ST. LOUIS, MO- Student-athletes have put pen to paper and the fax machines (yes, some people out there still use them) have transmitted the paperworkThe fax machines (yes, someone still uses them) are largely done working now that National Signing Day Part 2 has come and gone. For the first time, the day where college football verbal commitments can be solidified into binding written ones is a little less of a big deal, because the NCAA approved an early signing period that took place in December.
For the University of Missouri football program, that’s probably a good thing this year. We’ve known for awhile now that the school was going to miss out on keeping almost all of the state’s top high school talent from playing elsewhere. The change means Mizzou used the time from late December to the present to chase after new talent, instead of giving a last push at trying to flip someone already tied to the state. The coaching staff did succeed in bringing former local high school standouts Harry Ballard (WR/McCluer North) and Antar Thompson (DT/Maplewood-Richmond Heights) on board via the Junior College route.
With all that said, here are some thoughts to consider moving forward:
QB Status: You generally need to sign at least one quarterback in every class. The Tigers lost a key early verbal commitment last fall when Alabama HS QB James Foster decided to reopen his recruitment (and ultimately signed with Texas A&M). When Drew Lock strongly considered leaving early for the NFL, the combination of events left the future status of the most important position on the field look dicey. Fortunately, the team secured a commitment from JUCO QB Lindsey Scott, who figures to be a contender for the starting job in 2019.
Class of 2019- Next year’s class doesn’t have a nickname yet like this year’s “Tiger 10”, a collection of in-state talent like Chaminade’s Trevor Trout, Parkway North’s Michael Thompson and CBC’s Kamryn Babb which ended up signing with Southern California, Oklahoma and Ohio State, respectively. But the same blueblood powers who invaded the state this year are going to come back for more, and they’re all taking a direct line to North St. Louis County, where the Trinity program is stocked with Power 5 conference level talent. Teammates Isaiah Williams, Shammond Cooper, Marcus Washington and Ira Henry all have their pick of schools already. Back-to-back years getting shut out of the top high school talent in the St. Louis area would not be a good look for Barry Odom and Co.
Beware of Illinois– Guess who Lovie Smith just hired for his Illini coaching staff? Trinity Head Coach Cory Patterson. After going 5-19 in two seasons in Champaign, Smith needs to see signs of a turnaround in 2018. If that happens, Patterson’s ties to the area will give his former Trinity kids and others another regional option if they’d like to stay close to home.
The Best Keep Getting Better: The arms race of keeping up in the most heralded conference in all of college football isn’t getting any easier. SEC East foe Georgia, fresh off an appearance in the national championship game, hauled in the top class in the country, according to ESPN. Alabama? #4. Auburn came in at number 8, followed by LSU (12), South Carolina (17), Florida (18), Tennessee (20), Mississippi State (26), A&M (33), Ole Miss (34), Kentucky (36) and Vanderbilt (37). Missouri checked in at 41. Only Arkansas went unranked.
Do Rankings Matter? For hype’s sake and a program’s self-esteem, it sure would be nice to ranked higher than not. But let’s not forget Gary Pinkel made trips to the SEC champship game by following the strategy that worked in the Big 12—find 2 and 3 star diamonds in the rough and coach them up into 4 and 5 star players who end up in the NFL. Would it be fun for fans in St. Louis to see a bunch of homegrown well-known players win at Mizzou? Sure. But ask yourself this: did you know who Albert Okwuegbunam was this time last year? Or how about Larry Rountree? Without the Tight End from Springfield, IL or the Running Back from North Carolina, I’m not sure how 2017 would have turned out. If Barry Odom can land a few big fish and keep developing lesser-heralded players, then all will be forgiven if the fish don’t always come from his home state pond.