Drinkwitz lauds record-breaking recruiting class

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