Missouri signed a deep class of wide receivers, which got even deeper after the Tigers flipped a player who had been committed to Louisville, when 23 players signed national letters of intent Wednesday.
The first fax to reach the Missouri football office came from wide receiver Nate Brown at 6:42 a.m. Brown, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound wide receiver from North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Ga., is a four-star recruit, according to Rivals.com.
The last letter the Tigers came from Lawrence Lee, a 5-11, 175-pound receiver from West Florida Tech in Pensacola, Fla., who some analysts rank even higher than Brown.
“We actually have Lawrence Lee rated higher, but there’s an awful lot to like about (Brown),” ESPN.com senior writer Jeremy Crabtree said. “You look at the numbers he put up and the success he had a senior. I think he’s going to be able to step in and do some good things for the Tigers.”
Missouri also managed to flip DeSean Blair (6-2, 185) from Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Fla., and signed Keyon Dilosa (6-3, 190) out of Round Rock (Texas) High School. Blair had been committed to Louisville.
“These receivers have an opportunity to do some big things there,” Crabtree said. “There’s some really good skill players at that receiver spot coming in. … Some of these young receivers might be too good to keep off the field, especially with them formation-ing the way that they do.”
The Tigers’ wide receiver haul also included Thomas Richard (6-0, 190) from Nashville’s Christ Presbyterian Academy, whose mother attended Missouri, and Dorial Green-Beckham’s younger brother, Darnell, who’s 6-5.
Richard’s high school teammate, Paul Adams (6-6, 280), is among the recruits expected to make an impact on the offensive line.
That group also includes DeSmet (St. Louis) senior Andy Bauer (6-3, 300), who is the No. 8 offensive guard and No. 137 overall prospect, according to Rivals.com.
Of course, the Tigers also made a pretty strong haul for offensive linemen in Kansas City, including Lee’s Summit West senior Kevin Pendleton (6-3, 320) and Blue Valley West’s Mike Fairchild (6-5, 280), one of Missouri’s five early enrollees.
“Andy Bauer gets all the attention at offensive tackle, but if you look at that group — Paul Adams, Kevin Pendleton, Sam Bailey, Michael Fairchild here at Blue Valley West — they’re all good players,” Crabtree said.
Missouri had already flipped one recruit, Florence, Ala., defensive end Walter Brady (6-3, 255). He had been committed to Middle Tennessee State before switching Saturday to the Tigers.
“He was Middle Tennessee’s top recruit and the kind of kid who would slip to a school like that in most situations,” Crabtree said. “You’ve got to credit Missouri for finding a guy like that and going after him.”
Missouri also flipped Blair and added another defensive end who’d been committed elsewhere on signing day when Spencer Williams (6-4, 220) from First Coast High School in Jacksonville spurned Cincinnati in favor of the Tigers.
Meanwhile, several schools were in hot pursuit of two Missouri commits, who opted not to flip at the last minute and stayed true to their verbal commitments.
The Tigers held on to Tavon Ross (6-0, 200), a safety prospect from Cochran, Ga., who had visited Georgia and Miami (Fla.) in recent weeks.
Missouri also fended off a late push by Florida to reel in West Florida Tech defensive end Rocel McWilliams (6-3, 245).
Quarterback Marvin Zanders (6-2, 180) from Raines High School in Jacksonville was already in the fold, but Missouri added six more players from Florida.
The Tigers only landed seven players from the Sunshine State from 2002 to 2013, so it’s a significant haul and demonstrates the effectiveness of the program’s new recruiting emphasis, which has shifted from Texas to the Southeast.
“It’s ultra-competitive and quite cutthroat, but I like the move,” Crabtree said. “It’s where the talent’s at and it seems like Missouri has really embraced that SEC mentality. It’s paid off with a very good class for them.”
On Wednesday, Missouri also landed two Florida running backs — Trevon Walters (5-10, 195) from Manatee High School in Bradenton and Ish Witter (5-8, 195) from Alonso High School in Tampa — in addition Blair, Williams, McWilliams and Lee.