COLUMBIA (AP) — A school-record 12-win football season opened some doors at Missouri, especially in Southeastern Conference states.
“They see they can come to Missouri and compete and play for the SEC championship,” offensive coordinator Josh Henson said after the 28-player class was announced Wednesday. “We’re just looking for a few more guys to put us over the top.”
Fifteen players came from SEC territory, including four-star recruit Nate Brown, a wide receiver from North Gwinnett High in Suwanee, Ga. Seven recruits are from Florida and three each from Georgia and Tennessee.
It was a lot tougher getting kids to listen after the Tigers won just five games their debut year in the Southeastern Conference. Coach Gary Pinkel said last year’s class was “very good,” but noted the degree of difficulty.
“The challenges were really perception and based on, probably, talk radio, media, everybody that said our program was for some reason doomed,” Pinkel said. “That hurt us, it did. The moral of the story is don’t have a bad season.”
The class lacks glitz with no five-star recruits and didn’t make the top 25 in either Rivals.com or Scouts.com, but Pinkel doesn’t mind. When Missouri was rising in the Big 12, he recalled opponents chasing after the kids, some of them with low profiles, that the Tigers wanted.
Pinkel boasted that since 2007, Missouri is the only school in the country in the top 10 in wins, top five in NFL first-round draft picks and top five in academic progress rate.
“There’s no recruiting numbers,” Pinkel said, “that parallel how we’ve won.”
The Tigers’ 10-player in-state haul leads with offensive lineman Andy Bauer of DeSmet High in St. Louis, a four-star recruit by both Rivals.com and Scout.com who signed in November after committing to Mississippi.
“I think at the end of the day his heart had always been at Mizzou,” Henson said.
Wide receiver Darnell Green of Hillcrest High in Springfield, Mo., is younger brother of star wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and athlete Grant Jones, from hometown Columbia Hickman, is son of running backs coach Brian Jones.
Five members of the 28-player class are already attending classes and will participate in spring camp — defensive back Logan Cheadle of Lee’s Summit, Mo., defensive back Kenya Dennis of Raymond, Miss., offensive lineman Michael Fairchild of Overland Park, Kan., linebacker Brandon Lee of Indianapolis, Ind., and quarterback Marvin Zanders of Jacksonville, Fla.