In-person recruitment returns after NCAA lifts restrictions

COLUMBIA, Mo. — It’s been over 14 months since the NCAA paused in-person recruitment in lieu of COVID-19. On June 1, that pause ceased, allowing schools and coaching staffs to hold in-person evaluations on campus facilities. 

The Tigers are taking advantage of the change. On the first day of open recruitment, tight end Kaian Roberts-Day, a current 2022 Baylor commit from Festus, MO, worked out with head coach Eliah Drinkwitz and the Mizzou coaching staff.

Plans appear to only grow from there as Drinkwitz and company will host a “Night at the Zou” Wednesday evening to officially kick off the return to normal recruiting procedures. The guest list is star-studded: Boonville’s All-American defensive end D.J. Wesolak and Lutheran North’s All-American cornerback Toriano Pride headline a group of over 20 athletes attending the invite-only event.

Wide receiver Luther Burden, a 2022 Oklahoma commit, is also slated for a visit with Mizzou football Wednesday, as reported by KSDK sports director Frank Cusumano. The now-East St. Louis senior (transferred from Cardinal Ritter in the winter) is one of the top ten recruits in the country, according to 247 Sports. He put up 14 touchdowns on 45 receptions in just seven games in 2020 with Cardinal Ritter. 

Recent 2021 Mizzou commit Darius Jackson, a cornerback from DeSoto, Texas, announced on Twitter that he will be arriving in Columbia on June 4, in preparation for the upcoming season. Arden Walker, who has been in the Tigers’ 2021 recruiting class since December, also took to Twitter to put out his arrival date: Sunday, June 6. 

The Tigers are looking to add to their highly-ranked 2022 class, which already features eight athletes. Six of them are from Missouri, including the Tigers’ most recent signing, 6’4”, 280-pound defensive tackle Marquis Gracial from St. Charles. 

Recently, offensive tackle Jake Maikkula, a senior out of Valor Christian in Colorado, announced his current top eight schools, which included Mizzou as the only SEC institution on the list. Walker, a fellow Colorado native, hinted at potentially becoming teammates on Twitter in response. Maikkula is another reported attendee of the Night at the Zou.

Another athlete who has piqued interest from Mizzou recruiters is Tulsa transfer Akayleb Evans, a cornerback who could contribute significant experience as a graduate with two years of eligibility. He listed Mizzou in his top five schools a few days ago, also including Texas, Notre Dame, Texas Tech and Jackson State. 

The Tiger connection isn’t surprising, as Mizzou defensive back coach Aaron Fletcher spent the last six years coaching for the Golden Hurricanes and is likely one of the biggest advocates for Evans putting on the black and gold.

There’s plenty of time left for rising seniors to whittle down interest from schools, but in-person interaction will certainly be critical for student-athletes in that process. In other news, Mizzou quarterback Connor Bazelak will be a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy in July this summer. The camp couldn’t be held in 2020 but is bound this year to feature premiere football talent from across the country. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix is also among the student-athletes providing coaching.

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