Overall Class Rating: (B-) Meh. In Pinkel et al's defense, this was probably the worst year for Missouri high school talent in recent memory. The top recruit, Darrian Miller (RB), didn't even receive a Missouri offer. The next best recruit, Dan Tapko (TE/DE), wants to play a position (TE, hand on the ground) that Missouri doesn't field. Further, the Tigers had an unusually small number of scholarships to offer. So ... this class is has an extra helping of Pinkel's two favorite dishes: Under the radar Texas athletes and unheralded offensive linemen.
Top 5 Players
Sheldon Richardson, DT-College of Sequoias (St. Louis originall)
A top-10 recruit out of high school, if you even tangentially follow Mizzou sports, you know this guy. Richardson has caused more heartburn in the Show Me State than the inventor of buffalo wings. We are still not sure he'll ever make it to Mizzou -- he now has to take one more class to get his associate's degree after planning to enroll at semester -- but he has at least signed with us. A potential game changing defensive tackle at 6-foot-4 290 pounds -- the same size he was in high school when he returned kicks -- Richardson is easily the most important recruit in the class.
Gerrand Johnson, DT - Rayville, LA
Apparently we are going to win the war in the trenches. Johnson was originally committed to University of Louisiana-Monroe and, thus, flew under the radar a bit. He's already on campus to rave reviews from Rivals and insiders. It isn't like the interior of the Tiger line -- especially after Dom Hamilton's broken ankle -- was covering itself in glory last year, so there's an opportunity for Johnson to see time in the trenches next season.
Corbin Berkstresser, QB - Lee's Summit, MO
Say what you will about Gary Pinkel, but the man clearly knows that a successful college football program centers on keeping the QB position staffed with high level performers. That seems like a "Duh" proposition, until you watch teams like the Huskers flail around with the Zac Lee's of the world. There were some grumblings from the Tiger faithful when Berkstresser verbaled more than a year ago, but not so much after his 3300+ yard, 36 TD, 692 rushing senior performance in Lee's Summit's newly installed spread offense. A prototypical Big 12 quarterback build at 6-foot-3, 225 lbs, he should carry on the Tiger quarterback tradition nicely after we see the last of James Franklin and Ty Gabbert.
Shane Ray: DE - Bishop Miege, KS
Ray verbaled to the Tigers eons ago, but Pinkel and Andy Hill had to survive a late push from Notre Dame to secure this Bishop Miege, Kansas star. The Tigers, even with the premature loss of Aldon Smith, are insanely deep at defensive end, so expect Ray to spend a year putting on weight before the Tigers unleash him on opposing quarterbacks.
Unknown Texas Athlete
I'm most certain of one thing from this recruiting class: There will be a breakout "surprise" Texas athlete. I have absolutely no idea who, though. Your candidates are: Clarence Green (6', 195), Brandon Durant (6-foot, 180), David Johnson (6-foot, 200), Ian Simon (5-foot-11, 180) and Earnest Payton (6-foot-2, 195). I'm especially interested in Johnson, one of the top 110m hurdlers in the country, and Earnest Payton, an oversized corner. Both flew under the radar for a variety of reasons, but seem to have unusually impressive speed/size/athleticism.
Most Likely Early Contributors
DE Sheldon Richardson - This falls squarely in the "duh" category. Considering we have been waiting for Richardson to contribute to the Tigers since the Dead Sea was merely sick, dude better contribute early.
Top Class Sleepers
WR Brandon Hannah: Hannah is (allegedly) a very impressive athlete in Big 12 ready 6-foot-3, 215 pound body whose high school career was beset by injuries. Nobody knows what to expect from Mr. Hannah because nobody has seen him play competitive football for the better part of two years.
The One That Got Away
Damn near Sheldon Richardson, who, at various times, had begun to seem like General Sherman from the Simpsons. The biggest fish that got away was Dan Tapko (TE, Rockhurst), to Oklahoma. This one hurts mostly because (1) it is Oklahoma and (2) you hate to lose a big time athlete from one of Missouri's more productive/storied programs. But Tapko wanted to play with his hand on the ground on offense, and barring a serious change of heart by Dave Yost, we don't really employ anyone in that role.
KU fans would like to think that Anthony Pierson (RB, STL) is this guy, but I'm not at all sure he still had a Missouri offer. At the very least, the coaching staff no longer had him as a priority. So, I'll answer in the general sense: Any top-100 recruit. Pinkel is famous for his stubborn streak, and his insistence that the Tigers never pay attention to anyone else's evaluation of recruits. This year was proof as the Tigers seemingly only recruited less heralded players. I'm as willing as the next bloke to give Pinkel the benefit of the doubt, but damn, this was a boring recruiting year.
I'm From Mizzourah
Sheldon Richardson again. He's seemingly been talking trash since Al Onofrio was coach. Time to put up, or at least show up.
Strongest Position Group
The lines. Ray, Richardson and Johnson all have star-potential on defense and the Tigers will sign at least four offensive linemen.
Weakest Position Group
Wide Receiver. Brandon Hannah and Wesley Leftwich both have big question marks. Hannah's as noted above; Leftwich opened lots of eyes by consistently running the fastest 40 times at every camp he attended, often clocked in the 4.3 category -- from a white kid from mid-Missouri --but he accounted for next to no offense at Columbia Hickman this season. Is he just a workout warrior?
What's it all mean, Tom Lemming?
This class was, in large part, a "get Sheldon Richardson here and tread water until the massive 2012 in-state talent arrives." The Tigers clearly targeted the trenches, wrapped up their number on quarterback target over a year ago and then went after Texas -- and from one Oklahoma: Kentrell Brothers -- athletes. We aren't going to know if those athletes are going to pay off for awhile, but I'd be hesitant to question Gary Pinkel's eye on such things. After all, three of his previous Texas finds -- Ziggy Hood, Sean Weatherspoon and Danario Alexander -- are playing in the league now.