Nobody truly will know for a few years, but there is reason to believe that Missouri’s newest recruiting class is one of the best in Gary Pinkel’s 15-year tenure.
The Tigers signed 21 players Wednesday on national signing day to go with the pair of offensive linemen, City College of San Francisco’s Malik Cuellar and Kearney’s Tanner Owen, who enrolled at semester.
“We’re looking forward to those guys getting on campus …” Pinkel said. “I really thought it came together really well. … Time always will tell on this, and hopefully you’re right, it’s one of our great classes.”
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It’s also a class with a heavy Kansas City influence.
Seven players from KC-area high schools signed with the Tigers this season, the most in the Pinkel era. MU’s previous high for Kansas City recruits in the last 15 seasons was five in 2005 and 2007.
Three of the local recruits are four-star prospects — including Missouri’s top-ranked player, Lee’s Summit quarterback Drew Lock, and Kansas’ top-ranked player, Blue Valley guard AJ Harris.
“That’s super cool to be a part of that group, but I also think it shows how good of a job (associate head coach/quarterbacks coach) Andy Hill does with this area as well as coach Pinkel,” Lock said. “To be able to get a record for the most Kansas City kids, that means you’re saying something right and your program is also doing very well.”
Winnetonka’s Marquise Doherty — who likely will start as a running back, but also is talented enough to play safety at MU — also received a Rivals four-star rating.
Given the Tigers’ successful transition to the Southeastern Conference, including back-to-back SEC East titles and a 23-5 record the last two seasons, Doherty said he isn’t surprised at the recruiting success.
“Not only is Missouri having success now, but ever since Missouri switched over to the SEC … and is starting to make national news, there’s a real sense of pride in the state of Missouri, not just a recruit but as a fan as well,” Doherty said. “To be able to put your stamp that, I was a part of this, is a really big deal.”
Missouri also announced Owen, Olathe North defensive end Josh Moore, Lee’s Summit West running back Ryan Williams and Butler Community College offensive tackle Tyler Howell, a Bonner Springs graduate, as part of its 2015 class.
“Kansas City had a good year in numbers — and quality, too,” Hill said. “But I think it kind of fit our recruiting needs and our numbers.”
The biggest signing-day development for the Tigers was East St. Louis defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr.’s commitment Wednesday morning on ESPNU.
Beckner, the No. 2 player in the nation in the ESPN 300 and a consensus top-40 prospect among the major recruiting networks, chose Missouri over Florida State, Ohio State and Auburn.
“We knew about him when he was a freshman in high school,” Pinkel said.
Missouri climbed to No. 18 in ESPN’s team ranking after Beckner’s announcement and checked in 27th, according to Rivals. The Tigers rank eighth and 12th in the SEC, respectively.
Beckner, the reigning St. Louis Post-Dispatch all-metro defensive player of the year, totaled 116 tackles, including 74 solo stops, with three sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception as a senior.
“I just followed where my heart told me to go,” Beckner said on the ESPNU broadcast.
Missouri also landed outside linebacker Terez Hall from Lithonia, Ga., who officially committed and signed Wednesday morning.
“You always have goals that you want to hit as far as the number of players you recruit at each spot,” Pinkel said. “If you don’t, generally you’re going to pay for it a year or two down the road, and I thought we hit those very well.”
MU lost one commitment when Prime Prep wide receiver Brandon Martin from Dallas announced on Twitter that he had de-committed from the Tigers in favor of LSU.
Beckner’s East St. Louis teammate, running back Natereace Strong, committed as part of the 2015 class, but he has enrolled at Hinds (Miss.) Community College for the spring and isn’t eligible to sign with Missouri, which hopes he can be part of its 2016 class.
Missouri football signings
Early enrollees (2)
City College of San Francisco
Signed Wed. (21)
Montverde (Fla.) Academy
Hutchinson (Kan.) CC
Terry Beckner, Jr.
East St. Louis (Ill.) HS
Franklin (Tenn.) HS
Gulfport (Miss.) HS
College of the Siskiyous (Weed, Calif.)
Centennial HS (Franklin, Tenn.)
King HS (Lithonia, Ga.)
Blue Valley HS
Webster Groves HS (St. Louis)
Ladue Horton Watkins HS (St. Louis)
Butler CC (El Dorado, Kan.)
Rummel HS (Metairie, La.)
Melrose HS (Memphis, Tenn.)
Lee’s Summit HS
Olathe North HS
University City (Mo.) HS
West Laurens HS (Dublin, Ga.)
Rockdale County HS (Conyers, Ga.)
Lee’s Summit West HS