A 12-2 season and a bowl win gave Missouri coach Gary Pinkel more evidence to present on National Signing Day: Rankings don’t tell the whole story of the Tigers’ recruiting process.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
MU announced a 2014 class filled with two- and three-star recruits Wednesday, which ranked near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference. But the Tigers’ coaching staff is thrilled with its haul and confident it signed a 28-player group that can compete.
“I bet we’ve been averaging being ranked somewhere in the 30s, but in the last seven years we’re eighth in the nation in winning,” Pinkel said. “The numbers don’t match. I’ll just put it out there: Our system works. It’s not perfect; there’s no system that’s perfect. But our system works.”
Rivals.com ranks Missouri’s class 35th in the nation and 12th in the SEC, which is roughly the median among the four major recruiting analysts. Scout had MU 10th in the SEC and 31st overall, 247 Sports had the Tigers No. 39 overall and 13th in the SEC, and ESPN pegged them 33rd overall and 12th in the conference.
But Pinkel isn’t worried about stars and class rankings.
“We believe in our evaluation system,” he said. “The big thing is you want to hit your numbers to begin with. On our recruiting board, we put the number with our goal, and we hit with all our numbers. We feel very good about that.”
Wide receiver was among the positions Missouri addressed most aggressively with the 2014 class.
“We got a few, but it was necessary,” Tigers wide receivers coach Pat Washington said.
Missouri will lose L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas to graduation and faces the prospect of losing four more pass catchers next season with Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Darius White becoming seniors and Dorial Green-Beckham potentially NFL bound.
That meant restocking the cupboard was crucial, so Missouri lined up a strong wide receiver class, headlined by Nate Brown, a 6-foot-3 playmaker from Suwanee, Ga.
Brown, whose frame has drawn comparisons to Marcus Lucas’, caught 61 passes for 1,041 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior.
He’s a prototypical big-bodied receiver the Tigers tend to pursue — much like 6-3 Keyon Dilosa from Round Rock, Texas, and Darnell Green-Beckham, Dorial’s younger brother.
Thomas Richard, a 6-foot Nashville, Tenn., native, fits into that mold as well, while Pensacola, Fla., native Lawrence Lee, who’s 5-11, is more of a shifty receiver.
“We added that speed-sweep, kind of little jitterbug-type guy — scatback-type guy — that we really didn’t have in our offense this year that we’ve been missing really since T.J. Moe left,” offensive coordinator Josh Henson said.
That group of receivers got even deeper when Missouri persuaded 6-2 DeSean Blair of Jacksonville, Fla., to switch his commitment from Louisville and sign with the Tigers instead.
“We were fortunate that the school he was committed to the coach left (Charlie Strong went to Texas), so it opened the doors for him to look about,” Washington said. “He decided to take a peek at Missouri and fell in love, so it worked out perfectly.”
During the final few days before pen hit paper and the fax machines fired up, Missouri also succeeded in flipping two defensive end prospects, Walter Brady from Florence (Ala.) High School, and Spencer Williams from First Coast High School in Jacksonville, Fla.
Missouri wound up signing seven players, which matches the number of Florida recruits the program had from 2002 to 2013 combined.
Meanwhile, the Tigers also succeeded in protecting two recruits who had become targets for a flip by other SEC schools, keeping Tavon Ross from Cochran, Ga., and Rocel McWilliams from Pensacola in the fold.
Ross, an athletic secondary prospect, visiting Georgia and Miami (Fla.) in recent weeks but stayed true to MU, while McWilliams remained solid as well despite a last-second flirtation with Florida.
|Logan Cheadle||DB||5-10||165||Lee’s Summit West HS|
|Kenya Dennis||DB||6-0||190||Hinds (Miss.) CC|
|Mike Fairchild||OL||6-6||262||Blue Valley West HS|
|Brandon Lee||LB||6-2||203||Lawrence Central HS (Indianapolis)|
|Marvin Zanders||QB||6-1||175||Raines HS (Jacksonville, Fla.)|
|Paul Adams||OL||6-6||270||Christ Presby. (Nashville, Tenn.)|
|Sam Bailey||OL||6-5||245||Lamar (Mo.) HS|
|Andy Bauer||OL||6-6||304||DeSmet HS (St. Louis)|
|DeSean Blair||WR||6-2||185||Sandalwood (Jacksonville, Fla.)|
|Kendall Blanton||TE||6-5||225||Blue Springs South HS|
|Walter Brady||DE||6-4||225||Florence (Ala.) HS|
|Nate Brown||WR||6-3||215||N. Gwinnett HS (Suwanee, Ga.)|
|Keyon Dilosa||WR||6-3||194||Round Rock (Texas) HS|
|Darnell Green-Beckham||WR||6-5||175||Springfield Hillcrest HS|
|Grant Jones||ATH||6-3||216||Columbia Hickman HS|
|Lawrence Lee||WR||5-10||167||W. Fla. Tech (Pensacola, Fla.)|
|Rocel McWilliams||DE||6-3||240||W. Fla. Tech (Pensacola, Fla.)|
|Kevin Pendleton||OL||6-4||329||Lee’s Summit West HS|
|Thomas Richard||WR||6-1||185||Christ Presby. (Nashville, Tenn.)|
|Tavon Ross||ATH||6-1||196||Bleckley Co. HS (Cochran, Ga.)|
|Finis Stribling IV||DB||5-10||170||Independence (T. Station, Tenn.)|
|Greg Taylor||DB||5-10||181||East St. Louis (Ill.) HS|
|Trevon Walters||RB||5-10||189||Manatee HS (Bradenton, Fla.)|
|Spencer Williams||DE||6-4||220||First Coast (Jacksonville, Fla.)|
|Thomas Wilson||ATH||5-10||176||Buford (Ga.) HS|
|Raymond Wingo||DB||6-0||165||St. Louis University HS|
|Roderick Winters||LB||5-11||196||Bowie HS (Arlington, Texas)|
|Ish Witter||RB||5-8||190||Alonso HS (Tampa, Fla.)|