2013 Fenton (MO) Rockwood Summit linebacker Eric Beisel committed to Missouri in an announcement at his high school prior to their annual alumni game on Thursday. The former Team USA member chose the Tigers over finalists Arkansas, Illinois and Nebraska.
A 6-4, 235-pounder known as a hard hitter and weight room warrior, Beisel is rated by the services as a consensus three-star prospect. Prior to his commitment, he held offers from five other schools that did not make his top four.
SB Nation Recruiting spoke with Beisel back in early July when he was in Austin with Team USA for the IFAF U-19 World Championship, when he helped the American side take home a silver medal with his solid play.
Missouri and Arkansas were standing out for him at the time and he indicated that he was looking for the third team to get into the mix heavily. Unsurprisingly, those first two were the schools that Beisel visited after turning down an invitation to attend The Opening out at the Nike Facility in Oregon and prior to making his decision.
About his trip to Arkansas, Beisel told an Arkansas radio station several days ago that he knew his trip was going to be a "special visit" when he saw the smiles on the faces of all the members of the coaching staff as he arrived and interrupted a meeting.
The Razorback staff dangled the potential for early playing time before letting Beisel take in a weight-lifting session that prompted him to later describe the intensity during the session as "crazy." With the visit still fresh in his mind, he indicated that Arkansas might be the leader, saying he was "pretty sure" about them being in the top position.
Back in early July, Beisel had mentioned Arizona State, Illinois and Ohio State, but not Nebraska, a team that made Beisel's final top four.
The big linebacker with surprising range for his size may have grown up in Missouri, but he wasn't a Tiger fan, instead watching the host of talented linebackers that went through the Buckeye program during his developing years. He cited current St. Louis Ram James Laurinaitis as a favorite. Attending games in Columbia, not Columbus, was also a part of his experience growing up, so he did get some exposure to the Missouri program, even if his allegiances where elsewhere.
With other Missouri commits like Chase Abbington and Trent Hosick both in Austin with Beisel playing in the IFAF U-19 World Championship for Team USA, Beisel admitted that he was hearing Gary Pinkel's program talked up by those two, but said he would "make the best decision for myself."
Even before the July visit to Fayetteville, Beisel was impressed by the weight room at Arkansas, as well as having a strong affinity for his potential future position coach.
"They have top-notch facilities -- their weight room," he said. "I have a good connection with coach Johnson. He's the one of the reasons I'm looking there. He was the first guy I meet when I got there and he spent the most time with me. He's recruiting me the hardest out of all the coaches."
Unlike former commit Austin Bennett and former target Christian Morgan, Beisel said he wasn't too worried about the interim status of head coach John L. Smith, but did have one request of Arkansas.
"Individually, it doesn't impact me, but I need some assurances that coach Johnson will still be there and be my position coach since my connection with him was one of the main reasons why I'm looking at Arkansas," he revealed. "It would just be nice to know if he's going to be there next season."
Many recruits talk about wanting to feel the love from a coaching staff and though he didn't speak of his interactions with the Fighting Illini staff quite in those terms, Beisel made it clear that the approach taken by head coach Tim Beckham and his staff was effective.
"The entire coaching staff there has been on me since day one," he said. "I probably get a letter from every one of them each week. I like the relationship and the family atmosphere and since they're recruiting me so hard, I know they want me and I'm the number one guy on their board -- that's nice to have."
While in Austin, Beisel spoke about the most important factor in his recruitment.
"I just want to find a school I feel comfortable with since I'm going to be living there for the next four years, whether it be the atmosphere or the coaching staff or the players I'm going to be around, I have to feel comfortable," he said. "I also need to find a school that will develop me and take me to the next level. I'm a guy that likes to be pushed to my limits to find where I can go and I need to find a university that will make me the best that I can be."
As he told ESPN's Damon Sayles, Beisel felt that comfort level at Missouri ($):
I definitely feel the most comfortable with the coaching staff as a whole. They know how to get kids to the NFL. Missouri was one of the first schools to offer, and that played into it, too.
Oh yeah, and about Beisel becoming the best that he can be? He's already pretty good. Arguably the top linebacker for Team USA, Beisel brought heady, steady play to the table for his country, encapsulated by one play in the opener against American Samoa. Most of the US defense had been fooled on a misdirection end around, but Beisel still had contain when his opponent came around the corner and was able to chase the player to reduce what would have otherwise been a field-flipping play for the visiting team.
Based on his play there, it looks like Mizzou is getting a good one.
"Biggest" Linebacker in Missouri - Eric Beisel Junior Highlights (via RSummitAthletics)