At 9:15 AM CT on Wednesday, Dorial Green-Beckham will announce his college choice on ESPNU.
It has certainly been a spectacle, for any number of reasons. Everybody from USC to Florida has attempted to get his attention, the world has gotten to know the Pinkel-copter, etc. Missouri has been involved in plenty of high-profile, in-state recruiting battles since Gary Pinkel came to town, but most had a different back story, and most haven't involved public announcements. Blaine Gabbert began to slowly lean away from Nebraska and toward Mizzou, and when he officially made the switch, reporters were informed without a press conference. Sheldon Richardson's recruitment had plenty of drama, but a) his initial commitment came well before his senior season in high school, and any sort of drama basically came and went, then came back and went away again. In the end, he committed for good, in private, in December 2010.
For Dorial Green-Beckham, however, recruitment has followed both a straighter, and quieter, path. No commitments, no de-commitments, no re-commitments. Just some unofficial visits, some official visits, very few real interviews, and on Wednesday, an announcement. In many ways, DGB's recruitment has not in any way resembled that of Gabbert or Richardson; instead, it has most closely resembled that of Tony Temple.
Temple, a four-star back from Kansas City's Rockhurst High School, was Rivals' No. 79 overall prospect, and for a long time he was regarded as the most heavily-recruited prospect ever to come out of the K.C. area. His recruitment was a bit of a soap opera, at least until an awkward article about his recruitment was published in the Kansas City Star. Teams backed off of him after the article was printed, and after getting burned by the spotlight, he shied away from media contact, leaving fans to speculate in the void. And speculate, they did. Kansas State fans were absolutely convinced he was in the bag; Mizzou fans thought they were in good shape as well. In the end, Temple made two official visits late in his recruiting process -- Columbia on December 12, 2003, and Manhattan on December 19 -- and picked a Mizzou hat during his commitment ceremony on local television a couple of weeks later. (I remember this very clearly, as ZouDave had both The Beef and me on conference call, telling us who he picked as it happened.)
As with Temple, the absence of verifiable facts and quotes relating to DGB have not prevented a narrative from forming anyway. What's the line from American President? "They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand?" DGB has intentionally either avoided interviews altogether or given mostly boilerplate answers, but where actual quotes don't cut it, others' opinions do. One person says he thinks Arkansas is in the lead. Another then says "From what I'm hearing, Arkansas is in the lead." Another says "I'm hearing from multiple folks that Arkansas is in the lead." The same happens when someone mentions that they think that Oklahoma is in the lead, or that Missouri is only receiving courtesy attention, or that Texas is actually a serious darkhorse contender, or anything else. The narrative has had ups and downs through the months (right down to the new "Missouri is making up ground late, but did they wait too long?" meme now ... as if they had backed off or something), but as with everything else, those have been formed almost entirely from speculation, guesswork, and an Internet game of Telephone.
Here's what we know for sure about Mr. Green-Beckham at this point:
- We know that he's the No. 1 prospect in the country according to Rivals, and at the U.S. Army All-American game, he backed up the hype. People have compared him to everybody from Randy Moss to Julio Jones, and while he might or might not have a bit of an issue with his hands, he is a spectacular athlete with what appears to be a very good head on his shoulders. We've posted his highlights here quite a few times; by now, you're more than familiar with it.
- Okay, fine, here are some highlights again.
- We know that blue-chip receivers tend to produce pretty well, though the median is closer to Terrance Toliver than Julio Jones. The sky is the limit for DGB, but wherever he goes -- Missouri or otherwise -- reality might struggle to match expectations.
- We know that DGB took official visits to Texas (November 18), Arkansas (January 20) and Missouri (January 27). He canceled an official to Oklahoma in December, citing, among other things, exhaustion from a hectic basketball schedule. Virtually his entire immediate family came with him to Columbia, while he went to Fayetteville by himself. (Mizzou fans see that as a good sign. Arkansas fans, meanwhile, also see this as a good sign because "the family already knows everything they need to know about Fayetteville." Speculation is fun.)
- We know that he took numerous unofficial visits, mainly over the summer months, to Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Auburn, etc.
- We know that Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino did not get his in-home visit with DGB last week because another school had witnessed the two "bumping into each other" in San Antonio, and Arkansas didn't want any perception of a possible recruiting violation.
- We know that his official top five are, in some order, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. However his signing ceremony goes down on Wednesday, it will involve those five schools.
In terms of actual, verifiable knowledge, that's about all we've got. Here are some other things we think we know, which have been repeated in quite a few different circles. (A lot of this has been in some way backed up by the good folks at PowerMizzou, whose measured takes I have come to respect and trust; I don't believe I am giving away any insider information with this, though if I'm wrong, I will make corrections.)
- He and the family both like Mack Brown quite a bit, but it is too far away. He is reasonably close to his family (Green) and really close to his adopted family (Beckham), and he will probably not stray too far from Springfield. This is how his original "final three" of Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma seemingly came about.
- It is assumed that Alabama is out, and Oklahoma has about a two percent chance at best right now. Alabama always seemed like No. 5 out of five, while Oklahoma, an early leader, has faded. Be this because of chemistry issues surrounding the team in Norman, or something completely different, we have no idea. But it seems like the new "final three" consists of the three schools who have received official visits: Arkansas, Missouri and Texas. Because of the distance, again, most assume Texas is No. 3 (though you can pretty easily find pockets of Texas fans convinced they are going to pull a surprise on Wednesday).
- The general notion seems to be that DGB likes Arkansas and Missouri either equally or nearly equally (with Arkansas potentially holding a slight lead). The family, meanwhile, has developed a great relationship with David Yost and others from the Mizzou coaching staff, and the more influence they have on his choice of schools, the better Mizzou's chances are.
- Both his visits to Arkansas and Missouri went about as well as would be expected. Official visits typically do. That hasn't stopped people from idly speculating; it's just what happens. On Hogville, you can find people analyzing DGB's facial expressions from pictures taken at Mizzou Arena. On Tigerboard, you can find someone with "connections" who insists that DGB is "all but a lock." And on Sporting News, from a real, honest-to-god sports writer, you can find perhaps the most incredibly ridiculous assumption of all: that Mizzou is screwed because DGB got carded at Harpo's. Yep. Poor, lowly Mizzou never really had a chance -- because why would you go to some fourth-tier school like Missouri (46 wins in five years) when you go can go to a powerhouse like Arkansas (42)? -- and all it took to eliminate them from the race (since they're just getting courtesy interest, obviously), was for an 18-year old to get carded at a place where 18-year olds always get carded.
(And yes, there is some bitterness in that bullet point. For the last year, everybody outside of the state of Missouri has completely written Mizzou off in DGB's recruitment, as if Mizzou hasn't landed the last two in-state five-stars, hasn't won plenty of games recently, and hasn't produced four pass-catching All-Americans in five years. One gets the impression that, since Mizzou was terrible in the 1980s and 1990s, people around the age of most current writers just continuously assume the Tigers will eventually fold and disappear back to the land of fifth downs and Omniturf, despite any and all evidence to the contrary.)
In 48 hours, we will find out DGB's decision. Perhaps he has already made it. Perhaps he had made it last week. Perhaps it won't come to him until about 9:05 AM on Wednesday. We have no idea. What is my opinion? I have been irrationally confident for a while, and I'm sure it has clouded the way I view things, just as it does for everybody else. And really, I'm confident for all the wrong reasons. I'm confident because, when it was time for Tony Temple to make a decision, he realized that after years of recruiting, he viewed the Mizzou coaching staff as family. I'm confident because DGB is Danario Alexander (only bigger and taller) with a back story similar to Jeremy Maclin's, and it only feels right that he would be a Tiger. I'm confident because he professes to desire a family environment, and that is typically Mizzou's biggest draw. But that is basically me being confident because of factors pertaining to former Mizzou recruits, not this current one.
Missouri has been on DGB for four years now, and there's no question that David Yost,, Gary Pinkel, and probably every other staff member have gotten to know him rather well through the years. That he brought his entire family to Columbia is a good thing to me (I am, after all, a Missouri fan, so of course I am going to see it that way), and that he actually went through with the official to Columbia says something good as well. If he were truly as sold on Arkansas as soon have been trying to make you believe, there would have been no need to make another official visit simply out of "courtesy."
At the same time, I know two other things: 1) I could be very, very incorrect, and 2) Missouri's football program will continue to exist if I am. Gary Pinkel has done too much work in the last 11 seasons for his program to be made or broken by one player. Mizzou will be solid in 2012 no matter who signs with them on Wednesday. Yes, it would be disappointing to have missed out on some high-caliber, in-state talent like DGB, Durron Neal, etc., but it happens. You have good classes and lesser classes, and at Mizzou, the lesser classes have produced well enough to dampen whatever disappointment might (or might not) exist Wednesday afternoon. Still, you would rather win these recruiting battles than lose them, especially when someone of such ridiculously high upside and, evidently, character is involved.
The good news is, there is a deadline to all the speculation; in two days, there will not be a need for it anymore.
PowerMizzou: The making of No. 1 (from June)
SB Nation: Dorial Green-Beckham Has Arrived For His Visit To Missouri
The Missourian: Fans welcome Green-Beckham at Missouri men's basketball game
The Missourian: Crowd greets Green-Beckham for top football recruit's Missouri visit
Post-Dispatch: Recruiting border battle boiling for MU, Arkansas
Post-Dispatch: Green-Beckham gets royal treatment at MU
KC Star: Dorial Green-Beckham is more than just a top-rated football recruit
KC Star (Campus Corner): Some notes about DGB's visit to MU
Blatant Homerism: DGB to (Insert School Name Here)
College Football Talk: Highly sought WR recruit gets big welcome at Missouri basketball game
Rivals.com: Discussing DGB's decision