Missouri set a record for the Gary Pinkel era on Wednesday by signing seven players with ties to the Kansas City area.
Technically, Kearney’s Tanner Owen didn’t sign on national signing day. He’d already enrolled at MU for the spring semester, but he’s part of the largest recruiting crop from the metro in 15 seasons.
The group also includes three Rivals four-star prospects in Lee’s Summit quarterback Drew Lock, Winnetonka running back Marquise Doherty and Blue Valley guard AJ Harris.
Olathe North defensive end Josh Moore, Lee’s Summit West running back Ryan Williams and Hutchinson Community College offensive tackle Tyler Howell, a Bonner Springs graduate, also signed Wednesday with the Tigers.
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There was speculation that Missouri’s move to the SEC might hinder recruiting efforts in Kansas City, which has deep ties to the Big Eight/Big 12.
Such concerns appear to have been overstated and the Tigers’ recent success in the SEC, back-to-back SEC East division titles and a 23-5 record the last two seasons, undoubtedly bolstered those efforts.
It also helps that associate head coach/quarterbacks Andy Hill has recruited Kansas City throughout Pinkel’s tenure at MU.
Historically, Kansas City has produced talent for Missouri, including future first-round pick Aldon Smith from Raytown in 2008 and the program’s single-season sack leader Shane Ray from Bishop Miege in 2011.
Ray, who broke Smith’s record last season with 14 1/2 sacks, is expected to be a top-10 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft after foregoing his senior season.
Cornerback E.J. Gaines, Andrew Gachkar, Chase Coffman and Tony Temple also signed with Missouri from Kansas City, but never has there been a haul quite like this.
The Tigers have signed 15 players from the area in the last five recruiting classes combined, although those figures don’t include walk-ons, like kicker Andrew Baggett and punter Christian Brinser, who became key contributors and eventually were put on scholarship.
As for 2015, Lock, who was a standout performer at Nike’s Elite 11 camp last summer and later threw two touchdowns in the U.S. Army All-American Game, is the top-ranked player in Missouri, according to Rivals.
247 Sports also lists Lock as the top player in Missouri with a national composite ranking of 96, the seventh-best pro-style quarterback.
He is the No. 107 player in the ESPN 300, which ranks Lock as the No. 6 pocket passer. He threw for 2,717 yards and 28 touchdowns last season.
Doherty, who was limited in the second half of the Griffin’s season after a midseason shoulder injury, finished with 138 carries for 929 yards with 15 touchdowns. He also caught 21 passes for 328 yards and two scores.
As a safety, Doherty, who is expected to be selected in June’s baseball draft and also will play baseball at MU (unless he signs a pro contract), recorded 38 tackles, including two for a loss. He also broke up six passes, forced a fumble, intercepted two passes and scored twice on defense.
Doherty is the No. 4-ranked player Missouri, according to Rivals.
Harris, an athletic and nasty blocker, helped Blue Valley win the 2013 Class 5A state championship and should turn into a road grader on the interior of the Tigers’ offensive line.
He is Rivals’ top-ranked player in Kansas.
Missouri signings from Kansas City under Pinkel
Players: RB Marquise Doherty, Winnetonka; OL AJ Harris, Blue Valley; OL Tyler Howell, Hutchinson CC (Bonner Springs); QB Drew Lock, Lee’s Summit; DE Josh Moore, Olathe North; OL Tanner Owen, Kearney; RB Ryan Williams, Lee’s Summit West
Comment: Many are trumpeting the 2015 class as the best in Gary Pinkel’s 15-year tenure at Missouri. Certainly, Lock, Doherty and Harris — three four-star signings — are a big reason why.
Players: TE Kendall Blanton, Blue Springs South; CB Logan Cheadle, Lee’s Summit West; OL Kevin Pendleton, Lee’s Summit West; OL Michael Fairchild, Blue Valley West
Comment: The jury remains out on the 2014 crop from Kansas City. Cheadle was a special teams contributor and should have a chance to compete for a starting spot next season.
Blanton remains a raw, but intriguing prospect, while Fairchild and Pendleton project as offensive line depth for 2015.
Players: DE Charles Harris, Lincoln Prep; QB Trent Hosick, Staley; OL Clay Rhodes, Blue Valley; DB Anthony Sherrils, Hogan Prep
Comment: Harris is the heir apparent to Markus Golden at left defensive end. He put together a strong redshirt freshman season in relief already with 19 tackles, including four for a loss and two sacks, in limited action last season.
Sherrils will get a shot at replacing senior strong safety Braylon Webb and already is a key special teams contributor, while Rhodes provides solid depth on the offensive line. Hosick transferred from MU and currently is playing at an Arizona junior college.
Players: OL Evan Boehm, Lee’s Summit West; RB Morgan Steward, Staley
Comment: Boehm, a first-team freshman All-American in 2012, was a starter basically from the moment he walked on campus. He was a fixture at left guard that season before converting to center the last two seasons. Boehm has started all 40 games in his MU career and will have a shot at the NFL after his senior season.
Steward looked like a potential breakout star during the 2014 spring football game, but a hip injury sidelined him for the entire season.
Players: QB Corbin Berkstresser, Lee’s Summit; DE Shane Ray, Bishop Miege
Comment: Ray turned out all right, huh? Set to become a top-10 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Ray set the Tigers’ single-season record with 14 1/2 sacks last season. His 22 1/2 tackles for a loss rank fourth in a single season at MU. He was the SEC’s defensive player of the year and a consensus All-American.
Berkstresser will be remembered mostly for the 2012 season when he stepped into a starting role for James Franklin during an injury-riddled introduction into the SEC.
Players: CB E.J. Gaines, Fort Osage; WR Marcus Lucas, Liberty; DT Lucas Vincent, Olathe North
Comment: Certainly a case of quality over quantity as all three went on to productive careers with Missouri.
Gaines, who now plays for the Rams, made 244 tackles and snagged eight interceptions as a fixture at cornerback.
Lucas, who spent last season on Carolina’s practice squad, caught 130 passes for 1,638 yards and 11 touchdowns in 49 games.
Vincent played in an MU record 53 games. He had 43 tackles, including eight for a loss with 3 1/2 sacks, as a senior.
Players: LB Adam Burton, Lee’s Summit West; QB Blaine Dalton, Blue Springs South; LB Andrew Wilson, Ray-Pec
Comment: Wilson graduated last year as Missouri’s 10th all-time leading tackler with 332 total tackles. He’s the only Tigers defender in the last five years to crack the top 22 on that list. Dalton, a former Simone Award winner, didn’t pan out.
Players: TE Andrew Jones, Smithville; DE Aldon Smith, Raytown; RB Drew Temple, Rockhurst
Comment: Smith owned the Missouri single-season sack record until Shane Ray came along and still ranks tied for eighth in Tigers history with 17 sacks despite playing only two seasons. He went on to become an All-Pro with 49ers, who selected him No. 7 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Players: LB Andrew Gachkar, Blue Valley West; DB Trey Hobson, Blue Valley; DE Michael Keck, Harrisonville; OL Jayson Palmgren, North Kansas City; RB Derrick Washington, Ray-Pec
Comment: Gachkar, who now plays for the San Diego Chargers, totaled at least 80 tackles as junior and senior. Hobson appeared in 43 games, so it was a very talented class, even if Keck wound up transferring and Washington was dismissed amid sexual assault allegations.
Comment: It was an excellent class that included wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander, safety Cornelius “Pig” Brown, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and cornerback Kevin Rutland. There just weren’t any players from Kansas City.
Players: DE Jaron Baston, Blue Springs; LB Brock Christopher, Kearney; TE Chase Coffman, Ray-Pec; DE Tarell Corby, North Kansas City; OL James Stigall, Blue Springs
Comment: Christopher still ranks 12th all-time in tackles at Missouri with 329, while Coffman owns the record for most career receptions with the Tigers at 247. Coffman, a 2008 All-American, also has the most career touchdown receptions with 30 and ranks third in career receiving yards at 2,659.
Players: DB Steve Redmond, Rockhurst; RB Tony Temple, Rockhurst
Comment: Temple is the seventh-leading rusher in Tigers history with 2,552 and capped his career with Cotton Bowl record 281 yards rushing in a 38-7 romp against Arkansas on Jan. 1, 2008. Redmond appeared in 34 games before a career-ending knee injury in the 2008 opener against Illinois.
Players: TE Martin Rucker, St. Joe-Benton
Comment: In 2007, Rucker wound up becoming Missouri’s first first-team All-America tight end since Kellen Winslow (1978). He still ranks second in Tigers history with 203 receptions and fifth with 2,175 receiving yards.
Comment: The class included future NFL Draft picks Atiyyah Ellison and Brian Smith, but no players from Kansas City.
Players: OL Jason Rhodes, Park Hill South
Comment: Rhodes left the program after two seasons.