2015 Missouri football recruiting: East St. Louis RB Natereace Strong commits to Tigers

As has been expected for a while, East St. Louis (Ill.) running back Natereace Strong committed to Missouri on an unofficial visit to Columbia today.

Strong is one of the region's top recruits. He is the No. 212 overall prospect according to Rivals.com (No. 3 in Illinois), No. 209 according to 247Sports (No. 3 in Illinois), and No. 226 according to ESPN.com (No. 2 in Illinois).

From SBN Recruiting head honcho Bud Elliott:

Strong is a taller runner, but does lower his pad level on contact in his highlights. He seems to have a very good feel for running the zone stretch play, seeing the creases and setting up his blocks. I like that he gets vertical quickly and doesn't dance much, showing the ability to get skinny through smaller creases. Strong also shows his ability to set up blocks in the screen game. I want to see what his timed speed is, but he looks to have enough.

From ESPN's scouting report:

A strong physical runner who looks to get downhill. Capable of breaking tackles and earns quality yards after contact despite a lean frame. Possesses great balance and ideal height for the RB position. This is flat out a strong, physical runner who finishes hard. Has some wiggle and lateral shiftiness to avoid.

Strong is a top-20 running back in the Class of 2015, and he gives Mizzou a further foothold in the football factory just east of the Mississippi River; teammate Greg Taylor was one of the stars of Missouri's 2014 class. He listed offers from Florida State, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan State, and Ohio State, but he has seemingly been a strong Mizzou lean from Day 1.

Via ESPN, here is his junior highlight video.

Meanwhile, here is some footage from his freshman year (you can find footage from his sophomore year via Rivals):

Even beginning with his freshman season, you could see quite a bit to like. You can also see what Bud Elliott mentioned above. Strong sets up blocking well and gets upfield at the first opportunity; he doesn't dance much, and he's strong enough to run through arm tackles. At 190 pounds, he runs like he's 215; he won't get away with trucking defenders quite the same way at the college level, but in just a few minutes of footage, he shows basically every trait you look for in a running back: speed, strength, vision, etc. It's pretty easy to see why he's a four-star prospect.

This is a huge pick-up for any number of reasons. First of all, he's a really good back, the most highly-touted Missouri has landed in quite a while. Second, his early commitment is further proof of a drastic, positive shift in the relationship between Mizzou and Darren Sunkett's ESL program. Missouri signed the school's most highly-touted prospect last year, and it's landing an even more highly-touted one in Strong.

There's another reason, however: with Strong and Taylor both on board, Missouri's odds of eventually landing defensive end Terry Beckner, Jr., can only improve. Beckner is the gem of the state in this recruiting class -- Rivals ranks him the No. 35 overall prospect in the country according to Rivals, No. 24 according to 247, and No. 9 according to ESPN. He boasts offers from just about everybody, from Auburn to Michigan, but Mizzou is in pretty good shape so far. Among other things, Beckner is visiting Columbia today along with Strong. He is not a likely candidate for an early commitment, but Mizzou has a chance.

Welcome, Nate.

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