Three-Point Stance: Missouri, Big Ten predictions, 2026 Midwest recruits
In this edition of Three-Point Stance, Rivals national recruiting analyst Clint Cosgrove weighs in with his thoughts on Missouri recruiting in the wake of the Tigers landing Williams Nwaneri, a few predictions for the Big Ten season and three 2026 Midwest recruits who should make a splash in the Rivals rankings when they are released later this year.
RIVALS RANKINGS WEEK SCHEDULE
Sunday: Who should be No. 1?
Wednesday: Offensive position rankings | QB spotlight | RB spotlight | WR/TE spotlight | OL spotlight
Thursday: Defensive position rankings
Friday: State rankings
1. A big win for Eliah Drinkwitz and Missouri recruiting.
The recruiting world seemed to be shocked when the nation's top-rated defensive lineman, Williams Nwaneri, announced his pledge to Missouri over Georgia, Oklahoma and others on Monday evening. Many were left wondering how Missouri could land such a talent over college football's blueblood programs. Everyone's immediate assumption was NIL. Yes, NIL played a factor in this recruitment, but it is time to give credit where it is due, and that credit goes to Eliah Drinkwitz and the Missouri staff.
The bottom line is that Missouri has lost the majority of its elite in-state talent for years and this is a problem that far preceded the current regime in Columbia. Imagine the product Missouri could have put on the field had players such as Jameson Williams, Kyren Williams and many others stayed home. Drinkwitz was fully aware that the Tigers' most likely path to success would come by keeping the state's finest home, and he set out to find a solution. The solution came in the form of teaming up with former Missouri football player and current Missouri House of Representatives member Kurtis Gregory to pass a law allowing Missouri high school athletes the ability to profit off of their Name, Image and Likeness should they choose to attend an in-state school. The law comes into effect on Aug. 28, and it already appears to be paying dividends.
College coaches are often considered innovators when they alter their approach to recruiting or change their scheme to keep up with evolving trends. But how many coaches have been innovative enough to take their plea to the state and successfully get such a law passed? None that I can think of, and Drinkwitz should be applauded for finding a potential solution to a problem that has plagued the program for years. With the law in hand and the recruiting chops to take full advantage of it, Drinkwitz may have found a way to substantially lift the Missouri program.
2. Big Ten season predictions.
Championship game: Michigan vs. Wisconsin. I'm choosing to go with a Michigan team that returns quarterback JJ McCarthy, running back Blake Corum and 81% of its production from last season's College Football Playoff team which ranks fifth best in the nation according to ESPN. Throw in the fact that they play Ohio State who will be replacing a first-round draft pick at quarterback with only 67% of its production returning (No. 48 nationally according to ESPN) at home, and I see Michigan with the most likely path to an East championship. The West doesn't feature the "Big Three" and has a little more parity from top to bottom, making this pick a toss-up for me. While Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska should all be in the mix, I'm siding with Wisconsin and its upgraded roster, scheme and head coach. Throw in the fact that the Badgers' schedule is absent of Michigan, Penn State, Maryland and Michigan State – with Ohio State at home – and they get the nod.
Player of the year: JJ McCarthy. While this award doesn't have the same politics as that of the Heisman Trophy, quarterback has become the media darling and McCarthy is arguably the conference's best quarterback on what is arguably the conference's best team. While Marvin Harrison Jr. is likely the best skill player in the conference, CJ Stroud is no longer under center, making his road to conference POY slightly harder than that of McCarthy.
Coach of the year: Matt Rhule. I am going with Matt Rhule here due to the massive rebuild he has in front of him. Nebraska hasn't won more than five games since 2016. Should the Huskers field a remotely competitive team and become bowl eligible in 2023 it would be hard to pass on Nebraska's new head coach for this honor. Kicking off the season at Minnesota and at Colorado isn't ideal, but I see a path to seven or more wins for the Huskers if Rhule can repeat his magic once again.
3. Three Midwest recruits likely to make a high debut in the initial 2026 rankings released later this year.
Sadler is a Swiss Army Knife of a player who already has over 20 offers to his name heading into his sophomore season at Detroit Cass Tech. These aren't just any offers, either, as many of the nation's elite programs have made him a priority target, including Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, Florida, Miami, Tennessee and others.
Cantwell is an absolute man for a player who is heading into his sophomore season, and few players have the size, skill set and pedigree of the Nixa (Mo.) standout. With former Olympians for parents and a list of early favorites that includes Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, Arkansas and Texas A&M, Cantwell could have an argument for being the top player in his class.
Like Cantwell, Henry has a combination of size, athleticism and pedigree that you don't see often. The Ohio State commit is son of the late Chris Henry. He is mentored by Adam "Pacman" Jones and is a special talent in every way. Like Sadler and Cantwell, don't be surprised if Henry Jr. makes his case for being the top player in the 2026 class before all is said and done.