University of Missouri

This week in Mizzou recruiting: Ray Curry, Kevon Billingsley, Trey Benson, Jimmy Whitt

Coach Barry Odom sees positives in Mizzou’s spring football practices

Missouri coach Barry Odom talks about the Tigers’ spring football practices
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Missouri coach Barry Odom talks about the Tigers’ spring football practices

Good afternoon from Starbucks. Was hoping to get to the column earlier this morning, but Missouri’s football series announcement with San Diego State slowed me. Forgive me.

Here we go.

Missouri lands Dominique Johnson and Ray Curry

Missouri landed its first non-local pledges for its 2020 football class earlier this week in Texas tailback Dominique Johnson and Memphis offensive lineman Ray Curry.

At first glance, Johnson’s offer list is very dull, with Abilene Christian and Houston Baptist among the interested schools. But after watching his film and asking around, Barry Odom appears to be a pretty happy guy this week.

If anyone on this coaching staff deserves the benefit of the doubt with recruits, it’s Cornell Ford. The guy has landed the likes of Jeremy Maclin, Markus Golden and Terry Beckner Jr. out of St. Louis and his tailback room seems to reload every year. Mizzou lost Damarea Crockett to the NFL this past year and yet returns one of the deepest run games in the Southeastern Conference. Tough to complain about what Ford has going right now.

As for Curry, I think he’s an underrated get for MU. Look at his offer list. Auburn, Arkansas, Kentucky, etc. Half the SEC appeared to have offered him and he said when he committed he had 27 offers. Some asked if it’s too good to be true that Curry committed to MU on his first visit without taking other trips. I don’t see how this is a bad thing. When a guy has 27 offers, it’s tough to say he can’t play. If anything, props to Brad Davis and Co. for landing him. We can debate how the staff did in four years when Curry is playing.

List cut season

Just like July and August will turn into watch list season, when players get put on preseason award lists for playing the position and having a pulse, it’s that time of the year in which a lot of recruits chop things down. Two players that did that this week are Kevon Billingsley and Trey Benson.

I’ve written a lot about Billingsley on here, as I really like him as a prospect, so I’ll keep it brief on him. He cut his list to Alabama, Missouri, Georgia, Illinois, Arkansas and LSU. He’s previously said he plans to visit Missouri and Alabama in June, but I haven’t seen any reports that those visits are set. MU has a good shot at him.

Benson is a running back from Mississippi and put MU in his top seven alongside Oregon, Louisville, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Florida State and Penn State. Yes, even with Johnson on board, MU will likely take two running backs in this class with Larry Rountree being a strong season away from possibly leaving for the NFL. Five-star tailback Zachary Evans remains possible, but his teammate Damieon George committed to Alabama earlier this week. He will be very hard for MU to land and it’s tough to consider the Tigers a real factor until he visits.

A final football recruiting note: junior college wideout Maureese Wren tweeted out that he will visit Missouri next weekend. He’s 6-foot-4 and signed with Louisiana Tech out of Horn High School in Texas, alma mater to my good friend Scott Hiney and former Baylor hoops star Quincy Acy. Oregon State is also recruiting Wren.

Jimmy Whitt

I got asked a lot about former Columbia Hickman basketball star Jimmy Whitt, who announced he was transferring from Southern Methodist and wound up at Arkansas, the school he originally started his career at. Whitt is a graduate transfer and a 6-foot-4 scoring guard who would have fit Cuonzo Martin’s system.

Martin said at a media session yesterday that MU didn’t pursue a graduate transfer and while he knew of some possible options, he doesn’t believe in stockpiling out of risk that it could upset a current player. I’m told Whitt heard from schools all across the country, including Villanova, but wanted to make his mind up quickly. Martin was at SEC meetings in Destin, Florida during the entire process, so had there been any interest from MU, it might have made it tough to make a meeting or visit happen.

I agree with Martin’s reasoning on not taking a graduate transfer. Missouri could use a veteran like Whitt, and bringing him home would have been a great PR move, but not at the risk of upsetting any member of MU’s loaded backcourt.

A side note on SMU: Whitt is now the second former Mustang I know who transferred from SMU back to the school he originally started at. The other is former Louisville forward Akoy Agau. Agau started at Louisville, then transferred to Georgetown. He then transferred from Georgetown to SMU and finished his career as a Cardinal. It’s almost like SMU is the school that makes you want to go back to where you started. Weird.

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Alex Schiffer has been covering the Missouri Tigers for The Star since October 2017. He came in second place for magazine-length feature writing by the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association in 2018 and graduated from Mizzou in 2017.
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