In terms of population, Missouri is the 18th largest state in the U.S. Of the states listed ahead of it, all but Massachusetts and New Jersey have more than one FBS football program. Missouri is also home to two of the top 30 largest metropolitan areas in the nation.
I’ve been waiting for years to watch the Missouri Tigers take advantage of those statistics and build a perennial powerhouse in college football. The Tigers were able to step up and have respectable seasons in the past, but they have not been able to sustain any sort of success — especially given the resources in terms of in-state recruits and location.
Something was holding them back. Year after year, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska as well as several SEC and PAC 10/12 schools would raid the state of Missouri, plucking top flight recruits out of the state and out of the grasp of the home state Tigers. For the most part, Missouri was powerless to recruit against these teams. Location was all that the Tigers had to offer.
It’s early, but the move to the SEC looks like it may have been the final piece to the puzzle for Mizzou and the catalyst the program needed to possibly become one of the giants of the sport. They had the recruiting pool and location. Now they have the stage. Now the Tigers are members of the premier conference in college football — and right now, they’re winning. That cannot be understated.
What it means is that Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, regardless of what happens the rest of this season, can walk into the homes of recruits all across the “Show Me State” and sell his program as one that can compete in college football’s elite conference. There is no longer a reason for a kid from Kansas City or St. Louis to bolt for Oklahoma, Nebraska or Texas. It doesn’t make sense to leave home for the deep south or the Pacific coast. Everything a Missouri kid could ever want to accomplish can now be done at home in Columbia.
The first major coup that started this process was the signing of Springfield, Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham. Green-Beckham was the most highly touted wide receiver prospect in the nation in 2012, receiving offers from every major program in the country — including Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas and neighboring Arkansas. He shocked many by choosing the Tigers. His choice may have started a domino effect.
Joining Green-Beckham in that recruiting class was Maty Mauk, a quarterback from Ohio who put up video-game numbers in high school (219 touchdown passes) yet was overlooked by most top programs. Michigan, Notre Dame and Illinois all made offers, but the rest of the schools who recruited Mauk were lower-tier FCS programs — including three MAC schools and Vanderbilt. Mauk chose Mizzou and never looked back.
Those two signing were huge for Pinkel and the Mizzou program. With Green-Beckham, Missouri showed the rest of the kids in the state that it’s OK to come to Columbia if you are a high-caliber player. Mauk’s signing was a warning shot to the rest of the country that the Tigers are going to be a player outside of their state and a team you need to plan on recruiting against.
The 2014 Missouri recruiting class speaks volumes about the direction the program is going. There are no five star commits, but the Tigers landed 23 total players — eight from Missouri or the St. Louis and Kansas City metros and 15 from states with other SEC schools. Not one of the 23 is less than a three-star recruit. That bodes well for Mizzou’s future.
In the short-term going forward, Missouri will now have a target on its back as the No. 5 team in the first BCS rankings of the season. Every team left on the Tigers’ schedule will look at the Missouri game as a statement game. That’s a problem a lot of other teams — including Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska — wish they had right now.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON OCTOBER 21, 2013
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