Alter High School senior quarterback Connor Bazelak is all in to play football at the University of Missouri.
That could have changed since the Tigers’ athletic program was hit with several NCAA penalties last week, the most severe affecting football. Missouri will not be eligible for a possible Southeastern Conference championship or postseason bowl next season and will undergo scholarship reductions. The Columbia-anchored school is appealing.
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NCAA strikes such as that enable incoming recruits to change their minds after signing, similar when a head coaching change is made. It also had resulted in at least four SEC schools to inquire about luring Missouri seniors to transfer without any sit-out period.
“Nothing has changed,” Bazelak said this week. “I know what type of program I’m going into and I think it’s an amazing program. I’m all set with Mizzou.”
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This past Wednesday began the regular signing period for high school seniors to sign binding national letters of intent to play NCAA Division I and II football. Most of the area’s most sought-after football recruits, including Bazelak, signed during the early signing period from Dec. 19-21.
A two-year starter, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Bazelak delivered as envisioned, guiding the Knights to a 9-2 season as a junior and 13-2 last season, which ended with a 42-6 loss to Chagrin Falls Kenston in the Division III state championship at Canton.
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He threw for more than a combined 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns. Unlike most other early signees, Bazelak opted not to graduate early. Lingering football injuries prevented him from playing for the basketball team until about midseason.
Just last week – and days before the signing period - five Missouri athletic programs were charged with academic fraud, all stemming from illegal course work provided by a former tutor. SEC rivals Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M have inquired about Missouri football seniors.
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Bazelak said he didn’t know about the possible sanctions until they were announced. He quickly contacted other incoming Tigers football recruits.
“Obviously, there was going to be some doubts,” he said. “But it’s realizing it’s just something you have to go through and be there for one another.”
Bazelak will be a longshot as a freshman QB at Missouri. Kelly Bryant, who started through Week 4 last season for eventual national champion Clemson, is a senior graduate transfer at Missouri. He was bumped as a starter at Clemson by true freshman sensation Trevor Lawrence. Bryant had succeeded Deshaun Watson as Clemson’s QB in 2017.
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Former Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley is Missouri’s offensive coordinator and QB coach, and main draw for Bazelak. Missouri’s Drew Lock has been mentioned as the first QB that will be selected in the upcoming NFL draft, ahead of Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins.
“The big draw was coach Dooley coming in,” Bazelak said. “He brought an NFL kind of offense. What he’s told me is come in ready to compete. You never know when somebody is going to go down with an injury and you get called up.”
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This coming season is the first for a new NCAA rule that allows players to appear in unlimited play for a maximum of four games and still be eligible to redshirt. That likely will be the plan for Bazelak.
What isn’t known is the direction of Alter senior running back John Bivens. He missed all of last season after recovering from a severe knee injury as a junior. Nebraska, Kentucky, Cincinnati and Louisville were among the programs that made him offers. He has not signed.
Alter defensive lineman Connor Meyer (Colgate), receiver Derek Willits (Dayton) and defensive lineman Antwann Martin (Notre Dame Ohio) were among area seniors who signed on Wednesday.
Bazelak’s older sisters preceded him as Knights standouts. Both played on Alter girls basketball state title teams. Maddie Bazelak wrapped up her senior year of volleyball at Duquesne last fall. Libby Bazelak is a sophomore starter on Duquesne’s basketball team.
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