2014 Missouri football recruiting: Tavon Ross, Rocel McWilliams, others receiving late interest

AJC.com: Recap of UGA’s recruiting weekend
PowerMizzou: New 2014 Mizzou Offer
PowerMizzou: Is Rocel McWilliams still committed?
PowerMizzou: Megginson adds Mizzou offer
PowerMizzou: Weekend Recap, Jan. 19
PowerMizzou: Tavon Ross Update
Football recruiting in the age of social media - ESPN

*****

When Missouri joined the SEC, Gary Pinkel and his staff were forced to reevaluate where they go about their recruiting. The approach is never going to change for this group -- win the big local battles, unearth diamond in the rough throughout your region -- but when the region changed, the staff had to begin establishing new relationships, getting to know a new terrain, etc.

One of the primary questions for this staff,was whether it would have the same level of success in the Southeast as it did in Texas through the years. With so many schools, and so much of the country, focused on recruiting in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, etc., would the staff be able to get in first on so many kids like it did before?

In a nutshell, Tavon Ross has provided the answer.

A 6'1, 198-pound safety from Cochran, GA, Ross committed to Missouri in late-August. At the time, he boasted only an offer from Middle Tennessee (and "interest" from Mississippi State) and was held up as an example of how Missouri's recruiting just wasn't going to cut it in the big, bad SEC. But while Mizzou was proving that perception wrong, so was Ross.

Take a look at Ross' senior highlight film. Yes, he's playing overmatched competition. Of course. But this film is about as dominant as you'll see. This is DGB-level, grown-man-playing-against-kids stuff here. Jeremy Maclin stuff. Hell ... William Moore stuff. Film is obviously never a guarantee, but this film is pretty incredible.

Ross is still a two-star recruit according to Rivals.com. He played out of position a bit as a junior and got lost in the shuffle, but Mizzou pretty quickly pinpointed his potential, and then he went out and proved it to everybody else.

And in recent weeks, he's gotten all sorts of attention. He received an offer from Georgia, the home-state school, and went on an official visit this past weekend. (I don't want to give away too much PowerMizzou insider information here, but the main gist right now is that he's back from his visit, and he's still a Mizzou commitment.) Oh, and another school appears to gave gotten hold of his senior film.

He will take his official visit to Missouri on Jan. 31, but has to decide between making a recruiting trip to Alabama or Miami this Friday. Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart stopped by Bleckley County last Thursday to make a late offer. “Yes, he has an offer from Alabama,” Bleckley County coach Tracy White said. “It’s the same reasons as everybody else – his size and his speed. They want him as a safety. They saw his film, and … I don’t know how long they’ve known about or have seen him. This is a recent thing with Alabama. I haven’t heard from them much. That’s not anything negative with them. Like everybody else that’s coming along now, I don’t know why it’s coming now, rather than earlier. The important thing for Tavon is that it’s coming now, but it’s throwing a lot at him at once. It’s not giving him as much time to think about as much as other people who get offered as a junior.”

Ross' star has risen the most quickly, but he isn't alone. Quarterback Marvin Zanders (Jacksonville) is still expected to enroll at Mizzou on Tuesday despite a late offer from Florida. Receiver Nate Brown (Suwanee, GA) saw his recruiting ranking get boosted to four stars during the season and got an offer from Georgia, but he has thus far done nothing but reaffirm his Mizzou commitment. Defensive end and longtime Mizzou commit Rocel McWilliams (Pensacola, FL) got an offer from Florida and visited, but at this time he is still a Tiger.

This is still just barely a top-35 class according to Rivals, but one thing has become clear over the last month or so: This staff isn't going to have much trouble unearthing the same kind of diamonds in this new region, even if it is an area scoured over by so many major-conference schools. So many of the players used as "Mizzou's struggling with recruiting!" examples have turned out to be studs and have warranted offers from others who aren't "struggling."

There are two goals, then, for the rest of this class. First, Mizzou is attempting to add another couple of pieces here and there; thanks in part to the loss of one-time commitment Jhonny Williams to Notre Dame, the staff is hustling to secure another commitment or two from defensive ends, some of which are visiting in the next couple of wekeends. They might be looking at another linebacker and defensive back, too.

The biggest goal, however, is to lock down what it already has. It's a lot to ask of any staff to keep all of these guys -- even Alabama loses commits to other schools during the home stretch -- but we get to find out exactly how good Pinkel and company are at closing the deal when closer, more historically successful programs come knocking. Will McWilliams stay aboard? Will Ross get a chance to prove Willy Mo II status? We'll see.

Recruiting is a nasty business. Missouri is attempting to fend off schools trying to poach its class while it attempts to poach from others. One thing has become incredibly clear, however: Missouri is not going to have trouble unearthing talent in this region. If they lose Tavon Ross, they'll have a pretty good chance of finding the next Tavon Ross before others come calling. Now we just have to see how good they are at securing signatures.

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