Mass was the main priority for Missouri in building its 2017 recruiting class, a 25-player group that was announced Wednesday on the first day of the NCAA football signing period.
“I wanted to get bigger physically and I think we’ve addressed that in a number of spots, especially up front on both sides of the ball at the line of scrimmage,” second-year Tigers coach Barry Odom said.
Upgrading the defensive line was a particularly big priority for the Tigers, who were down to four scholarship interior defensive linemen.
A.J. Logan will be a senior for Mizzou and is the only proven, healthy defensive tackle Mizzou has entering spring football next month.
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Rising junior Terry Beckner Jr. and rising sophomore Markell Utsey are quality players, but both will be limited in the spring after season-ending ACL injuries last fall.
“We’re going to have to be a little bit creative in spring practice getting through some of it because of the number of bodies we have or don’t have,” Odom said.
It will become less of an issue once the new recruits — including Northlake Christian High’s Caleb Sampson, Alief Taylor’s Kobie Whiteside from Houston, ASA College’s Rashad Brandon and former Eastern Arizona College teammates Walter Palmore and Malik Young — arrive in June.
“That was a need that, obviously with the guys that we targeted, we feel like they can come in and help us immediately,” Odom said.
Sampson and Young both committed on National Signing Day.
Sampson, a 6-foot-4 and 285-pound native of Covington, La., chose Missouri over Kansas State during a signing ceremony Wednesday morning at his high school. He was three-star prospect and the No. 48 player in Louisiana, according to 247 Sports, while Rivals and Scout gave him a two-star rating.
Young, who picked the Tigers over Florida late Wednesday afternoon, is a consensus three-star prospect and the best interior pass-rusher in the bunch. He’s 247 Sports’ No.5 junior college defensive tackle and ESPN’s No. 12 junior college defensive tackle.
Missouri also added two defensive ends, Toronto native and junior college transfer Nate Anderson of the New Mexico Military Institute and Hammond (La.) High’s Chris Turner, for a total of seven defensive linemen.
During Odom’s inaugural season last fall, a 4-8 campaign that closed strong with two wins in the final three games, the offensive line was a pleasant surprise.
But the offensive trenches also were a priority for Odom, who said Wednesday before a National Signing Day celebration at the Westport Flea Market that he’ll always try to oversign linemen on both sides of the ball.
Arizona Western tackle Yasir Durant and Ben Davis tackle Pompey Coleman from Indianapolis enrolled at Mizzou for the spring semester, and both were among five offensive lineman announced as part of the 2017 class.
That group also included Carrollton (Ga.) center Case Cook, Brother Rice guard Larry Borom from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and DeSoto (Texas) tackle Hyrin White.
The Tigers also went heavy with defensive backs — adding Dekaney (Texas) safety Joshuah Bledsoe, Vanguard (Fla.) safety Tyree Gillespie, Ridge Point (Texas) cornerback Terry Petry, Dutchtown (La.) cornerback Adam Sparks and Belleville (Mich.) safety Jordan Ulmer.
Each of the new secondary players is at least 6-feet tall as the Tigers try to improve the length on the back end of the defense to combat the SEC’s bigger receivers.
Mizzou suffered two high-profile recruiting losses during the final weekend before signing day when Bishop Miege wide receiver Jafar Armstrong switched his commitment to Notre Dame and Kemp (Texas) wide receiver Elijah Gardiner changed to Ohio State.
“That’s where I think we’ve grown so much as a program in the last year is our recruiting department has done such an outstanding job of having guys lined up for every scenario,” Odom said. “I’m really proud of what they’ve done.”
The Tigers, whose only in-state signee was Lee’s Summit North wide receiver Da’Ron Davis, added Cypress Springs (Texas) wide receiver O’shae Clark to the class during the closing days, helping take the sting from the decommitments.
“I want guys with great competitive spirit,” Odom said. “I want guys that like to play the game of football. I’m really interested in young men that want to get a degree from the University of Missouri and want to be at Mizzou and make Mizzou a championship contender every year.”
He believes Mizzou has found that with the 2017 recruiting crop, which is ranked No. 47 in the country by Rivals.
The Tigers’ class also included Fayetteville (Ark.) quarterback Taylor Powell, Lemont (Ill.) tight end Logan Christopherson, two linebackers, Jamal Brooks of Bessemer City (Ala.) and Aubrey Miller of Whitehaven High in Memphis, and two running backs, early enrollee Isaiah Miller of Baldwin (Fla.) and Larry Rountree III of Millbrook High in Raleigh, N.C.