Six years ago when Missouri played in the Cotton Bowl, much of the pregame chatter centered around the massive impact the game could have on the Tigers recruiting efforts in Texas.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
For good reason, too. Missouris roster is filled with impact players from the Lone Star State.
The Tigers starting quarterback, senior captain James Franklin, and all three of its top running backs juniors Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy and sophomore Russell Hansbrough are from Texas.
Two of that trios primary blockers this season, right tackle Mitch Morse and tight end Eric Waters, are also Texas natives along with Missouris fourth-leading wide receiver, Bud Sasser.
Six key contributors on defense also have Texas roots, including five of the teams top 10 tacklers this season.
SEC defensive player of the year and unanimous All-American defensive end Michael Sam is from the Houston area, while senior linebacker Donovan Bonner, both starting safeties, senior Matt White and junior Braylon Webb, and two part-time starters in the secondary, sophomore Ian Simon and freshman John Gibson, also hail from Texas.
Its been a key recruiting battle ground through the years for Missouri, but its no longer the single most important territory for the Tigers.
Weve done really well in Texas, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. As we make gains in Georgia and Tennessee and Florida, we wont have as many as Texas, but I would like to think we have a real good reputation there and well get our share of guys from there.
The Dallas/Fort Worth area remains particularly vital for the Tigers.
Thats, other than the state of Missouri as far as an alumni area, its the second-largest and Chicagos after that, Pinkel said.
Only two players from the current list of 2014 commitments are Texas players Stepfawn Hughes, a projected wide receiver from Fort Worth, and Roderick Winters, a linebacker from Arlington.
Missouris class includes six players from Florida, three from Georgia and three from Tennessee, which reflects the programs new emphasis on fertile recruiting areas in SEC country.
Still, especially with Texas A&M having joined the SEC two years ago with the Tigers, Texas remains an important piece to the recruiting puzzle. The buzz from the Cotton Bowl cant hurt Missouris cause from that standpoint.
Were not allowed to do anything (recruiting-wise), Pinkel said. Theyre allowed to come watch us practice. Theyre allowed to do that, but were not allowed to talk to them or anything else. Just being there, and all the publicity and all the news, its obviously a real plus for us.
Ironically, playing in the SEC Championship game hurt Missouris recruiting efforts.
The number of weeks football coaches are allowed to make in-home visits was reduced this season. The contact period opened Dec. 1 and now includes a dead period from Dec. 16 to Jan. 15, which means the Tigers missed a week on the recruiting trail because of its participation in the SEC title game. .
The good news is youre one of those few teams in the country thats playing in one of those championship games, Pinkel said. The bad news is you lose one week of recruiting when theres only two with the new calendar. I dont know who came up with that, but theres not a whole lot of common sense there.
There is, however, plenty of common sense in Missouri not abandoning Texas as a recruiting hotbed.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.