Eli Drinkwitz checked just about every box in his first season at Missouri.
Playing an SEC-only schedule, the Tigers went 5-5 and won nearly every toss-up game. Drinkwitz seemed to have found his quarterback of the future in Connor Bazelak, five players were selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, and the early recruiting returns have been great. The Tigers finished 35th in average star rating in the class of 2021, have recruited in-state very well, and have a top-100 quarterback from Georgia pledged to the program in the class of 2o22.
Despite all of those good vibes, the roster at Mizzou is undoubtedly in a transition stage. Since last season, Missouri has seen 19 players enter the transfer portal.
These departures all began when reserve quarterback Taylor Powell decided to leave Columbia before the 2020 season started. The former mid three-star recruit would eventually land at Troy. As the season went on, a few more departures occurred. After the year, the exodus has continued.
Missouri has lost defensive tackle Markell Utsey to Arkansas where he’ll play for former Mizzou head coach Barry Odom. Jarvis Ware had a great shot at a starting cornerback spot but left in May. Jaddarius Perkins was a junior college prospect who Mizzou beat out Oregon and Florida State for in the class of 2021. However, he left the program in April and landed at Florida. Wide receiver Jalen Knox recorded 77 receptions in his first three seasons on campus, but the Texas native entered the transfer portal on Friday.
This all occurred on top of a handful of staff changes in the offseason. Drinkwitz lost defensive coordinator Ryan Walters when the assistant decided to join Bret Bielema’s first staff at Illinois in the same role. The Tigers responded by hiring Steve Wilks who hasn’t coached in college since 2005, but served as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2018 and was the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 2019.
Overall, things are going well for Missouri. Drinkwitz showed some major chops as a play-caller last fall and is making some real noise on the recruiting trail. However, this is still a program in transition. The Tigers will be looked at as a darkhorse this summer thanks to the Drinkwitz and Bazelak combination, but this is still a team with some holes.
The week two matchup against Kentucky in Kroger Field still looms very large for both programs.