Missouri’s 2014 recruiting class is complete — or as complete as it’s going to be — after defensive end Walter Brady and safety Tavon Ross were cleared to enroll late this week.
The Tigers have 26 true freshmen* on the roster.
* Two February signings didn’t make it to campus. East St. Louis (Ill.) safety Greg Taylor wasn’t eligible academically and landed at Hinds Community College in Mississippi. Wide receiver Darnell Green, the younger brother of dismissed wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, isn’t expected to enroll until January.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel calls the class “one of the better classes we’ve ever had.”
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Five players — running back Ish Witter, receivers Lawrence Lee and Nate Brown, cornerback Logan Cheadle and safety Thomas Wilson — made the season’s initial depth chart.
Tigers wide receivers coach Pat Washington was particularly excited about Lee and Brown as well as what it might mean for the future.
“If I’m a high school senior and I’m watching Missouri play and I notice that three seniors are starting at receiver then there’s a couple of freshmen that are playing, I’d probably would consider Missouri,” Washington said. “But that’s just me.”
Pinkel said the remaining freshmen are likely to redshirt, barring an injury to one of the players on the depth chart.
“It’s interesting, some years the quality of these guys you might be able to play 10 of these freshmen,” Pinkel said. “It just kind of depends on your depth and where you’re at.”
The challenge for the 21 redshirts — including offensive linemen Mike Fairchild (Blue Valley West) and Kevin Pendleton (Lee’s Summit West) along with tight end Kendall Blanton (Blue Springs South) — is to develop throughout the season and be ready to contribute when spring football rolls around.
“We use an in-season weightlifting program for all our players that redshirt,” Pinkel said. “We don’t lift twice a week, we lift three times a week and the lifting’s much more intense. That’s really important for them, because it’s important for us when we get to spring football next year.”
Now for this week’s Mizzou Mailbag:
Gary, Tavon Ross and Walter Brady had some academic hurdles to clear this summer. Coach Gary Pinkel hasn’t been clear about the specifics of either situation, but one player needed to finish a class to gain eligibility and the other was subject to the NCAA Eligibility Center’s appeal process.
Throughout training camp, Pinkel was confident both players ultimately would qualify and be on campus. It appears that assumption was correct, so that’s the good news. Unfortunately, without the benefit of spring football or the fall camp, it’s hard to envision either contributing now as a true freshman.
Bryce, I don’t think so. Coaches and teammates rave about redshirt freshman Charles Harris’ work ethic and attitude. He’s has the potential to be a revelation in much the same way Markus Golden and Shane Ray were last season in a backup capacity. The other backup defensive end, Marcus Loud, has a little nastiness to him. Both will be productive.
Plus, if that assumption is wrong, there are other options, like moving sophomore defensive tackles Harold Brantley and/or Rickey Hatley out to the edge. Both have worked some at defensive end and have enough explosiveness to get up field there.
Chris, if I had to guess — and that’s all this is — I’d say Jimmie Hunt. He takes over as the primary target in the slot for Marcus Lucas, who’s now with the Carolina Panthers. Dorial Green-Beckham led the Tigers with 59 receptions last season, but Lucas had 58. Sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk loves the deep ball, but he also loves working that slot receiver, which is going to give Hunt the most targets during the season I suspect.
Seniors Bud Sasser and Darius White will see plenty of balls thrown their way, too. It’s just much easier to connect on shorter throws to the slot guy, especially in short-yardage situations to keep the chains moving. Ultimately, I expect the distribution to be relatively even, much like last season when L’Damian Washington also caught 50 passes. Sasser, Hunt and White should all finish with at least 40 receptions, but I’d guess Hunt gets the most if he stays healthy.
Brian, my man, I’ll handle the pressure fine. One thing I can guarantee is that I won’t miss a blocking assignment, drop a pass, miss a tackle or fumble the football at the goal line. There’s no pressure on me. Besides, to give me credit for anything would be a disservice to last year’s team. That said, I believe Missouri is positioned to make me look like a good-luck charm for another season.
Unfortunately, my confidence isn’t as high it will work out again for Mr. Terez A. Paylor, whose wit and wisdom — just the way the man’s essence and presence bathed that locker room — was at least as important in the Chiefs’ playoff push last season as every Jamaal Charles carry or reception. I see the Tigers winning at least nine games this season. My gut says the Chiefs are going to have a much tougher time getting to that number — and that’s when the mob turns “TP2.”