COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri football coaches have been winning games on the field this fall and are winning recruiting battles off of it.
The Tigers’ successful start to this 2013 season has opened the eyes of recruits across the country, as demonstrated by a pair of commitments from four-star recruits recently and by two other recruits expressing their interest via Twitter on Wednesday.
NCAA rules prohibit Mizzou coaches from discussing specific recruits, but coach Gary Pinkel and offensive coordinator Josh Henson both recently commented on the impact this season’s 9-1 start has had on the recruiting trail.
“It has been very, very positive,” Pinkel said. “That’s a benefit that happens from success. Last year was a very difficult year, but prior to that we had eight pretty good years here in a row. So it’s nice to have people interested in us and, obviously, the SEC helps, too.”
Henson said recruiting efforts in the wake of the Tigers’ strong sophomore SEC season have been very positive.
“I think that everything that was said about us last year about our program not being able to compete in the SEC, people can’t say that anymore,” he said. “So we got over that hump. We’re building. We’re putting money into things. So I think everything is positive and we’re getting a lot of positive responses. We have to continue to work and continue to get guys here to see what Mizzou has, and if we can do that, things will be good.”
You can cite Andy Bauer’s commitment on Nov. 4 as a turning point in the Tigers’ recent recruiting revival.
Two days after watching Mizzou top Tennessee at Memorial Stadium, the 6-foot-5, 305-pound offensive lineman from De Smet High School in suburban St. Louis announced on Twitter that he was committing to the Tigers.
Bauer, considered the top recruit in Missouri in the Class of 2014, had originally committed to the Tigers when he was a sophomore, then later backed off that early pledge following the Tigers’ rough 5-7 2012 season. He committed instead to Ole Miss in March.
That was tough for Tigers fans to stomach, watching the state’s top recruit commit to an SEC rival.
Running back Markel Smith, from nearby Vianney High, was also once a Missouri commitment but, like Bauer, backed off that pledge months ago and started looking at other schools.
On the day after Bauer’s commitment, it appeared that Smith was interested in recommitting to the Tigers. He instead pledged to Iowa and told a Rivals.com reporter that Missouri had “filled up.”
Mizzou already had commitments from Florida running backs Ish Witter and Trevon Walters.
A few days after Bauer’s commitment the Tigers received a pledge from four-star linebacker Brandon Lee from Indianapolis, who picked Missouri over Virginia Tech, Cal and Louisville.
Pinkel and his coaching staff have continued to try to add talent to this recruiting class, which is ranked 26th by Scout.com.
On Wednesday, Vincent Jackson Jr. announced via Twitter that he would be taking an official visit to Mizzou in December and wide receiver Frank Iheanacho announced on his Twitter account that he had received a scholarship offer from the Tigers.
Jackson, the son of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ wide receiver, is a 6-3, 240-pound linebacker in Tampa, Fla., with scholarship offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Miami, Oregon, Texas A&M and others. He is rated by Scout.com as a three-star prospect and the 62nd-best outside linebacker prospect in the Class of 2014.
Iheanacho is a 6-7, 215-pound wide receiver from Houston who also has scholarship offers from Texas A&M, LSU and Florida State, among others. He is a four-star prospect rated by Scout.com as the 17th-best wide receiver and 95th-best prospect in the senior class.
Jackson and Iheanacho are from two of the Tigers’ recruiting hotbeds — one old (Texas) and one fairly new (Florida).
“We made significant changes when we made the transition,” Pinkel said of Mizzou’s move to the SEC and the ramifications on recruiting. “We adjusted recruiters in the Atlanta area and south Georgia. We’re recruiting in Florida. I think it’s important. It’s great high school football.
“Obviously, you want to have a place in the geographical area where you play your games. That’s why that was very important to us. We’ll continue to recruit Texas as we always have, but certainly, we’ve had to expand out there and adjust. I think in time it will work well.”
Of Missouri’s 27 known verbal commitments, according to Scout.com, seven play their high school football in Missouri and seven play in Florida, with three each from Georgia and Tennessee, two from Texas and one apiece from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and Michigan. The Tigers also have a commitment from a junior college prospect in Mississippi.
While acknowledging that this year’s strong start has helped, Pinkel noted that success in recruiting is based more on consistency than results from one year to the next.
“BCS-wise percentage-wise, we’ve won pretty good over the last nine years compared to all BCS teams in the country, so I think the consistency of winning is important,” Pinkel said. “But it’s all about consistency. This year is good, it’s great, it’s fine and everything else. There’s a lot out there left and we don’t know where it’s going to go. It’s still about consistency of winning and earning respect, and that’s ongoing.”
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at email@example.com.