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Florida Man! The history of Missouri football players from the Sunshine State

Ever wondered how bad Florida recruiting has been for Missouri? Well...let’s find out.

On last week’s podcast, BK and I ran down all of the Florida players that the Missouri Tigers have had on the team since 2000. As promised, here’s the follow up article for your viewing pleasure.

All Missouri players from Florida, 2000-2020 classes

Let’s break it down by year and player!

2002

Brandon Coleman

  • Years at Mizzou: 4
  • Position: Athlete (Quarterback)
  • Rivals: ***
  • High School: North
  • City: Miami

The Tigers’ first Florida recruit since 2000 was Mr. Coleman who got the “athlete” designation coming out of high school but ended up as a quarterback. Coleman didn’t ever start for the Mizzou, but attempted 12 passes and both ran and passed for a touchdown. The noticeable thing, however, is that he completed his eligibility and got his degree. Well done, Brandon!

2005

Jamar Smith (JUCO - Northeast Oklahoma A&M)

  • Years at Mizzou: 2
  • Position: Defensive End
  • Rivals: *** (5.5)
  • High School: Southridge
  • City: Miami

Smith was brought on in ‘05 to bolster the defensive end depth behind Brian Smith, Stryker Sulak, and Tommy Chavis. And, to his credit, he did exactly that: 46.5 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks is, essentially, exactly the kind of contribution you’d expect from a 3-star JUCO kid. Plus he stuck around and graduated (again, noticeable!)

2006

Dominic Grooms

  • Years at Mizzou: 4
  • Position: Quarterback
  • Rivals: *** (5.5)
  • High School: Middleton
  • City: Tampa

I didn’t follow recruiting all that much in the mid-aughts, but hearing that Missouri recruited a dual threat quarterback out of Florida in 2006 made me hopeful that we might have the next Brad Smith on the roster.

And then Chase Daniel...Chase Daniel’d everywhere and that thought was put to bed quickly.

Grooms never started and hardly ever saw the field thanks to Daniel’s domination. But he did see some mop up time and, yes, got his degree.

2007

Missouri v Tennessee
Elvis Fisher
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Elvis Fisher

  • Years at Mizzou: 6! (2 redshirts: 2007 and a medical in 2011)
  • Position: Offensive Tackle
  • Rivals: *** (5.5)
  • High School: Catholic
  • City: St. Petersburg
  • Offers: Duke, Maryland, NC State, South Florida, West Virginia

This is easily the best, or second best, success story from Missouri’s Florida recruiting adventures. Fisher was an unheralded recruit when he arrived on campus in the ‘07 year, but once he made it through the redshirt season he assumed the starting left tackle position from legendary mauler Tyler Luellen. A freshman! Guarding Chase Daniel’s blind side in the second-greatest offense Missouri has ever compiled!

Fisher was big even as a high schooler, but the competition wasn’t nearly as fierce as you’d expect from a Florida recruiting fight. Maryland, NC State, and West Virginia are all peer programs to Mizzou, with West Virginia, particularly at that time, well embedded with the Florida speed factory. But even with Columbia being farther away then any of those other schools Pinkel’s staff was able to woo him away from the closer regional schools.

Fisher was a team captain and a beloved member of the offensive line, mentoring many of the guys who would go ahead and be part of the greatest offensive line ever from the 2013 squad. With 52 starts to his name Fisher was a tremendous get and an excellent player for Pinkel’s teams.

2009

Kansas State v Missouri
Jasper Simmons
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Jasper Simmons (JUCO - Hutchinson Community College)

  • Years at Mizzou: 2
  • Position: Safety
  • Rivals: *** (5.7)
  • High School: Washington
  • City: Pensacola
  • Offers: Kansas State, Memphis, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State

Simmons was a stop gap for the defensive secondary, filling in after William Moore and Justin Garrett graduated until Kenji Jackson could get up to speed in 2010. As I’ve mentioned before with JUCOs, he did exactly what he was supposed to do in providing someone to fill up the depth and be mostly competent.

He played in 19 games, started 16 of those games, and contributed 70 tackles and 3 interceptions from the safety spot. He was also a replacement-level kick returner, fielding 36 kicks for 815 yards. Again, nothing flashy, but positive contribution AND stuck around to graduate.

2010

Missouri v Florida
Darvin Ruise
Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

Darvin Ruise

  • Years at Mizzou: 5
  • Position: Athlete (Outside Linebacker)
  • Rivals: *** (5.6)
  • High School: Baker County
  • City: Glen St. Mary
  • Offers: East Carolina, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Tennessee

I’m going to describe Ruise’s career in a term that’s going to come across as super negative but I promise is a positive: Ruise was an excellent backup linebacker.

Ruise worked through a redshirt in 2010 and then played exclusively special teams in 2011. He then proceeded to backup Will Ebner, Donovan Bonner, and Donavin Newsom over the next three years, providing zero drop off from any of the starters. Not only was he able to fill in any of the various outside linebackers but even threw in an interception and touchdown in that defensive rampage against Florida in 2014.

Missouri was able to beat out 3 P5 programs and East Carolina for his services as well. As a Big XII program (at the time), nabbing a Florida kid from South Carolina and Tennessee was a solid win.

He might not have had a lot of starts to his name but providing a steady, solid presence and staying with the team for five years is a solid player.

2012

BYU v Missouri
Sean Culkin
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Sean Culkin

  • Years at Mizzou: 5
  • Position: Tight End
  • Rivals: *** (5.7)
  • High School: Indian Rocks Christian
  • City: Largo
  • Offers: Cincinnati, Florida International, Furman, Iowa State, Kansas, Liberty, Miami, Ohio, Rutgers, Samford, South Florida, Central Florida, Western Michigan

This is the other candidate for “best Florida recruiting win ever” for the Tigers. After a redshirt season in 2012, he played behind Eric Waters on the 2013 team. As a receiver he only had one catch that year, but as a blocker he was utilized as a road grader for Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy.

But once 2014 hit, he was the starting tight end and never relinquished that title until he graduated. Over the next three years he had 60 catches for 595 yards and 2 touchdowns but was utilized more as a blocker on the wing. He also is one of only two Florida Tigers to spend time in the NFL (Elvis Fisher spent some time with the Patriots).

Culkin’s offer sheet is the longest that Missouri has gone against in the past 20 years, winning his service over 12 FBS programs, 4 of which were P5 schools. Beating out Kansas and Iowa State aren’t huge wins, but beating out Miami “The U” Hurricanes is a pretty big get.

Brandon Holifield

  • Years at Mizzou: Less than 1
  • Position: Tight End
  • Rivals: *** (5.5)
  • High School: Godby
  • City: Tallahassee
  • Offers: Florida Atlantic, Gardner-Webb, Miami, Samford

Holifield was the other 2012 tight end recruit from Florida and...he was basically the opposite of Culkin. During his redshirt season, he was busted for drug possession (along with DGB) and, later on, dismissed from the team. Only four schools were interested in his services, two of which were FCS. Again, I’m not trying to be negative or accusatory, but typically, when few schools have interest in you that means that there is typically some risk associated in bringing that player on, usually from a grades standpoint.

Regardless of why, Holifield’s tenure in Columbia was short so he didn’t have much of a positive impact on the team.

2013

Missouri v South Carolina
Nate Crawford
Photo by Todd Bennett/GettyImages

Nate Crawford

  • Years at Mizzou: 4
  • Position: Defensive End (Offensive Guard)
  • Rivals: *** (5.5)
  • High School: West Florida Tech
  • City: Pensacola
  • Offers: Cincinnati, Florida International, Kentucky, Louisville, Memphis, Mississippi State, South Florida

I’ll give Crawford this - he was a tremendous team player. He showed up as a defensive end but, because Mizzou was super short on competent linemen in ‘15 and ‘16, he elected to switch to o-line and filled in admirably at tackle but mostly guard. He earned 8 starts as a guard in the offensively-challenge ‘15 squad, but had to retire in 2016 due to bad back.

Missouri beat a few of its peers for his services but mostly high-level G5 schools (Cincy, Memphis, USF, etc.).

Crawford probably could have done well given enough time to develop as guard but he was pressed into service far too early. Given better circumstances this could have been a positive mark, but for now we’ll chalk it up to a missed opportunity.

2014

Whew. Ok. Strap in, this is a bumpy, bad ride...

Trevon Walters

  • Years at Mizzou: 2 (dismissed in 2016)
  • Position: Running Back
  • Rivals: *** (5.7)
  • High School: Manatee
  • City: Bradenton
  • Offers: Florida International, Georgia Southern, Marshall, Minnesota, South Florida, Toledo, Tulane

Lawrence Lee

  • Years at Mizzou: Less than 1 (dismissed in 2014)
  • Position: Wide Receiver
  • Rivals: *** (5.6)
  • High School: West Florida Tech
  • City: Pensacola
  • Offers: Tennessee (yup, that’s it)

DeSean Blair

  • Years at Mizzou: 3 (transferred in 2016)
  • Position: Wide Receiver
  • Rivals: *** (5.6)
  • High School: Sandalwood
  • City: Jacksonville
  • Offers: Indiana, Iowa State, Louisville, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, Temple, Vanderbilt

Rocel McWilliams

  • Years at Mizzou: 2 (transferred in 2015)
  • Position: Defensive End
  • Rivals: *** (5.5)
  • High School: West Florida Tech
  • City: Pensacola
  • Offers: Florida, Memphis, Minnesota, Old Dominion, SMU
NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Missouri at Florida
Spencer Williams
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Spencer Williams

  • Years at Mizzou: 3 (transferred in 2016)
  • Position: Defensive End
  • Rivals: *** (5.5)
  • High School: First Coast
  • City: Jacksonville
  • Offers: Alabama State, Auburn, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Memphis, Middle Tennessee, Nebraska, NC State, Purdue, Samford, South Alabama, Southern Mississippi, Tennessee State, Tulane, UAB, Central Florida, Western Michigan
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 Missouri at Arkansas
Ish Witter
Photo by John Bunch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ish Witter

  • Years at Mizzou: 4
  • Position: Running Back
  • Rivals: *** (5.5)
  • High School: Alonso
  • City: Tampa
  • Offers: Marshall, Massachusetts, Ohio, Rutgers, South Alabama, Syracuse, Tulane, Utah State, Western Kentucky
NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Missouri at Florida
Marvin Zanders
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Marvin Zanders

  • Years at Mizzou: 3 (transferred in 2016)
  • Position: Quarterback
  • Rivals: *** (5.5)
  • High School: Raines
  • City: Jacksonville
  • Offers: Duke, Florida, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, Navy, Ohio, South Alabama, Wake Forest, Western Kentucky, Western Michigan

...ok.

So when Barry Odom stood at the podium after yet another loss in 2017 and said that his job was a full-on rebuild, a lot of us (myself included) scoffed. What the hell was he talking about? He inherited a team from the school’s winningest coach, one year removed from winning double digit games and the East crown twice. Well...this 2014 recruiting haul is why he viewed it as a rebuild. Of the 28 kids signed in that class, 25% of them were from Florida and all but one failed to make it four years on campus. And what positions did the Florida gentlemen play? Wide receiver and defensive end, two positions that Missouri has been thin at for the past few years. While we sit and wonder, “Why are they cycling young guys over and over again?,” the huge gap from the 2014 class is why.

Anyway...

Walters and Lee were dismissed from various brushes with the law. Blair couldn’t catch a ball thrown right to his hands, but also transferred after two years on campus. McWilliams left after spending two years on the bench and Williams left to get closer to home after Odom’s first year in charge. Zanders could have been an interesting weapon to utilize, but Drew Lock’s talent overrode any chance of him nabbing the starting spot and transferred after moonlighting as a wide receiver. So that leaves Ish Witter, the school’s 10th-leading career rusher.

Witter was a solid player and Mizzou was a better team with him, but striking out so poorly on the rest of the state’s haul set back the team tremendously, especially when the rest of the ‘14 class didn’t amount to much either. This is the class that scared most of the staff and fans off from recruiting the state, for better or worse.

2015

Franklin Agbasimere

  • Years at Mizzou: 5
  • Position: Linebacker (Defensive End)
  • Rivals: *** (5.5)
  • High School: Montverde Academy
  • City: Montverde
  • Offers: None

Go back and watch Agbasimere’s high school film. From a technical and tactical standpoint he wasn’t much. But oh my god the speed and power and the thump he provided when he made contact on those poor high school kids was just...magical.

Unfortunately that didn’t amount to much for the Tigers. He was stuck on the dept chart for the first two years then switched to defensive end when Mizzou was surprisingly awful at generating a pass rush.

He didn’t have any offers out of high school and didn’t have the kind of impact he (and we) wanted but, hey, he did better than the ‘14 Florida guys!

2016

NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Missouri at Florida
Chris Black
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Chris Black (Transfer - Alabama)

  • Years at Mizzou: 1
  • Position: Wide Receiver
  • Rivals: **** (6.0)
  • High School: First Coast
  • City: Jacksonville

The curious case of Chris Black, 4-star receiver who was buried on the depth chart at Alabama and transferred to a Missouri team with no proven receiving threats...and then was targeted a mere 27 times with 17 catches, 257 yards, and 1 touchdown. He had the second-best yards per catch, third-best yards per target, third-best catch rate, second-best success rate....and 7th in targets, behind Sean Culkin and Kendall Blanton.

I never understood why he wasn’t targeted more, especially since he was on the field a good chunk of the time, particularly in the first 5 games. But for whatever reason he was passed over by less talented (but, admittedly, younger) guys that eventually became household names to Tiger fans.

2017

Isaiah Miller

  • Years at Mizzou: 2
  • Position: Running Back
  • Rivals: *** (5.5)
  • High School: Baldwin
  • City: Baldwin

Miller had two things going against him: an ankle injury that kept him out of spring practices and limited him during fall camp, and being in the same class as Larry Rountree III. While Rountree and Crockett were pummeling fools in 2017, Miller was earning a redshirt on the bench. And when he continued to not see playing time during the 2018 campaign, he decided to transfer away. In hindsight, he could have stuck it out and saw some starts in 2019 but, at the time, it was certainly hard to fault him.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Missouri at Georgia
Tyree Gillespie

Tyree Gillespie

  • Years at Mizzou: 3 (and counting)
  • Position: Defensive Back (Strong Safety)
  • Rivals: ** (5.4)
  • High School: Vanguard
  • City: Ocala

For all his bluster about getting out of Florida and back into Texas, Barry Odom and his staff stayed somewhat active in the Florida area, nabbing Miller and Gillespie in the 2017 class. While Miller was a non factor, Gillespie has the makings of one of the better Florida recruits for the Tigers.

Gillespie’s offer sheet was pretty slim: Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, Iowa State, and Marshall were the only schools outside of Missouri interested in his services. The fact that this two star has exceeded his rating but gone on to be a staple of Ryan Walters’ defense is a classic Mizzou success story.

Gillespie was a nice disruptive force last year, breaking up 7 passes while logging tackles for loss. He’ll be one of the leaders in the secondary and, seemingly, will have been on campus for a full four years. That’s a recruiting win!

2018

Tyrone Collins

  • Years at Mizzou: 1
  • Position: Defensive Back (Cornerback)
  • Rivals; *** (5.5)
  • High School: Braden River
  • City: Bradenton

Collins didn’t even make it to the end of his first year. While the Tigers were getting ready for the bowl game against Oklahoma State, Collins decided to transfer. He’s currently playing at Albion College where he was a first-team All-MIAA (Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association) pick.

Troy v Missouri
Jarvis Ware
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Jarvis Ware

  • Years at Mizzou: 2 (and counting)
  • Position: Defensive Back (Cornerback)
  • Rivals: ** (5.3)
  • High School: Wekiva
  • City: Apopka

I know the jury is still out on Mr. Ware and most feel that he gets penalized way too often. Considering he was pressed into service as an underclassman and still held his own against most receivers he’s gone against is a solid sign. And I’ll be honest, if you show me a corner who isn’t called for pass interference very much, I’ll show you a corner who gets burned so frequently and badly that he’s never in position to make a play. Hopefully, he’ll learn to hand fight and deflect a little better because the dude is sticky as hell and has excellent closing speed.

Mizzou was the only P5 offer for Ware, beating out UCF, FAU, FIU, and UMass for his signature. It’s interesting that two of the presumed starters for the 2020 defense will be 2-star Florida guys; for all of our gnashing of Florida recruits we got two pretty good ones once Odom focused away from the Sunshine State.

2020

Jaylon Carlies

  • Years at Mizzou: 0 (soon to be 1)
  • Position: Wide Receiver
  • Rivals: *** (5.6)
  • High School: West Orange
  • City: Winter Garden

Tyler Jones

  • Years at Mizzou: 0 (soon to be 1)
  • Position: Defensive Back (probably corner)
  • Rivals; *** (5.5)
  • High School: West Orange
  • City: Winter Garden

Johnny Walker

  • Years at Mizzou: 0 (soon to be 1)
  • Position: Linebacker
  • Rivals: *** (5.5)
  • High School: Chamberlain
  • City: Tampa

And now we’re finally to the new guys. The future is bright and we have nothing negative to say (since we have no idea how they’ll do). Carlies and Jones committed to Odom’s staff and Drink held on to both while Walker was a late January addition under the new regime. They’ll have all the chances they can want to make a great impression on a new staff looking to buy in to the #NewZou, so hopefully all three make a positive impact.

Conclusion

20 years of recruiting, 25 Missouri football players hailing from Florida. Here’s the run down:

  • 22 3-stars.
  • 2 2-stars.
  • 1 4-star transfer.
  • 174 starts between all 25 recruits.
  • 10 players account for all 174 starts.
  • Elvis Fisher and Sean Culkin are responsible for 89 of those starts.
  • 6 transferred to other schools.
  • 3 were dismissed.
  • 2 played in the NFL.
  • None were drafted.

When the Tigers hit the mark and got a good one, that player was....good. Not otherworldly. Not great. Not All-American. But good. But 60% of the time they got a player who either couldn’t get on the field or didn’t stick around to graduate. A 40% retention rate is pretty bad, even in the modern iteration (re: transfer portal) of college football.

So what’s the answer? Well, the staff could pull out completely and just focus on Missouri, Texas, and the surrounding state territories to find kids. There’s certainly no fault in that approach, especially with recruiting (currently) severely limited. It also might mean that they foster those Florida relationships a little longer and only start taking kids starting in the 2023 classes, when you’ve had plenty of scouting time and seen the kids develop over time.

There is no wrong answer here going forward, but there is one truth that we’ve all for sure clarified: for the past 20 years, Missouri’s recruitment of Florida kids has been bad.