COLUMBIA — Clay Rhodes grew tired of the recruiting process weeks ago. The letters, the calls its all been so exhausting.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Thats part of the reason Rhodes, a three-star offensive tackle at Blue Valley High School, intends to make a college decision this week. Several schools covet the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Rhodes, but after months of deliberation, the senior-to-be announced Saturday that hes narrowed his choices to Missouri and Oklahoma State.
And while Rhodes insists hes not sure which school hell pick, he said Missouris move to the Southeastern Conference doesnt hurt its chances.
Im one of those guys that like challenges, Rhodes said, and its definitely a challenge playing the big guys down there in Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Youre going against five-star, four-star defensive ends every game, and you can prove you can compete in the NFL. Every young football player dreams of that.
Rhodes isnt the only prospect from either the Kansas City area or the state of Missouri to fall in love with that concept.
As of Sunday, Missouri has landed nine commitments to the Class of 2013, and all but one is an in-state prospect. Three are from the Kansas City area. If they all stick, the Tigers will have their biggest in-state haul since 2009, when they secured 10 Missouri commitments before signing day.
The Tigers red-hot start has eliminated any concerns about whether the SEC move would affect local recruiting. Signing day is still 10 months away, and the coaching staff led by receivers coach Andy Hill and offensive/recruiting coordinator David Yost has not forgotten about its February pledge to recruit Kansas City.
Yeah, there are some guys who say it is Big 12 country and all that stuff, Hill said on signing day. But Missouri is still Missouri. And were still going to be recruiting guys in Kansas City. Were going to recruit guys in the state of Kansas.
There are a lot of unknowns going to the SEC. But we do know were going. We still have a lot of advantages.
Ones that have come into focus the last few months.
In addition to nabbing two of the Kansas City areas top 2012 prospects in Lees Summit West offensive lineman Evan Boehm and Staley running back Morgan Steward, Missouri has secured commitments from three of the areas best 2013 prospects in Staley quarterback Trent Hosick, Lees Summit West linebacker Nick Ramirez and Hogan Prep cornerback Anthony Sherrils.
Sherrils, a three-star prospect according to Rivals.com, committed early to Missouri, which was his first offer. Ramirez and Hosick had offers from Big 12 schools Kansas and Kansas State and others. They spurned them for the chance to measure themselves against the best at Mizzou.
Hosick and Ramirez, in particular, did it in style. Once Hosick sat down with his brother and decided, he called up his buddy Ramirez and made a request.
I gave him all my reasons for committing, said Hosick, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound dual-threat quarterback, and I asked him to commit with me.
Ramirez, a hard-hitting 6-foot-1, 228-pound four-star linebacker, could not find fault in Hosicks logic Mizzou was close to home and theres no doubting the SECs pedigree. On the morning of April 14, the day of the Black & Gold game, they said they would become Tigers.
Ramirez said Missouri has a great coaching staff and he has a lot of friends on the team. But as much as he loves the school, hes not sure he would have committed if it werent for the move to the nations most prestigious football conference.
I dont think I would have played in the Big 12, said Ramirez, who chose Missouri over Nebraska and Iowa. I wanted to play in the Big Ten or SEC, because I feel Im that type of linebacker. When Missouri moved to the SEC, it just set them apart.
But while the SEC move is clearly attractive to prospects, Ramirez said its important not to undervalue the Dorial Green-Beckham factor when considering reasons for the fast recruiting start.
DGB, as hes become to be called, was the nations top-ranked 2012 recruit, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound Randy Moss clone from Springfield who could have gone to any school he wanted and chose Missouri.
Its definitely kind of cool to get an offer from the place where the No. 1 prospect went last year, Rhodes said. I ate lunch with him on one of my unofficial visits; hes a great guy that knows how to sell the program.
When he picked Mizzou, it showed that he believed in the team and he wanted to make a name here and be the reason something special happens, said Ramirez, one of MUs two four-star commitments for 2013 along with Fort Zumwalt South running back Chase Abbington. Thats something we all want to do.
Both Rhodes and Rockhurst offensive tackle Zach Hannon say players whove already committed to Mizzou are gently working on them and extolling the virtues of joining the family.
Trent told me his goal is to prove that Kansas and Missouri kids can win a national title, Rhodes said of Hosick, whom he calls a friend. Thats his goal, and it would be an unbelievable feat.
Hannon, a 6-foot-5, 295-pounder who projects as a guard, comes from a Missouri family his mother, father and grandmother went there but is every bit as intrigued by the chance to join a recruiting class that could be the Tigers best in years.
It weighs heavy on my decision, Hannon said. I know every single one of these guys, so Im like Wow, why not commit, these are all my friends? I have to look at whats best for me, but its definitely a deciding factor.
Hannon is friends with LS West defensive end Jamone Boyd, a 6-foot-4, 250-pounder, and said that the two have flirted with the idea of committing to the same school at the same time, like Hosick and Ramirez.
I talked to him about it (Friday), Hannon said. We have the same top schools, except for one. Were both possibly waiting on other offers, but thats what we were talking about.
Hannon expects to make a decision this summer, but Rhodes cant make his soon enough.
Rhodes father isnt sure which school his son will pick, but he does know conference affiliation could be a factor.
Thats something weve discussed, Randy Rhodes said. Kids work so hard it would be frustrating if conference realignment made it more difficult for that to happen for a kid that spends five years at a school.
He acknowledged travel is an issue, noting the faraway schools in the SEC East.
But the stability of the SEC, he said, and the opportunity to measure each week outweigh any concerns about that.
Besides, Oklahoma State is his sons other finalist, and while Stillwater is five hours away from Kansas City, Columbia is only two. Thats something Randy Rhodes is thinking about more than Clay, who is primarily concerned with the coaching staff and his chances of going pro.
The main thing the coaching staff said to me is that the true big dogs go to the SEC, Clay said. I like that a lot.
And if you think a kid with NFL aspirations wasnt watching the NFL Draft, where 42 SEC players were selected leading the nation for the sixth straight year think again. No one knows how Missouri will fare on the field in its new conference come the fall, but when it comes to recruiting, its safe to say the Tigers are doing just fine.
I did make a mental check of it, Rhodes said of the NFL Draft, and I said to myself, Man, that could be me. You never know.
To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.