COLUMBIA — Around the first week of May, Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel was at South Grand Prairie High School in Texas, checking in on a few prospects, when the school’s head football coach, Brent Whitson, dropped a bombshell on him.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
“I said ‘Coach, I’ve got a kid for you that I think is gonna qualify,’” Whitson recalled. “The kid has a great highlight tape, so after five or six plays, we shut the video off and got him out of class.”
So began a whirlwind process that eventually led to Missouri’s latest addition to its 2013 recruiting class, as 6-foot-1, 295-pound defensive tackle DeQuinton Osborne officially pledged to the Tigers on Friday night.
“I honestly think Stec and I have talked every day for a month now,” Whitson said a laugh. “Missouri was waiting to see if someone they liked would qualify, rather than give one to somebody they weren’t excited about.
“There will be a story like DeQuinton’s every once in a while.”
Whitson said Osborne, a two-star prospect according to Rivals.com, originally had offers from Texas Tech and Baylor, but both were contingent on him qualifying academically. Things looked bleak for him on that end – he needed to raise his GPA in his core classes heading into his final semester of high school – and he committed to Kilgore Junior College in February, just in case he failed to make the grade.
“He needed 3 A’s and a B his last semester and he’d never done that before,” Whitson said, “but he pulled it off.”
Which, in turn, cleared the way for Missouri to take a chance on Osborne, who becomes the fourth defensive tackle in the Class of 2013 to commit to the Tigers, joining three-star prospects Josh Augusta (Peoria, Ill.), A.J. Logan (Columbia Rock Bridge) and Antar Thompson (Maplewood, Mo.).
Thompson, however, is expected to head to junior college, a possibility Osborne managed to avert with a strong academic push over the past several months. Whitson, however, says his star tackle has also come a long way on the field, especially since a disappointing junior season in which he was about 10 pounds too heavy and only a part-time starter.
“When (coaches) came, I wouldn’t show his tape,” Whitson said. “He’s a big-time player but he didn’t play that way. I felt he underachieved.”
But Osborne began to turn it around in spring 2012, when he asked Whitson what he needed to do play Division 1 football. Since then, Whitson said Osborne has done everything asked of him, including paring himself down to 295 pounds.
“He didn’t miss a day in the weight room in the summer,” Whitson said. “The kid was faithful to the program and a great leader.”
All that hard work paved for the way for a senior season in which he racked up 58 tackles (14 for loss) and four sacks from his nose tackle position, despite routine double teams. He also did it in Texas’ biggest classification, 5A, and in the same district as perennial powers Cedar Hill and DeSoto.
South Grand Prairie finished 5-5 and lost to both teams handily, but Whitson said he made sure Missouri had the film of Osborne’s play in those games.
“If you’re going to watch him, watch him play against the best in Texas,” Whitson said. “He plays with low leverage and he’s great with his hands. Coaches want to see arm length, fast hands and explosiveness and he has all those things.”
Steckel and defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski served as the lead recruiters for Osborne, who Whitson says benches 340 pounds, squats 555 pounds and has the arm length of someone who stands about 6-feet-4.
Whitson added that Osborne could eventually bulk up to 325 pounds or so, potentially making him an ideal one-technique nose tackle in Missouri’s Tampa 2 defensive scheme.
But for now, the coach of Missouri’s newest commitment will revel in a huge achievement for a player that’s worked hard for the opportunity, both in the classroom and out.
“The great thing is I get to point to that story now when I talk to other kids, at least until they run me out of town,” Whitson said with a laugh.