Shane Beamer and Eli Drinkwitz are on fire on the recruiting trail in a significant, sustainable way
If you’re a fan of Mizzou or South Carolina, it’s perfectly fine to be excited in early July. Your respective head coach has given you reason to believe the future is bright.
Shane Beamer and Eli Drinkwitz had some fireworks over the holiday weekend. Recruiting fireworks, that is.
On Saturday, South Carolina got a commitment from 4-star safety Emory Floyd, who picked the Gamecocks over in-state Georgia and Florida. Floyd was South Carolina’s 10th pledge since June 1, AKA when the recruiting dead period finally lifted and Beamer finally got to show off the program’s state-of-the-art $50 million football facility. Not surprisingly, 9 of those 11 pledges visited South Carolina in June (on Monday 3-star Georgia defensive lineman Felix Hixon became the 11th commitment since June 1).
Before Floyd committed, look at just how significant June was for the Gamecocks:
June was a huge month in college football with the recruiting calendar finally opening back up.
Here is a scorecard breaking down the improvements made across the SEC, comparing recruiting classes entering June to the end of the month.
South Carolina tops the list in the SEC pic.twitter.com/f6F2XIMFi5
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) June 30, 2021
Not to be outdone by its SEC East foe, Mizzou got commitments from a pair of 4-star recruits over the weekend. Drinkwitz went into Omaha and landed the No. 1 recruit in Nebraska, 4-star offensive lineman Deshawn Woods. On Friday, 4-star Texas running back Tavorus Jones picked Mizzou over SEC schools like Alabama, Auburn, Florida and in-state Texas A&M. After signing Mizzou’s highest-rated class in 6 years, Drinkwitz now has the No. 15 class for 2022 (according to the 247sports rankings as of Monday morning).
Beamer is right behind him at No. 16, which might not seem as significant to some because, as South Carolina fans will tell you, Will Muschamp’s problem wasn’t recruiting. It was developing. Quarterbacks, specifically. You can only go so far with a coach who can’t find or develop the right quarterback. Muschamp’s full cycle classes all ranked between No. 18-21. On the surface, Beamer looks like he’s just keeping up with the status quo.
Not so fast.
It’s different not just because of the facilities upgrades, but because of how Beamer is making waves before coaching his first game. It’s the in-person visits and the social media presence that’s paying dividends for the first-year coach:
Leveraging social for recruiting, building brand. College football head coaches generating the most interactions on personal Twitter accounts in June 2021. https://t.co/VIP8mcG37G pic.twitter.com/FqWVRGBsc0
— SkullSparks (@SkullSparks) July 3, 2021
Drinkwitz isn’t far behind on that list at No. 7. Having a presence on social media this fall isn’t necessarily going to make or break either program’s recruiting. Both young coaches would rather have packed stadiums with competitive football.
For Drinkwitz, this will be the first time he can coach in front of a sold out Faurot Field, which got a $98 million renovation in 2019 … but Mizzou faced a bowl ban that season, which was the last of Barry Odom era. Drinkwitz did an interview a few weeks ago in which he stressed the recruiting significance of elevating the in-stadium experience this season.
“It needs to be 70k there,” Drinkwitz said on 590 The Fan, per Matt Rocchio. “Regardless whether you’re excited about what were doing, we owe it to this state … Nothing’s going to get somebody to want to flip from another school more than our fan base … If we do that, then in-state recruiting is like shooting fish in a barrel.”
What Drinkwitz and Beamer might both have working in their favor — besides being energetic, players-first coaches on the rise — is the new NIL era. There’s never been more (monetary) benefit to becoming a starter as an underclassman. It’s not a surprise that Mizzou and South Carolina have 4-star quarterbacks committed. Sam Horn and Braden Davis are also the highest-rated recruits in their respective classes.
Does that mean the Alabamas and Georgias of the world are no longer going to get top-tier talent? Only a fool would think that the entire playing field is now level. But is this a new sell for the middle-of-the-pack Power 5 schools like Mizzou and South Carolina? Absolutely.
If Mizzou signs a top-20 class, it’ll suggest that Drinkwitz struck while the iron was hotter than it’s been at any time in recent memory:
So even if Mizzou doesn’t add any more blue-chip recruits and simply signs the current commitments, it’ll match the program’s signed 4-star recruits from the past 4 years combined. NewZou, indeed.
Both Drinkwitz and Beamer are making major splashes in the recruiting world, yet both came into their respective SEC East gigs as the non-splashy hires. Their skeptics pointed to their atypical backgrounds as to why they might not succeed. Drinkwitz was the guy who didn’t play college ball and admittedly didn’t look the part. Beamer was the guy who got the Power 5 gig without any FBS head coach/coordinator experience and admittedly wanted to show the college football world he was more than just the son of a legendary coach.
Sustaining that does feel performance-dependent on some ways, but perhaps not as much as one would think. It wasn’t long ago that Chad Morris signed the No. 23 class in America, despite the fact that he didn’t win an SEC game in Year 1.
We don’t know how many wins are in store in Year 1 at South Carolina, especially with such a daunting schedule. Drinkwitz at least already showed promise by getting to a 5-5 mark against all-SEC competition after COVID canceled his pivotal first offseason spring.
But both of their teams, I’d argue, have relatively low national expectations when the perceived 2 through 6 teams in the East might not have a whole lot of separation if Florida takes a step back. Parity would benefit Mizzou and South Carolina, which would relish the opportunity to win a home game against a potential top-15 team team like Florida or Texas A&M.
Not all 6-6 seasons are created equal. Knowing Drinkwitz, a 6-6 season wouldn’t meet his expectations. That doesn’t mean his recruiting momentum would hit the skids. If Drinkwitz shows that his pro-tempo offense is capable of being one of the SEC’s better units — something that seems entirely possible with Connor Bazelak entering Year 2 as a starter — those blue-chip skill-players will flock to Columbia.
As for the East Coast Columbia, it’s hard to envision any world in which Beamer’s recruiting falls off. Even if several members of his staff get poached, one would think that would be the result of a season that surpassed expectations. Realistic for Beamer is producing a foundation year similar to the one Sam Pittman just had at Arkansas as a Year 1 coach without FBS head coach/coordinator experience. Pittman now appears poised to sustain his recruiting success (his 2022 class ranked No. 18 as of Monday afternoon).
It’s premature to say that Beamer and Drinkwitz are about to break up the hierarchy of the East. That’ll take several more top-20 recruiting classes coupled with that all-important ability to, you know, develop talent.
Eight years ago, Mizzou and South Carolina battled for the East crown and both finished as top-5 teams despite the fact that neither had a top-10 recruiting class on its roster. Times have changed since then. Florida and Georgia are in a different place. Strange it is to think of a time when Vandy finished in the AP Top 25 and neither Florida nor Georgia did. Yeah, it’s harder for the Mizzous and South Carolinas to get on that level.
But both are off to a heck of a start.