The legend of the 2018 class has been growing for a while. Missouri, the story goes, is as loaded with high-level prospects as it has been in a long time. And while there are certainly stars from the Kansas City area -- Lee's Summit West's Mario Goodrich, Blue Springs' Daniel Parker -- a lot of this talent resides in the St. Louis area.
This narrative has taken hold and will be in place for the entire recruiting cycle, and with good reason. Mizzou, for instance, has already offered more in-state 2018 prospects than it did for the entire 2017 cycle.
The main source of hype is a trio of blue-chippers.
- Parkway North defensive tackle Michael Thompson is the No. 84 prospect in the class of 2018 per the 247Sports Composite, No. 92 per Rivals, No. 22 per Scout. His offer list: everybody.
- CBC receiver Kamryn Babb is No. 86 per 247, No. 68 per Rivals., No. 84 per Scout. Offer list: everybody.
- Chaminade defensive tackle Trevor Trout: No. 131 per 247, No. 32 per Rivals, No. 91 per Scout. Offer list: everybody.
Thus far, Mizzou appears to be in decent shape with each of these three, though the race has just begun.
The list goes on.
- Lutheran North defensive end Ronnie Perkins (brother of Mizzou safety Ronnell Perkins) is also a four-star per Scout (No. 145 overall) and has offers from Mizzou, Arkansas, Illinois, and Indiana.
- CBC receiver Cameron Brown has offers from Mizzou, Minnesota, Duke, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Vanderbilt.
- Ritenour linebacker Ayodele Adeoye has offers from Missouri, Illinois ... and LSU.
- Hazelwood Central receiver Dallas Craddieth has offers from Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, and Iowa State.
- Pattonville quarterback Kaleb Eleby has offers from Illinois and Iowa State.
(Note: Any talk of “St. Louis area” here involves only prospects within the state of Missouri. Obviously there are prospects across the river in Illinois, too, just as the Kansas City area encompasses part of Kansas. But we’ll keep the focus of this honed to within the borders.)
Some of these names are probably rather familiar to Mizzou fans at this point, as they’ve held offers for a while. The hype surrounding Adeoye, however, is pretty new, and it could pick up quickly. His pursuit speed is incredible.
Schools are flocking to St. Louis to check out the big names, and they’re finding some pretty interesting secondary prospects in the process. And with the offers they are already amassing, it wouldn’t be surprising if Brown, Adeoye, Craddieth, or Perkins ended up with a four-star rating.
The “Best St. Louis class in a generation” narrative has certainly taken hold, but it certainly has competition. In what we’ll call the Rivals Era (2002-18, i.e. the range for which we can search the Rivals database), the metro area has on three occasions matched its current set of three four-star prospects: 2014 (OL Roderick Johnson, OL Brian Wallace, OL Andy Bauer), 2009 (RB Montee Ball, RB Ronnie Wingo, DT Sheldon Richardson), and 2003 (RB Laurence Maroney, TE Will Paul, DB Darnell Terrell).
That list alone says pretty good things about the prospects of Babb, Trout, and Thompson — of those nine players from 2003, 2009, and 2014, four became outright stars (Johnson, Richardson, Ball, Maroney), and three others became solid power-conference starters (Wallace, Wingo, Terrell).
(That list also suggests that Mizzou can plan on landing one of the three big fish. That’s what the Tigers did in each of these other years, anyway.)
Of these three particular years, however, perhaps only 2014 had the supporting cast that 2018 is putting together. The 2004 St. Louis class did also produce Mizzou receiver Will Franklin and four other power conference signees, and 2009 also produced Mizzou starters T.J. Moe and Jack Meiners. 2014 is the recent standard bearer, however.
Though it’s too early to tell for sure how these 2014 players will end up performing, the St. Louis area produced six other power conference signees beyond the big three that year: running back Markel Smith (Iowa), receiver Ray Wingo (Mizzou), defensive end Renell Wren (Arizona State), defensive end Jonathan Bonner (Notre Dame), defensive tackle Armon Watts (Arkansas), and cornerback Zach Muniz (Duke).
Depending on who you ask, though, you might need to go beyond the Rivals era to find the last time St. Louis was getting this much recruiting attention.
DeMontie Cross said 2018 class is the state's best since 1992 - coincidentally when he was a senior. That was a loaded STL class— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) February 1, 2017
I look for any possible reason to fall down a Newspapers.com rabbit hole, and this was a very good reason. Here’s what I found:
That’s the St. Louis Post-Dispatch most wanted list from January 30, 1992, a couple of days before Signing Day. Ronnie Ward ended up signing with Kansas, Cross picked Illinois (and then picked Mizzou a couple of years later), and Chris Moore picked Illinois.
All 12 of these players ended up choosing power conference teams, which is pretty remarkable. Plus, SLUH receiver Jason Dulick ended up with Illinois, as did O’Fallon’s Rodney Byrd. SLUH quarterback Steve Schnur signed with Northwestern.
Mizzou, fresh off of an eighth consecutive losing season, got two. Well, one, actually: Ken Payne, No. 9 on the list above, ended up pursuing baseball. And Frank Fischer, No. 6, quit football soon after his college career began.
Cross transferred to Columbia eventually, but obviously no one knew that would happen in early-1992. (The Tigers also landed Sumner's Kyle Black and Lutheran North's Darryl Chatman. St. Louis was freaking loaded in 1992.)
Naturally, the headline on the front page of the P-D sports section that day was "Most Wanted Don't Pick MU."
The Tigers were hovering over Dulick, 6 feet 4, 175 pounds, well before others recognized what the fuss was about. And Dulick and his two coveted teammates, quarterback Steve Schnur and tight end Scott Pfeiffer, had a rousing official visit to Columbia in December.
"They came back all fired up about it," SLUH coach Gary Kornfeld said.
The effect lingered and was promising.
"About three weeks ago, I told people I wouldn't be surprised to see all three go to Missouri," Kornfeld said.
But now, less than a week before national letters of intent can be signed, all three appear to have jilted Missouri. Schnur has made an oral commitment to Northwestern, Pfeiffer to Tennessee and Dulick to last-second shopper Illinois.
(Here's your reminder that Illinois was a pretty big deal at this point in time. The Illini had gone bowling all four years under John Mackovic and had just hired his well-regarded defensive coordinator, Lou Tepper, when Mackovic left for Texas.)
How’d that 1992 crop fare on the field, by the way? Pretty well. There were some busts — there always are — but the hits were impressive.
- DeRon Jenkins was a 3.5-year starter for Tennessee, recording 12 interceptions and playing a major role in what ended up being a No. 3 finish in 1995. He was picked in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft and spent parts of nine seasons in the pros.
- Schnur threw for 5,612 yards and 32 touchdowns at Northwestern and piloted the Wildcats’ stunning Rose Bowl run in 1995.
- Dulick had 2,004 career receiving yards and 15 touchdowns with Illinois.
- Cross made over 400 tackles in three seasons at Mizzou and was by far the Tigers’ best defensive player during most of his time in Columbia. And if he wasn’t, Chatman might have been, at least in 1995.
- Ward was Kansas’ leading tackler in 1994 and 1996 while battling a series of injuries.
- Stallings had 130 tackles and 13 TFLs for Illinois in 1995 and had a cup of coffee in the pros.
- Pfeiffer caught 13 passes and scored a touchdown as a Tennessee tight end in 1995.
- Spiller started parts of four years at Wisconsin and made 10 tackles for loss in 1994-95.
This time around, Mizzou has more to sell, but not as much as it would hope. The Tigers have suffered through two losing seasons but are not that far removed from an unprecedented run of success.
The competition is pretty fierce, though. As fun as it is to dream about a clean sweep and consider what it would mean for the program to land Thompson, Babb, Trout, Brown, Adeoye, Craddieth, and Perkins all, that's probably not going to happen.
History suggests landing half of them would be something approaching a coup, especially considering the heavy hitters that are coming to town.
Mizzou doesn't have to go very far to woo major talent this year. Later this week, we'll look at how the Tigers have been doing with the in-state crowd.
(Hint: It hasn't been going all that well. And a lack of success hasn't really tracked with either recent history or future results. Missouri is weird, man. And recruiting is increasingly national.)