The bumps Barry Odom faced on the way to signing his first Missouri football class Wednesday were numerous and tricky to navigate.
Recruiting services weren’t enamored with the Tigers’ haul, which included Kearney linebacker Cale Garrett and Bonner Springs graduate Tyler Howell — an offensive tackle from Butler (Kan.) Community College, who signed in December and enrolled for the spring semester.
Those numbers already represent low-water marks for the Tigers historically, and they could dip even more because South Oak Cliff linebacker Marvin Terry — one of Mizzou’s highest-rated verbal commitments — didn’t sign. It’s unclear if he will sign this week with any program.
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Still, it’s hard to be overly critical given the circumstances.
“I’m very excited about the guys we had join our program and family today,” Odom said. “Our staff has worked with great urgency. We were on the road together as a staff for really 12 days. For us to put together the class that we did, I’m really excited about the opportunity for those guys moving forward in our program. We addressed some immediate needs … and I’ve challenged every one of them” to anticipate playing for the Tigers in the fall.
Including Howell and wide receiver Chris Black, a graduate student transfer from Alabama, Missouri nabbed 21 players.
Odom and his staff flipped two players — quarterback Micah Wilson and running back Damarea Crockett — from Boise State and another, defensive tackle Markell Utsey, from Arizona.
Late Tuesday, the Tigers convinced Lafayette tight end Brendan Scales from Wildwood, Mo., to de-commit from Alabama and remain in state.
Missouri also held on to Rock Bridge defensive end Tre Williams, who visited Arizona State last month, and a pair of offensive guards — Webb City’s Trystan Castillo and East St. Louis’ Tre’vour Simms — despite overtures from other Power Five programs.
Former Tigers coach Gary Pinkel resigned Nov. 13 — capping a tumultuous week in Columbia that included racial protests, a threatened boycott by the football team and the resignations of two high-ranking university officials.
After Odom was hired, Missouri had six players de-commit as he scrambled to assemble a staff, a process that included hiring two defensive line coaches after Chris Wilson came on board in mid-December only to leave for the NFL’s Eagles last week.
“I was a nervous wreck when I was at TCU and I’m seeing all these de-commitments occur,” said new defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross, a Mizzou alum who served as the Horned Frogs’ co-defensive coordinator last season. “All I wanted to do was be there to try and help save the class and do what I could from that standpoint. But it’s work … and I don’t think we could have done a much better job than we did — getting the guys that we got, getting a couple guys to flip late and finishing off the class the right way.”
Missouri’s staff — including the additions of Cross, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, offensive line coach Glen Elarbee, tight ends coach Joe Jon Finley, cornerbacks coach Greg Brown and defensive line coach Jackie Shipp — seemed to quickly develop a rapport that should pay much larger dividends as soon as Odom’s 2017 recruiting class.
“These guys came in, worked together, worked hard, kept at it and kept trying to produce guys,” quarterbacks coach Andy Hill said. “If one fell through, they’d say, ‘Who’s the next guy?’ So, it was pretty special. These guys did a heck of a job, but they’re all pretty experienced.”
Odom, who said defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. has been reinstated from suspension, expects the early enrollees — Black, Howell, Cypress Falls (Texas) linebacker Trey Baldwin and O’Fallon (Ill.) kicker Tucker McCann — to position themselves to make an immediate impact.
The chance to participate in offseason conditioning along with 15 spring practices ought to help them quickly adjust to Missouri.
The Tigers’ other three junior college transfers — wide receiver Dominic Collins, running back Nate Strong and safety Greg Taylor — are expected to contribute quickly given their previous college football experience.
“I believe having a full year together, a good evaluation and being able to get on the same page of what you’re looking, we’re going to get even better,” Cross said.
Wilmer-Hutchins HS (Dallas)
Kirkwood (Mo.) HS
Cypress Falls HS (Houston)
Alabama (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Webb City (Mo.) HS
Saddleback CC (Lake Forest, Calif.)
Little Rock (Ark.) Christian HS
McNair HS (Atlanta)
Butler CC (Bonner Springs)
Grayson HS (Loganville, Ga.)
O’Fallon (Ill.) HS
Sacred Heart Griffin HS (Springfield, Ill.)
Lafayette HS (Wildwood, Mo.)
East St. Louis (Ill.) HS
Hinds CC (East St. Louis, Ill.)
Hinds CC (East St. Louis, Ill.)
Parkview HS (Little Rock, Ark.)
Columbia Rock Bridge HS
Lincoln Christian HS (Tulsa, Okla.)