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Can Missouri jump-start recruiting with a Night at the Zou?

‘Show Me’ results, and Mizzou’s prospects rise significantly.

Missouri’s 2018 Night at the Zou is July 21st.

For most Missourians, a trip to the Zoo means heading to Kansas City, St. Louis, or Omaha. For dozens of local football prospects interested in playing for Mizzou, however, a Night at the Zou means a recruiting camp in Columbia this Friday evening.

Athletes from St. Louis will be a priority at this second annual event. Standout defensive linemen Michael Thompson and Ronnie Perkins will be in attendance are unlikely to participate in many workouts, having demonstrated their athletic aptitude in previous recruiting camps that saw them rise into the national spotlight.

A contingent from the state of Alabama, led by Missouri quarterback commit James Foster, should also be in Columbia. Athlete Cam Taylor, running back La’Dedric Jackson, defensive tackle Alfred Thomas, and offensive lineman Tank Jenkins have already earned offers, but the coaching staff will be looking to further establish strong relationships and gauge their reaction toward Mizzou’s campus and culture.

And lest we forget linebacker Chad Bailey from Missouri City, Texas. Bailey, a four-star impact recruit who could fill a position of need. He would coincidentally continue the Tigers’ connection with the city where J’Mon Moore and incoming recruit Terry Petry played in high school.

A new coach’s first full recruiting class is supposed to be his best. David Morrison laid out the expectations for a first-year head coach’s first recruiting class. Barry Odom’s 2017 class finished about seven places behind even the least ambitious projections.

The first Night at the Zou resulted in commitments from Larry Borom, Aubrey Miller, Jamal Brooks, Case Cook, and Joshuah Bledsoe; that class finished ranked 48th.

2018 defensive end Daniel Parker Jr. originally committed at this event as well but decommitted later to explore the recruiting landscape. Missouri will have another shot at landing Parker — the Tigers are one of final six schools. He’s also expected to make it to Columbia this weekend.

Missouri’s current class sits at four commits (Foster, Jalen Knox, Danny Gray, Tyrone Collins) heading into this second Night at the Zou, five if you count Harry Ballard II*, a late addition to Barry Odom’s first class who had to detour through JUCO to raise his academics.

The outlook for Missouri’s 2018 recruiting class has been trending downward, especially if you read the headlines:

July 3rd: Mizzou is way behind on football commits, but that *should* change in July. Maybe. Possibly.
June 19th: Missouri’s in-state recruiting obviously matters, but does it match angst levels?
June 15th: Missouri will sign football players during National Signing Day ‘18
June 6th: Barry Odom has to win with talent evaluation
May 24th: Missouri’s “Tiger 10” dream is dying

Even though the Tigers are sitting at a similar number of commits as last year, Missouri took a gamble by targeting so many high-profile local recruits and giving them the leeway to take their time. As pointed out in another David Morrison article, “it behooves [SEC teams] to get as much of your signing class committed as early as you can.”

Building impressive recruiting classes is the lifeblood of any team seeking to win championships. There is no debate about the importance of recruiting to a program’s growth, Odom himself acknowledged that on day one. The more highly ranked recruits that play for Missouri, the better competition is, the better the depth is, and misses in talent evaluation or development are diminished.

If Missouri can string together another run of commits following this year’s camp, the Tigers could be in a position to bounce back from an underwhelming first act. Perhaps some of the former football greats participating in Saturday’s Carroll and Bowers Alumni Game can swing by to help. Having current commits like Foster and Jalen Knox in attendance is certainly a plus.

If the Tigers can approximate last year’s efforts they would be able to move up the current rankings about 15 spots and have a shot to duplicate last year’s efforts by closing strong during the December and February signing windows.

If they can improve upon last year in both quantity and quality, say with a haul of Thompson, Perkins, Thomas, Bailey, Jenkins, La’Dedric Jackson and Cam Taylor, then Odom’s second act may end up worth the price of admission.

* Invariably Ballard’s commitment will be used to shore up the recruiting rankings much like it was for Chase Abbington (2013, 2015), Nate Strong (2015, 2016) and Greg Taylor (2014, 2016).