In the span of the last two days, Missouri has lost two top in-state recruits to Illinois. Friday, three star cornerback Tony Adams announced his decision to wear orange, then late on Saturday night, three star offensive lineman Larry Boyd committed.
If fans were wondering about the impact Illinois would get from former NFL head coach Lovie Smith on the recruiting trail, specifically in St. Louis, I think this weekend is clear evidence of it.
Tony Adams’ decision, in the context of having grown up in Illinois and viewing it as home vs Missouri, makes sense. Particularly since Lovie Smith brought in former player Peanut Tillman to help with practice earlier this week. The Illini were the St. Louis University high schooler’s first offer back in June, followed shortly after by Missouri who were both impressed by the St. Louis athlete at a local satellite camp.
Larry Boyd, from Trinity Catholic HS in St. Louis, was long thought to be a Missouri lean and recently visited Columbia for new head coach Barry Odom’s elite recruiting camp “Night at the Zou”. He spoke of how much Missouri felt like “family” and the relationship he had developed with the staff. Tony Adams did not visit Missouri for the “Night at the Zou” event but did make an unofficial visit a few days later and notably was head coach Barry Odom’s first retweet when the NCAA rules on social media were changed at the start of August.
On Saturday, Boyd was in Champaign watching the Illini practice. Our friends over at the Champaign Room believe they actually captured the moment when Boyd verbaled to the Illini. The decision is particularly surprising because some sources had reported he would wait until National Signing Day to commit and Oklahoma State was viewed as the biggest challenger.
Lovie and Whitman putting a full-court press on for Larry Boyd, it appears. pic.twitter.com/ZnvxX18ELU— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) August 14, 2016
Larry Boyd told Scout’s Jeremy Werner that he wasn’t even interested in Illinois two weeks ago.
"The key? Two words: Lovie Smith," Boyd said. "I mean, there ain't no other coach like him in any program. You got Nick Saban and all those other coaches, but Lovie Smith is the man. He's going to be the man around here a long time. I just wanted to get on the train before it took off. I wanted to be the one to say that I was here when we were winning championships with Lovie Smith."
This makes the second St. Louis area lineman loss after blue chip Pattonville HS lineman Marquis Hayes committed to Oklahoma earlier in July.
Kansas City defensive end Chester Graves is the sole remaining uncommitted Missouri high schooler ranked in the state’s top ten by all three recruiting services. The Park Hill athlete’s recruitment remains tough to gauge as Graves is playing it very close to the vest.
There’s still several months and an entire season before National Signing Day in February so Barry Odom and Cornell Ford have time to make up ground and perhaps flip either local recruit. It’s clear that, while the Arch Rivalry remains unplayed on the football field, it has been renewed on the recruiting trail.