Mizzou’s SEC recruiting woes starting to show

ST. LOUIS – A high school running back pressed send on Twitter, and the most recent blow was delivered.

Sure, there’s still a chance Markel Smith — the three-star recruit at Vianney High School in St. Louis — might be a Tiger in 2014. And yes, verbal commitments (and de-commitments) are as unreliable as their definition: promises made by teenagers. But Smith’s announcement via Twitter that he has reneged on his commitment to Mizzou is the latest example of the Tigers’ rough start at recruiting in the Southeastern Conference.

Smith isn’t the only 2014 prospect from St. Louis to recently stiff arm Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and his staff in order to explore other options. DeSmet four-star offensive lineman Andy Bauer also balked; he has since pledged to play for Ole Miss. According to Scout, Mizzou is now down to three 2014 commits, none of which currently hold offers to play elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the Tigers will start the 2013 season with a recruiting class Scout ranked 36th in the country. That’s the second-lowest (Kentucky claimed 39th) in the 14-team SEC, a league that landed six teams inside the recruiting service’s top-10 and 10 inside its top-25.

“We believe in our evaluation system,” Pinkel told reporters during this year’s National Signing Day. “I say it every year and I’ll say it again — we never look at any stars on any players. It’s never happened.”

But don’t let that lead you to believe Pinkel would turn away top talent that took the slightest interest in his team — if there happened to be any. His staff was ruthless in its pursuit of No. 1 recruit Dorial Green-Beckham as Mizzou prepared for its first season in the SEC. There was everything from Pinkel’s helicopter visit to Hillcrest High School in Springfield, Mo., to the ordering of Green-Beckham’s favorite sushi during his official visit.

It worked, and when Green-Beckham inked his letter of intent during a national TV broadcast on the first day of February in 2012, Missouri seemed to tell the SEC it would go toe-to-toe for recruits in the biggest, baddest league.

That has not happened.

Any leftover DGB buzz fizzled with last year’s 5-7 finish, and all Mizzou can show since the now-sophomore receiver signed is a seemingly lackluster 2013 class and a shaky start to the 2014 haul — one that just saw a second in-state player jump ship before he ever truly got on board.