Fan-fueled fears that Missouri football was lagging behind during the 2018 recruiting cycle dissipated during a weekend that featured five new commitments.
The Tigers hosted the second Night at the Zou, an invite-only camp for some of the program’s top targets, on Friday at Memorial Stadium surrounded by an avalanche of good news.
The Tigers got off to a strong start before the camp kicked off when Del Valle (Texas) High linebacker Cameron Wilkins, a Rivals three-star prospect, gave a verbal pledge during an unofficial visit to campus.
Missouri’s run continued when Adams High cornerback Vincent Gray — a three-star prospect from Rochester, Mich. — committed later that afternoon.
The fireworks resumed Sunday when three players from the camp, including two more from Texas, also committed to Mizzou.
Park Crossing defensive back Cam Taylor — a three-star prospect from Montgomery, Ala. — got the ball rolling.
He is the second player the Tigers have mined from Montgomery, joining
Taylor’s commitment was followed within a few hours by verbal pledges from Ridge Point High linebacker Chad Bailey — a four-star prospect, the Tigers’ first in the 2018 class, from Missouri City, Texas — and Manvel (Texas) High wide receiver Kam Scott, a Rivals three-star prospect.
Upon joining the SEC, the Tigers’ recruiting focus drifted away from the fertile Lone Star State, but second-year coach Barry Odom put renewed emphasis on Texas during the last two years.
Mizzou landed only four Texas prospects during a three-year span from 2014-16, including no recruits from the state in 2015.
Five of the Tigers’ known commitments for the 2018 class are from the state — including Timberview High running back Jalen Knox from Arlington, Texas, and Madison High wide receiver Danny Gray from Dallas. Both are three-star prospects.
MU also signed five players from Texas in February.
Before last weekend, Mizzou had a total of five verbal commitments, but the number doubled in the span of three days.
As a result, the Tigers rose 25 spots in Rivals’ team rankings to No. 53.
The seemingly slow recruiting progress worried some, but that’s become the pattern during Odom’s first two seasons.
MU only had four commitments through mid-July last year before adding five players in the days after the inaugural Night at the Zou camp.
That was the fewest since 2007, when the Tigers also had five verbal commitments by mid-July, but it’s not terribly far behind.
According to research using the Rivals’ recruiting database, Missouri averaged 8.3 verbal commitments by mid-July during the final 10 seasons of Gary Pinkel’s 15-year run as head coach.
Those same recruiting classes averaged 10.9 verbal commitments before Sept. 1, which puts the Tigers’ current 10-player class of prospects in line with the program’s historical average.
Missouri fans should expect to see another run of recruits in September, because Odom’s squad opens the season with four straight home games — Missouri State, South Carolina, Purdue and Auburn — at Memorial Stadium.
That will make for an inviting time for official visits by 2018 prospects.
Of course, some players wait until the end of their high school season, pushing back verbal commitments until mid-November or early December.
It’s unclear how the NCAA’s new early signing period for football, which debuts Dec. 20-22, will impact recruiting and how many of the Tigers’ 10 commits will take advantage and sign before the traditional early February date.