The ultimate guide to Missouri’s 2020 National Signing Day

Missouri signed its highest-ranked recruiting class since 2010, which included eight in-state prospects.

It all began with one word, tweeted on Jan. 19, 2020.

“Committed.”

With that tweet, defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo became the first recruit in the class of 2021 to verbally commit to Missouri. 20 total prospects, including six from his hometown of Greater St. Louis, would later join him.

On Wednesday, known as National Signing Day, those prospects put pen to paper and locked in their intent to step foot onto Faurot Field next fall.

Missouri’s 2021 recruiting class will be its strongest in recent memory, coming in at No. 20 nationally, per Rivals.com. This is the highest rank for Missouri since its 2010 class that led the Tigers to back-to-back SEC East championships in 2013 and 2014.

The high finish is a major accomplishment for coach Eli Drinkwitz, who described recruiting, particularly within the state of Missouri, as the “lifeblood” of his program in his first media event as head coach in December 2019.

The 2021 class provided Drinkwitz with his first chance to prove that a Missouri-centric recruiting strategy could be successful. Even though eight recruits came from inside the state (or from nearby East St. Louis, Ill.), Drinkwitz stressed that his program couldn’t let up on recruiting in-state talent.

“We have got to build a wall around the state of Missouri,” Drinkwitz said at a press conference Wednesday. “We’ve got to continue to do better on the west side of the state in Kansas City and make sure young men understand that you don’t have to look anywhere else.”

Drinkwitz also emphasized his pride in his staff for dealing with NCAA sanctions imposed on Missouri due to recruiting protocol violations committed in 2015.

“For our staff to be able to be creative and go weeks at a time without having any communication with potential recruits, I think is pretty impressive,” Drinkwitz said.

National Signing Day was not without some drama, as Missouri managed to snatch a highly watched target, Arden Walker, from Colorado and UCLA early in the day. We have more on Walker below.

Here’s a complete guide to all of Missouri’s signees on National Signing Day.

Mekhi Wingo

DL, St. Louis, Mo.

While he isn’t the highest-ranked recruit that Missouri landed, Mekhi Wingo may turn out to be the most important member of his class.

Wingo committed to Missouri early, announcing his college destination in January 2020, but his work wasn’t finished. Taking to Twitter, he helped sway the decisions of other recruits — most recently, Arden Walker.

“We are all [friends],” Wingo said. “I’m in a group chat and we talk to each other every day … we are very close and can’t wait to all get up there.”

While Wingo certainly made a difference with his off-the-field contributions, he has the potential to be even more electric on the field.

The defensive tackle racked up five sacks in just seven games in his junior campaign at De Smet Jesuit High School. His athleticism and game IQ are major factors in his three-star ranking.

For Wingo, the energy Drinkwitz and his staff bring to the locker room reinforces his decision every day.

“The enthusiasm the coaches brought and the fact I know they can teach me lessons other than football made this the perfect place,” Wingo said.

Wingo signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday in Creve Coeur, Mo., surrounded by his family and friends.

Tyler Macon

QB, East St. Louis, Ill.

If there is a single player that embodies the ideals of Drinkwitz’s vision for Missouri football on and off the field, it would be three-star quarterback Tyler Macon.

“The number one thing for Tyler is he’s a winning quarterback. He’s a gatherer-type,” Drinkwitz said in a press conference Wednesday.

Macon, a product of East St. Louis High School, committed to Missouri on March 13. While he increased 200 spots in the 247 Composite with a strong performance in the finals of the Elite 11 quarterback competition, he made it known repeatedly that Missouri was the only school for him.

The quarterback’s commitment to the program allowed him to build connections with fellow 2021 commits through social media.

On the field, the MaxPreps 2020 Second Team Preseason All-American is a good fit for Drinkwitz’s offense that values speed and horizontal movement. Macon can stand in the pocket and turn the corner with ease on designed runs.

COVID-19 slashed Macon’s senior season, but his junior campaign is a good indicator of the level he can play at. The newest addition to the Tigers’ quarterback room became the second player in Illinois high school football history to account for over 5000 yards of total offense in a season and led East St. Louis to its ninth state title.

Dominic Lovett

WR, East St. Louis, Ill.

Coach Drinkwitz treated Missouri fans to a “Flipmas” present Dec. 11 when Dominic Lovett decided to join high school teammate Tyler Macon in Columbia next fall.

Lovett is a four-star wideout with explosive speed and soft hands. He posted 1,541 yards and racked a team-high 16 touchdowns in his junior year.

Like Macon, Lovett couldn’t play his senior campaign due to COVID-19.

Lovett committed to Arizona State in September, choosing the Pac-12 school over SEC powerhouses like Alabama, Georgia and LSU. As National Signing Day drew near, rumblings emerged that Lovett would be moving closer to home.

“We felt like the whole time he was gonna end up here, just because we had made a connection,” Drinkwitz said in a press conference Wednesday.

Lovett’s signing is yet another major pickup from the St. Louis-area, home to six recruits for the 2021 class.

If the incredible connection between Lovett and Macon last year at East St. Louis is any indication of what’s to come, Missouri’s offense just gained a dynamic duo that will be hard to stop.

Arden Walker

DE, Denver, Colo.

In his weekly press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Drinkwitz said Missouri was still looking to lock down “one or two more guys” going into National Signing Day.

On Wednesday morning, his wish came true.

In a highly anticipated announcement, three-star defensive end Arden Walker chose Missouri over Colorado and UCLA. Walker signed with the Tigers following the surprise decision.

Walker’s choice couldn’t have been easy — his father and Missouri defensive coordinator Ryan Walters were teammates together at Colorado. Walker said communication with Walters was pivotal in his decision.

“The relationship I built with coach [Brick] Haley and coach Walters was crucial to my commitment,” Walker said. “They talked to me almost every day and they put their trust into me.”

Walker’s future teammates also played a major role in recruiting him to Missouri.

“I spoke with other commits like Mekhi [Wingo], Ky [Montgomery], and Tyler [Macon] which made me see the vision as well,” Walker said.

Walker had eight sacks in his senior season at Cherry Creek High School.

Kyran Montgomery

DE, Indianapolis, Ind.

In Kyran Montgomery, Drinkwitz will get a combination of size and speed at the edge rush position that the team lacked in the coach’s first season.

The balance between cerebral run defense instincts and a jump off the line of scrimmage in passing defense makes him one of the best linemen in the 2021 class. Montgomery, a four-star prospect according to Rivals, also has a knack for sticking with plays even if they progress past the line of scrimmage, often catching ball carriers from behind to prevent first downs.

Montgomery starred on the Pike High School defense with 99 tackles, 22 tackles for loss and nine sacks in his junior season.

Montgomery signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday evening in the Pike High School gym. There is no indication of whether he will enroll early.

EJ Ndoma-Ogar

OL, Transfer from Oklahoma

While there hasn’t been much chatter about EJ Ndoma-Ogar, signing his transfer Wednesday morning is a big win for Missouri. Ndoma-Ogar is a four-star offensive lineman who transferred from Oklahoma to Missouri.

Ndoma-Ogar, a sophomore, is a graduate of Allen High School in Allen, Texas. ESPN ranked him the No. 9 offensive guard in his class and the No. 31 overall prospect in the state.

At Oklahoma, Ndoma-Ogar mostly served in a reserve role for the Sooners, but expect him to get more playing time as a Tiger.

The six-foot-three-inch, 325-pound guard will use his impressive strength and game IQ to dissect defenses and prevent pressure from getting to the quarterback.

Ndoma-Ogar is yet another Missouri recruit who chose the Tigers over SEC powerhouses like Alabama, Georgia and others.

Zachary Lovett

ILB, Rockledge, Fla.

Zach Lovett isn’t related to the four-star receiver Dominic Lovett, who also put pen to paper for Missouri Wednesday morning.

Lovett reiterated several times on Twitter that his heart and soul are at Faurot Field. He tweeted on Dec. 8, “My recruitment is closed and has been closed since June 19.”

The stability Lovett brings to Columbia will help the Tigers take a step forward on the defensive side of the ball.

“Zach is a downhill sideline to sideline linebacker with the ability to rush off the edge,” Drinkwitz said in a press conference Wednesday.

Lovett shined on the Rockledge High School defense his senior year with 26 solo tackles, 48 total tackles and six tackles for a loss in eight games.

Lovett signed his National Letter of Intent early Wednesday morning, and will join his last name twin next season.

Taj Butts

RB, St. Louis, Mo.

In 2020, Drinkwitz has shown that he has no qualms about playing underclassmen in big positions if the opportunity called for it. That could bode well for incoming running back Taj Butts.

With Larry Rountree III set to graduate following the 2020 season and Tyler Badie set to enter his senior year or declare for the draft, there could be an opening for Butts to get some meaningful reps before becoming draft-eligible.

The lead back for a De Smet Jesuit squad that won the state title his junior year, Butts plays a similar style as Rountree III; In just one cut, he can find a hole between the tackles and take off for the end zone.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, he had an affinity for picking up yards after contact and getting upfield on quarterback option plays.

The best 2021 running back from Missouri, according to 247Sports, finished a five-game 2020 season with 419 rushing yards on 56 attempts (7.5 yards per carry) and five touchdowns.

Butts signed Wednesday afternoon and will be joined by De Smet teammate Mekhi Wingo.

Travion Ford

DE, St. Louis, Mo.

Travion Ford had his pick of the litter when it came to colleges, receiving offers from Alabama, LSU, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas. When it came down to it, Ford decided to stay in his home state and become a Tiger.

Ford was Missouri’s No. 2 prospect and the No. 14 defensive end in the nation, according to ESPN. In his senior campaign of just six games, Ford posted an impressive 28 tackles and six sacks.

The four-star target’s commitment also played a key role in the eventual flip of St. Louis-area prospect Dominic Lovett from Arizona State to Missouri.

When he arrives in Columbia, Ford has big goals he wants to accomplish.

“I really hope that I can go up there and break the sack record,” Ford said in an interview Wednesday night.

Ford will hope to join a long line of defensive ends that have moved on from Missouri to play in the NFL. Among them — Shane Ray, Michael Sam and Aldon Smith.

Ford signed his commitment in a closed ceremony at Lutheran North High School in St. Louis Wednesday afternoon.

Dameon Wilson

ILB, Kings Mountain, N.C.

One thing the Tigers will need to improve next season is their run defense, which ranked No. 65 in the country this season. But after giving up around 163 rushing yards per game, Drinkwitz has a tackle machine arriving next season in Dameon “Dayday” Wilson.

“[Wilson] is a thumper,” Drinkwitz said in a press conference Wednesday. “He’s a guy that’s explosive that [causes havoc] when he finds the football.”

At the end of this season, Missouri could lose junior Nick Bolton and senior Jamal Brooks, so Wilson should help fill those voids in the upcoming seasons.

The Kings Mountain product possesses great athleticism and a chase ability to hunt ball-carriers. A three-star prospect according to 247 Sports, Wilson also is decisive to combat screenplays underneath by slipping blocks with his quickness.

“Coach [DJ] Smith said the best linebackers come from North Carolina, and we’re really excited to get [Wilson at Missouri],” Drinkwitz said.

Wilson can’t play his senior season until the spring due to COVID-19 safety precautions, but he showed how he can be so effective stopping the run during his junior season. Wilson recorded an incredible 123 solo tackles for Kings Mountain High School, four of which were sacks. He also forced five fumbles, recovered three fumbles and defended nine passes.

The North Carolina native signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday afternoon in the Kings Mountain High School auditorium.

Tyler Hibbler

S, St. Louis, Mo.

The Tiger’s defense has underwhelmed in Drinkwitz’s first season at the helm. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia have carved up Missouri’s secondary this season.

“[Defense] was a huge area of need,” Drinkwitz said. “Defensive backs are a huge part of what we do.”

Missouri added a defensive mind with coaching experience, but not the kind you’d expect.

Tyler Hibbler, a three-star recruit, is the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Mathews-Dickey Boys’ and Girls’ Club Bulldogs, a team of seventh graders. Hibbler draws up blitzes that stun opposing coaches and has a knack for calming his team down when things don’t go their way on the field.

With seniors Tyree Gillespie and Joshuah Bledsoe potentially departing Columbia after the season, Hibbler will join current sophomore Martez Manuel and current redshirt freshman Jalani Williams at the safety position.

Hibbler is good friends with several of Missouri’s class of 2021 recruits, including DeSmet defensive lineman Wingo and East St. Louis quarterback Macon.

On the field, the St. Louis native is always trying to give the quarterback second thoughts about his defensive alignment. Some plays he stays deep, some he’s creeping up toward the line of scrimmage, some he’s in between the two.

Hibbler signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday afternoon at Trinity Catholic High School, joining forces with Wingo and Macon at the collegiate level in Columbia.

Davion Sistrunk

CB, Melbourne, Fla.

Davion Sistrunk at defensive back will give the Tigers something that they don’t have a lot of in the defensive backfield: height.

At 6-foot-3 and with hops he uses on the basketball court for Melbourne High School, Sistrunk can play in the air with wide receivers who like to get up.

He is more than capable of getting his head turned around to make a play on the ball in the air and can change direction when he is backing up in coverage before breaking to a ball thrown underneath.

Sistrunk is the second-best defensive back in the 2021 class according to 247Sports and enters a secondary where Drinkwitz has not been afraid to play underclassmen. Ennis Rakestraw, Jr. and Jaylon Carlies earned first-team snaps this season as freshmen.

When Sistrunk committed in May, he gained some steam in the recruiting rankings and garnered attention from some of the best football programs in the country, including Oklahoma, USC and Penn State. However, he stayed true to the Tigers throughout and signed at late Wednesday morning.

Daylan Carnell

CB, Indianapolis, Ind.

Missouri will get a versatile playmaker in Daylan Carnell — a speedy back with an impressive 31-inch vertical that will make him a defensive force in the SEC.

247Sports ranked Carnell as the No. 33 safety in the nation. Both 247 and Rivals classified him as a three-star recruit.

In a shortened senior campaign, Carnell posted 39 tackles and three interceptions. Carnell is versatile, and his presence has the ability to put pressure on the pocket in short-field situations.

Carnell will join Kyran Montgomery as the other new Tiger from Indianapolis.

The cornerback said his decision to choose Missouri over West Virginia and Purdue came from excitement about Drinkwitz’s new program and relationships with the coaching staff.

“We talk daily and we have good relationships. The coaches [are] always fired up and full of energy,” Carnell said.

Carnell signed his national letter of intent on Wednesday evening at a ceremony inside Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis.

Ryan Hoerstkamp

TE, Washington, Mo.

Ryan Hoerstkamp is a prospect who brings knowledge from both sides of the ball. In his high school career at Washington High School, Hoerstkamp doubled as a tight end and a defensive end.

While Hoerstkamp will transition to only offense in Columbia, the skills he learned during his time on the D-line serve him well when he is on the line as a tight end. The three-star 247 prospect plays with power off the jump which gives him an advantage over linebackers on routes and in run-blocking against linemen.

Film from Washington High shows Hoerstkamp matches up well against defensive backs with solid speed for a 6-foot-4 player. Florida uses a similar concept for their talented tight end, Kyle Pitts. While Hoerstkamp is not nearly at the level of Pitts, Washington lined him out wide in more than just red zone situations.

Hoerstkamp is a beneficiary of Drinkwitz’s focus on in-state recruiting, as he is one of eight 2021 signees from Missouri or East St. Louis.

The Missouri Class 5 First Team All-State selection signed his National Letter of Intent Wednesday afternoon at Washington High School.

Gavin McKay

TE, Memphis, Tenn.

For an out-of-state recruit, Gavin McKay has plenty of connections to Missouri.

His dad played football at the University of Washington, where Tiger legend Gary Pinkel served as his offensive coordinator for two seasons.

McKay’s first Division I offer arrived in the spring of his sophomore year from the University of Alabama at Birmingham assistant Casey Woods. The following summer McKay went to UAB’s camp to get some one-on-one time with Woods to work on tight end drills. Woods is now Missouri’s tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator.

The three-star prospect projects as a flex option at the position, by displaying nice body control along with positioning himself nicely down the field due to his exceptional vision. As a 6-foot-4 tight end, he overwhelms smaller defenders.

Ranked No. 27 in the state of Tennessee, McKay adds depth to a struggling tight end squad.

The Tennessee product will reunite with Woods next fall after signing his National Letter of Intent on late Wednesday morning at Memphis University School.

Realus George

DT, Atlanta, Ga.

Realus George has had quite the journey to Columbia, which included him transitioning from a fullback to a defensive tackle.

The transition began in 2018 when George committed to the University of Miami (Fla.) ranked as the best fullback in the country. But he only played nine snaps on offense in 2019 and played mostly on special teams both years, prompting him to enter the transfer portal.

Earlier this year, George took a detour to Independence (Kan.) Community College, where he re-established himself in his high school position: defensive tackle.

“I’m a defensive monster,” George said. “I swear I can play defensive end and linebacker too.”

With his ability to cause havoc on defense by utilizing his physicality and vision, it prevents an offense from gaining leverage.

Junior colleges canceled the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, so George hasn’t played since last fall at Miami. However, the defensive tackle said he’s ready to contribute for the Tigers next fall.

George is extremely active on Twitter, with several posts of his embracing the same theme: brotherhood.

“The relationship you have with the players that you come in together with is going to be the strongest bond you have while you’re here,” Drinkwitz said in a press conference Wednesday.

The three-star prospect signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday morning.

Zxaequan Reeves

CB, Titusville, Fla.

Based on Missouri’s list of commitments, Drinkwitz and his staff had a clear vision in mind to build their first recruiting class: add speed to the defense along with a name that’ll be the first to play for Missouri in team history.

Zxaequan “Snoop” Reeves, a three-star prospect, brings an ideal blend of length, quickness and flexibility at cornerback. With his natural awareness in coverage, Reeves routinely plays half a step ahead of the offense by anticipating routes and throws.

With Missouri’s pass defense struggling, especially against the top teams in the SEC, Reeves’s quick feet and his ability to defend the pass provide an anchor to the Tiger’s defense.

At Cocoa High School, Reeves was the primary concern for offenses. In 10 games as a senior, teams rarely threw his way as he tallied 12 tackles with nine pass deflections and one forced fumble.

The lockdown cornerback was named to the Florida Today Dandy Dozen, which ranks the top high school football players in the Brevard County area and Sports Illustrated All-American candidates.

Reeves signed his National Letter of Intent early Wednesday morning.

Connor Tollison

OT, Jackson, Mo.

When the Missouri Tigers stopped the LSU Tigers four-consecutive times at the 1-yard line earlier this season, Connor Tollison watched on the ESPN app while golfing with his friends.

The Missouri native grew up watching the Tigers from the stands of Faurot Field, but next fall, he’ll play for his childhood team.

“Connor bleeds black and gold,” Drinkwitz said.

Tollison, the fifth-best prospect in Missouri by 247 Sports, has impressive footwork in the run and pass game. Tollison’s ability to stay low and keep his hands active will give the quarterback more time to process the defense and make efficient throws.

“[Tollison’s] a great athlete with the right demeanor,” Drinkwitz said. “We believe he can play multiple positions and give us flexibility.”

Missouri’s offensive line this season has been relatively stout, translating to the success of the running and passing game. Tollison joins a stable offensive line that consists of standouts current sophomore Xavier Delgado and current junior Larry Borom.

Tollison guided Jackson High School to a 14-0 record and a state title during his senior season. Jackson’s offense scored 62 rushing touchdowns and averaged 425 yards per game, including 229 per game on the ground with Tollison anchoring the line.

Tollison chose Missouri over offers from Alabama, Oklahoma and Indiana, among others.

Tollison signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday afternoon.

Daniel Robledo

DE, Tucson, Ariz.

Many people don’t think of junior colleges when they think of recruiting, but Missouri managed to land a top target tucked away at East Los Angeles Junior College in Monterey Park, Calif.

Daniel Robledo, the nation’s No. 10 junior college recruiting target, according to ESPN, made good on his July 13 verbal commitment, officially becoming one of five defensive ends to ink with the Tigers today.

Coach Drinkwitz and his staff heavily recruited Robledo, who has the opportunity to become a diamond in the rough for the Tigers.

“We were able to see his film last year, and we’re really excited about Daniel and what he’s going to bring,” Drinkwitz said.

The college sophomore chose Missouri over offers from Arizona, Ole Miss and others.

Robledo signed a national letter of intent at a small ceremony Wednesday afternoon with his family and friends in his hometown of Tucson, Ariz.

Jonathan Jones

DE, McKinney, Texas

When asked if he thought the 2021 class contained any “steals,” Drinkwitz didn’t hesitate to start talking about Jonathan Jones.

“He’s got great length and plays extremely hard,” Drinkwitz said. “He can play multiple positions for us and affect the game in a positive way.”

Jones’ versatility and ability to play in multiple positions will work well in a dynamic Tiger defense.

In his junior year, Jones led McKinney High to a 7-5 playoff record and a Texas 6A D-II second-round playoff appearance. The program secured their first playoff win since 1994, thanks to Jones.

Jones received offers from Arizona State, Texas, Virginia Tech and Baylor, but eventually chose Missouri as his landing spot on July 11.

Jones officially signed with the Tigers at a ceremony inside McKinney High School Wednesday morning.

Darius Jackson

CB, Red Oak, Texas

In Darius Jackson, Drinkwitz obtained a cornerback who has excellent length, instincts and rare hand-eye coordination at the position.

“Darius Jackson is a guy that coach [David] Gibbs has seen live and evaluated, so that [signing] was big for us,” Drinkwitz said.

The three-star recruit began playing cornerback as a junior at Red Oak High School, earned first team All-District honors and helped Red Oak win the District 6-5A Division II Championship. Jackson is quick to diagnose the run and is capable of spectacular one-handed interceptions.

Jackson joins Zxaequan Reeves and Daylan Carnell as the other cornerbacks of the Missouri 2021 recruiting class.

“With seniors, nutrition and numbers, we needed to sign quite a few [cornerbacks],” Drinkwitz said.

Jackson is a multi-sport athlete who also ran track and field in high school. He won district titles in the 110-meter hurdles, 300 hurdles and 4x400 relay in 2019. In 2020, he ran a 54.86 in the open 400.

Jackson signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday afternoon.

Edited by Kyle Pinnell | kpinnell@themaneater.com

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