One of the first questions asked of new head coach Barry Odom at his introductory press conference was almost too predictable. It was something to the effect of "How are you going to recruit and close the borders to Missouri?"
"I think, without question, the state of Missouri has tremendous high school football."
"We've got to get Missouri kids to stay at Mizzou."
The State of Missouri recruits
Across the three recruiting services, Rivals, 247 and Scout, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the state of Missouri right now is Kansas City Park Hill defensive end Chester Graves. Graves attended Mizzou's Junior Day last year where he impressed the previous coaching staff and picked up an offer on the spot. Mizzou lost some leverage when defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski left for Miami but appear to be in solid shape. Kansas, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa have all already offered.
TOUCHDOWN MIZZOU!— KING GRAVES (@ayy_cuatro) December 7, 2013
Missouri has already secured the commitmentof DaRon Davis, a wide receiver from Kansas City who also announced he was going to be practicing with Kansas City Chief Jeremy Maclin. Andy Hill was Davis' lead recruiter and Hill's switch from coaching quarterbacks to wide receivers should only serve to help strength their connection. Davis has been offered by Illinois, Iowa State and Kansas.
Jeremy Maclin just scored #MizzouMade— DaRon Davis2⃣ (@DaRon_Davis2) January 3, 2016
The offensive line could be a primary focus of this class, and two offensive lineman appear near the top of the state rankings so far, St. Louis Trinity Catholic's Larry Boyd got an offer back in November, and Pattonville's Marquis Hayes received an offer on National Signing Day. Cornell Ford appears to be the lead recruiter for both lineman, and new position coach Glen Elarbee should only help secure their commitment. Both have offers from Illinois and Iowa State, while Boyd holds an offer from Wisconsin.
Of course there's a bit of consternation about the lack of an offer for the four-star kid in Columbia, Jaevon McQuitty. He's rated slightly higher than Davis by Rivals but lower by 247. McQuitty will be at Nike's The Opening this summer, so that will likely change. McQuitty has offers from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan and Nebraska so there's obviously the concern about "losing backyard talent" here, but Hill's and Odom's local connections may be able improve relations.
Still, two out of the top three and four of the top six recruits in the state have Mizzou offers and appear to be leaning toward the Tigers.
Oh, if you look closely, you may notice a Moore from Hayti, Missouri, near the top of the 2017 list.
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With regards to the border states, Missouri is pursuing some of the top talent to the east and west, it's just slim pickings right now, as not a lot of recruits stand out.
In Illinois, five-star defensive end A.J. Epenesa recently committed to Iowa, which doesn't really come as a surprise given that his father played there and the Hawkeyes had a stellar season in 2015. It hurts to lose the highest ranked prospect in the region, but given the staff turnover, including the departure of Kuligowski, it was somewhat predictable. Odom did make an effort to shore up relations with Epenesa, traveling to visit him on his first recruiting weekend as head coach, but the kid picked another kind of black and yellow.
The big name fans seem to be focusing on is East St. Louis wide receiver Jeff Thomas, and for good reason. He's an explosive receiver whose only limitation athletically appears to be non-prototypical size. Missouri's efforts to establish a pipeline with Darren Sunkett's ESL Flyers football program have been evident with the influx of Natereace Strong, Greg Taylor, Terry Beckner Jr. and, most recently, Tre'Vour Simms. However, blue-blood programs have taken notice of Thomas' talent level and made the school a priority this year. Thomas is currently favored to Michigan according to 247sports, with Alabama, Ohio State and Mizzou all tied for second place.
Mizzou recently offered an unranked Illinois lineman, Dalton Wagner, who is a giant 6'8, 280 pounds. Wagner's first offer was actually from Louisville, but his size has attracted the interest of a lot of schools in the region.
To the west, Mizzou recently offered defensive end Trevor Kent out of Pittsburg, Kan., a 6'4, 240-pound, three-star kid with offers from Iowa State, Michigan and Northwestern. Mizzou is also interested in 6'0, 175-pound defensive back Djimon Colbert, a three- to four-star recruit who played at Winnetonka high school (where Marquise Doherty is from) before switching to Bishop Miege, just across the state line in Kansas.