With Odom gone, Missouri struggles to maintain recruiting class of 2020

The Tigers have lost two commits with more seemingly imminent.

On Saturday, Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk made the decision to fire football coach Barry Odom after four seasons. As is normally the case after a coach is shown the door, many of the Tigers’ committed players from the class of 2020 are not happy.

Two of them — three-star defensive end Robert Wooten and three-star guard Jalen St. John — have already decommitted. Wooten, in particular, did not mince words in expressing why he chose to leave the fold.

“Due to coaching changes, I’ll be decommitting from Mizzou,” Wooten said in a tweet less than three hours after Odom’s firing was announced. “I loved coach Odom and everything he was about.”

Four-star receiver and top Tigers commit Javian “JJ” Hester and three-star guard Kevon Billingsly did not decommit, but they both reopened their recruitment. Three-star receiver Jay Maclin voiced his displeasure in the form of re-tweeting his cousin, former Missouri and NFL wideout Jeremy Maclin.

“[I] don’t agree with this at all,” Jeremy Maclin’s tweet said.

Jay Maclin has held off on commenting further, other than a tweet that said “Not answering any questions.”

The strongest statement in favor of staying with the Tigers came from Brady Cook, a three-star recruit and the top quarterback prospect in Missouri. The soon-to-be Chaminade College Prep graduate was named Metro Catholic Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2019, and he said that he understood why Sterk made the move.

“Right now, my thoughts moving forward are that I want to play football at Mizzou,” Cook said in a statement made to The Maneater. “I loved Barry and he did so much for me already, but the show must go on. I’m confident this class will stick together and everything will work out.”

Others, including Rock Bridge three-star defensive end Jalen Logan-Redding, have declined to comment and said that they needed more time to assess the situation. Odom’s No. 2 2020 commit, Elijah Young, was recently named Class 5A Mr. Football in Tennessee, but has also refrained from sharing his thoughts on the coaching change.

Losing any commits is never a good thing, but it would especially behoove whoever the next head coach is to do everything he can to retain Maclin and Hester. The latter’s reopened recruiting process has already yielded an offer from UCLA, and the 6-foot-3-inch wideout is sure to get interest from elsewhere as well.

Maclin would step into Columbia and be an immediate fan favorite, not only because of his last name but because of his impressive tape at Kirkwood High School in St. Louis. He and Hester would be a dangerous pairing at receiver for the next three to four years, but only if they both stay committed.

In a press conference Saturday, Sterk said that the football staff, mainly interim coach Brick Haley, will be talking to commits, but it may be damage control from this point on. There’s also the question of incoming NCAA recruiting sanctions, which will hinder the new coach’s ability to bring in new players. They could also hinder Sterk’s efforts to hire an ideal coach

Specifically, the Tigers were hit with a 7-week ban on communications with recruits, a 12.5% reduction in official visits, and a 5% reduction in scholarships. All penalties, recruiting-related and otherwise, were upheld after a lengthy appeals process. There is no specification for when the 7-week ban will begin.

“That’s a compliance question,” Sterk said regarding the communications ban. “We have looked at that, we have met with the staff and okay, can we use those this year and next year and they’ve been in discussions with the NCAA on that. So that’s a possibility.”

Sterk remained optimistic about Missouri’s appeal to young athletes, especially on the heels of the completion of the new South End Zone.

“Just building one of the best facilities in the country is a recruiter’s dream,” he said. He also recognized the importance of moving “swiftly” in the hiring process, which will be important in retaining the Tigers’ important commits.

However fans may feel about him, Odom was popular with the players, both current and incoming, and Sterk’s decision will change Missouri’s talent pool in the immediate future. Seeing as 38 of the top 50 players in Missouri (per 247sports) and 17 of the top 20 are already committed, it could be difficult for the Tigers’ recruiting class of 2020 to recover.

It’s conceivable that Missouri’s next coach could convince some new recruits to follow him from school to school, but potentially replacing Maclin or Hester is a tall task.

That’s not to say that firing Odom wasn’t the right call for the Tigers’ long-term football outlook, but Missouri fans should brace themselves for it to get worse before it gets better.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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