On Wednesday, we covered a few of the overriding story lines as we approach recruiting's busiest month(s). In theory, Missouri's class could be completed with just the local prospects we discussed -- Terry Beckner Jr., the Davis twins, etc. -- and a couple of others. But let's step back and look, position-by-position, at how Missouri's roster might be taking shape for 2015 and beyond. Today, we'll take on the offense; tomorrow, defense.
I said yesterday that Mizzou's recruiting is right on schedule in terms of commits, visits, key dates, etc. But it's different from most years in one specific way: the Tigers are about done recruiting offensive players. Of Mizzou's 13 commits, 10 are listed as offensive players (one QB, three RBs, three WRs, three OLs), and an 11th ("athlete" Cam Hilton) might end up at receiver, too. So in talking about the offense, we're mostly talking about who Missouri has already landed, not who they might still be pursuing.
Mizzou currently has 13 commits and, assuming a little bit of attrition, will likely have about 17-22 scholarships to fill in the 2015 class.
- Returning Starter (1): Maty Mauk (Jr.)
- Other Returnees (2): Eddie Printz (So.), Corbin Berkstresser (Sr.)
- Returning Redshirts (1): Marvin Zanders (RSFr.)
- Commits (1): Drew Lock (Fr.)
Missouri tries to sign at least one quarterback in every class, and it is working out that Missouri indeed has exactly one in every class. For all we know, one of the returnees will transfer this coming spring -- Berkstresser as a fifth-year guy who could transfer without sitting out, Printz as simply a victim of numbers (and the fact that Maty Mauk is only one year ahead of him); that wouldn't be surprising, but it's also not rumored.
Drew Lock is the No. 1 senior in the state of Missouri, and he's been committed to Mizzou for a while. We're not sure what will happen with the rest of the class, but it does appear that Mizzou has another good one in the pipeline. And barring transfer/injury, he should expect to redshirt in 2015 and potentially be ready to start as a sophomore in 2017 when Mauk leaves. [Insert "...unless he surpasses Mauk" comment here.]
- Returning Starter (1): Russell Hansbrough (Sr.)
- Other Returnees (2): Ish Witter (So.), Morgan Steward (Jr.), Tyler Hunt (Sr.)
- Returning Redshirts (1): Trevon Walters (RSFr.)
- Commits (3): Chase Abbington (So.), Nate Strong (Fr.), Ryan Williams (Fr.)
It's fair to assume that Missouri might become a pretty run-heavy team next year. That's what the Tigers turned into over the second half of 2014; plus, if you were to rank the returning skill position players -- RBs, WRs, and TEs -- it's possible that the top three names would all be running backs. So yeah, expect Hansbrough, Witter, and Steward (if healthy) to get plenty of touches. Plus, we've heard good things about Walters, and both Abbington and Strong are four-star recruits. If any of them can pull a Marcus Murphy and spend some time in the slot, that's all the better. (And it would be a way to get touches on a crowded depth chart.)
It bears mentioning that one of Mizzou's prime remaining targets -- four-star Winnetonka athlete Marquise Doherty -- is listed primarily as a running back by recruiting services. If he indeed commits to the Tigers (and it sounds like Mizzou's in pretty good shape), one has to figure that a) he's pretty confident in his RB abilities or b) Mizzou coaches have sold him on the thought of eventually playing either RB, WR, or DB.
(Hunt, by the way, was given a scholarship this season. I'm not sure if that means he will retain it going forward, or if it was intended to be a one-year thing. So that's an aspect of the overall scholarship count that is very hard to track.)
- Returning Starters: none
- Other Returnees (3): Nate Brown (So.), Wesley Leftwich (Sr.), J'Mon Moore (So.)
- Returning Redshirts (3): DeSean Blair (RSFr.), Thomas Richard (RSFr.), Keyon Dilosa (RSFr.)
- Commits (~5): Cam Hilton (Fr.), Ronnell Perkins (Fr.), Emanuel Hall (Fr.), Richaud Floyd (Fr.)
Missouri does a fantastic job of watching the numbers. What I mean by that is, they accede as strictly as possible to the numbers they need at each position in recruiting. If a specific unit appears to be a weakness, they don't oversign at that position because they don't want to create a lack of depth elsewhere.
That said ... oversigning at wideout has to be pretty tempting, huh? The receiving corps was already looking incredibly green heading into 2015, and that was before Lawrence Lee's dismissal. Now you're looking at three returnees who have even seen the field, and Brown, Leftwich and Moore have combined for nine catches and 100 yards in their career. Leftwich's opportunities faded as the season progressed (even before Darius White returned from injury), and Moore has not made much of the opportunities he has gotten. It sounds like Brown could become a go-to caliber guy sooner than later, but ... you need more than one.
We'll be watching this unit very closely in the spring, especially as it goes up against a deep, experienced secondary in practice. But at least one of the three redshirt freshmen will need to use the spring as a springboard, and considering Keyon Dilosa suffered an Achilles injury in the summer, one can't figure he's up to full-speed by March. No pressure, DeSean Blair and Thomas Richard, but there is all sorts of opportunity on the table if you're ready to seize it.
Beyond that, one has to figure that Mizzou will want at least one, hopefully two of the incoming recruits to make waves as quickly as possible. If Chase Abbington can run routes with any level of competence, he could get a look here, especially since he's in for the spring (I believe). And while all four of the commits listed above (all of whom could also end up at DB) have some pretty spicy highlight film, they're all pretty small, too: only Hall is listed heavier than 175 pounds. Under normal circumstances, using a redshirt year to bulk up might be preferable. But these might not be normal circumstances.
Numbers aside, there could still be another WR or two who come aboard in this class. Big, three-star Georgia receiver Jared Pinkney will be visiting in January, and Mizzou has been working to get a visit from surging four-star slot man Ryan Davis. The potential for playing time certainly might not hurt the sales job.
Beyond that, though, Mizzou hasn't seen many JUCO transfers it likes (the only one they offered just committed to Oklahoma), and while transfers are a possibility -- I believe, for instance, that Clemson transfer DeMarre Kitt was considering Mizzou for a little while in the recruiting process -- unless we're talking about UAB transfers, nobody Mizzou snags will be able to help in 2015. It's ride or die with the youngsters next year.
(And by the way, former Mizzou signee Darnell Green has given up football for modeling. Follow your dream, kids.)
- Returning Starter (1): Sean Culkin (Jr.)
- Other Returnees (2): Jason Reese (So.), Clayton Echard (Sr., walk-on)
- Returning Redshirts (1): Kendall Blanton (RSFr.)
- Commits: none
We spoke yesterday about Alabama commit (and Helias senior) Hale Hentges and the slight chance that he flips to Missouri. You can also find rumors that Olathe tight end Josh Moore, who flipped from Ohio State to Kansas in October, is still pondering a Mizzou visit. Regardless, Mizzou has three scholarship tight ends on the roster and a fourth (Echard) who plays a pretty key role as an extra blocker in run situations. Landing Hentges would be awesome, but signing a tight end isn't a grave necessity in this class.
- Returning Starters (4): Evan Boehm (Sr.), Connor McGovern (Sr.), Brad McNulty (Sr.), Taylor Chappell (Sr.)
- Other Returnees (5): Mitch Hall (Sr.), Jordan Williams (Jr.), Clay Rhodes (So.), Nate Crawford (So.), Alec Abeln (So.)
- Returning Redshirts (5): Andy Bauer (RSFr.), Mike Fairchild (RSFr.), Sam Bailey (RSFr.), Paul Adams (RSFr.), Kevin Pendleton (RSFr.)
- Commits (3): Malik Cuellar (Jr.), A.J. Harris (Fr.), Tanner Owen (Fr.)
Missouri's pretty much set for 2015 when it comes to the offensive line. The Tigers return five players with starting experience, including three-year starter Boehm and two-year starter McGovern. Plus, JUCO transfer Malik Cuellar committed this week, giving Mizzou another junior to throw into the mix.
The 2016 season, however, could be a bit of an issue. All five returnees with starting experience are seniors, and while all five might not start -- Cuellar will give it a go, and we've heard plenty of good things about the redshirt freshmen -- they will almost certainly all fill out the two-deep ... which means that Mizzou will be replacing half its two-deep in 2016. (I guess there's a chance that Chappell can get a medical redshirt since he missed 2012 with a knee injury, but I always assume wrong when it comes to med-reds.)
That's part of the reason why the 2014 class, currently redshirting, was so OL-heavy. Again, Mizzou does a pretty decent job of trying to stay ahead of the numbers in that regard. But the Tigers still might be looking to add one more OL to the 2015 class. The 2016 line isn't looking dire by any means -- it will still feature pretty highly-regarded guys like Bauer, Fairchild, Rhodes, Crawford, Bailey, Adams, etc. -- but the experience will be significantly lower.