University of Missouri

This week in Mizzou recruiting: Kelly Bryant, Chester Graves, Zachary Evans and more

Chester Graves during Monday’s Park Hill High School football practice on August 3, 2015 in Kansas City, MO.
Chester Graves during Monday’s Park Hill High School football practice on August 3, 2015 in Kansas City, MO. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

What a week folks! What a freaking week! Instead of more of the same sentences let’s discuss.

(Side note: I had a really good intro planned for this week and then forgot it amid Tuesday’s chaos. Sorry.)

Kelly Bryant commits to Missouri

Former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant committed to Missouri on Tuesday, while I stared aimlessly at my laptop before MU basketball played UT-Arlington. This is Missouri’s biggest get since...? That depends on who you ask. I think the crowd that votes for Dorial Green-Beckham is correct. While Gary Pinkel was a more established recruiter than Barry Odom when MU landed DGB, it gave Missouri momentum going into the Southeastern Conference and showed the Tigers can hang with the Georgia’s and Alabama’s of the world every now and then.

Bryant’s commitment gives MU momentum in the post-Drew Lock era and builds ticket excitement for the south endzone. I expect Missouri to be in the mix for 10 wins next year with Bryant under center. I’m very curious to see how Derek Dooley adjusts the offense to a dual-threat quarterback and four returning tailbacks. He’s a little more under the microscope to me now.

All in all, a huge get for Odom and the Tigers. The domino effect to this will be fascinating to follow.

Jonathan Nance to Missouri

Minutes after Bryant committed on Tuesday, someone in the press box yelled, “Nance just committed, too.” I thought it was a joke but Missouri did land the former Arkansas wideout minutes after Bryant. Nance went to high school with current Mizzou wideout Richaud Floyd, which helped the process.

While I was shocked in the moment about Nance, my surprise quickly wore off. I had run into a Mizzou offensive player (we’ll leave it at that) in town a few weeks ago and was making small talk with him. We talked about a lot of different things before I had to ask, “What do you think of Kelly Bryant?”

His response surprised me. “Nance is the key,” he said.

Apparently Nance and Bryant hit if off during the visit and heavily discussed playing together. I had been told by a different source that Auburn’s chances with Bryant dealt with some of the transfer and junior-college receiver prospects that Auburn was recruiting and MU seemed to have a similar deal. Nance brings experience to a wide receiver room that is losing Emanuel Hall, but still returns the likes of Jalen Knox and Kam Scott.

Chester Graves update

I’ve gotten a ton of questions about former Park Hill standout Chester Graves, who committed to Ole Miss out of high school before winding up at Iowa Western Community College. First off, Graves had a heck of a year up there. He had six sacks and more than 20 tackles for loss on his way to NJCAA defensive player of the year honors. Everyone seems to want him and he’s considered the nation’s top junior-college prospect.

But no one seems to be able to get the deal on him. Not even Sam Mellinger’s help has been useful for me here. Graves isn’t one of those kids in love with the recruiting process. It just comes with the territory to him.

What I can say is that the need at defensive end is obvious. Missouri was decent but not great with getting to the quarterback this season and can use an established lineman like Graves. Andy Hill has a proven track record of recruiting Kansas City and Brick Haley is one of Missouri’s best recruiters. We’ll see where this goes, but getting a pulse on it will be hard.

Niko Hea to visit

I recently covered the Class 6 state championship game between Rockhurst and Christian Brothers College and got to see tight end Niko Hea extensively. He’s visiting Missouri this weekend. Hea is around 6-foot-5 and was one of CBC quarterback Brett Gabbert’s favorite targets.

Hea appears to be MU’s replacement at tight end for Charles Njoku, who decommitted a few weeks ago. He’s got a good frame for the position and is coming from a state powerhouse in St. Louis. While it appears he only has smaller schools on his radar right now like Bowling Green, Missouri’s track record at tight end speaks for itself. If they get him, I think this is a move that can pay off the down the line for both programs. With Jon Jon Finley leaving for Texas A&M, I’m curious as to what MU is telling recruits about its next tight end coach. I’m going to try and get in touch with Hea for next week’s column after his visit.

Zachary Evans shows some MU love

Missouri offered five-star 2020 running back Zachary Evans on Wednesday and the Houston, Texas native called the Tigers “a childhood favorite of mine.”

For starters, I plan to try and do more homework for next week on the origin of his fandom, but context is key when we’re talking about the No. 2 player in his class according to and the nation’s top running back.

I did some homework on Smith and he shares some unique company in all of my travels. In July he released a list of his top 25 schools. The only other player I ever remember doing that? Michael Porter Jr.

Given the amount of options he has (I see over 30 offers) I don’t think Evans was lying about his interest for MU. But to quote a friend of mine, Missouri is the Show-Me State. Does he come for a visit? And then what happens after that? Show me there’s mutual interest. Any kid that has a top 25 is clearly not making their mind up anytime soon, so to those that think MU has no shot, it’s too early for that.

This would be an unbelievable get if Missouri finds a way to get him. It would be going into Texas, and getting the top player in the state over all the local schools like the Longhorns, Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas Tech, etc. And we haven’t even talked about other blue bloods like Alabama.

It’s early and a lot has to happen before MU can be taken seriously but it will be an interesting one to follow.

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Alex Schiffer has been covering the Missouri Tigers for The Star since October 2017. He came in second place for magazine-length feature writing by the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association in 2018 and graduated from Mizzou in 2017.