Missouri’s first two commitments in the Class of 2019 came from the far north (Michigan) and far south (Florida). The third, which came Wednesday, came from somewhere more familiar.
Jack Buford, a standout offensive lineman from Lutheran North in St. Louis, announced his commitment to the Tigers at a school ceremony Wednesday afternoon.
Buford made an official visit to Missouri last weekend. He selected the Tigers over offers from Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi, Michigan, Texas and numerous other schools from Utah to Toledo.
“It was very intense. That’s probably the best way to describe it,” Carl Reed, Buford’s coach at Lutheran North, said about Buford’s recruitment via phone interview Wednesday. “You had all the top programs in the country coming after him. He had a very tough decision to make.”
Reed said Buford checks in at 6-foot-4 and 325 pounds. He believes Buford is athletic enough to play tackle at the next level but expects Missouri to start Buford at guard due to his strength. 247Sports rates Buford as a four-star prospect and Rivals lists him as a three-star player.
The difference for Missouri in Buford’s commitment, Reed said, was offensive line coach Brad Davis, who was hired this offseason to replace Glen Elarbee.
Buford said that he bonded with Davis over Facetime video calls, during which the two would rap together and Buford would speak with Davis’ children.
“I loved Coach Davis the first time I met him,” Buford said. “I’m like, ‘This guy is great.’ He turned out to be everything I thought he was.”
Danny Heitert of scouting service STC Grid Reports compared Buford to Marquis Hayes, a lineman who graduated from Pattonville in 2017 and is now at Oklahoma.
“Buford kills it on game days,” said Heitert via text message. “It’s against (Class 2) competition but he decleats the defensive tackles & (inside linebackers) he competes against.”
Before Buford, Missouri hadn’t received a commitment from a St. Louis-area high school player since 2016. It had five in that class: tight end Brandon Scales of Ballwin; kicker Tucker McCann from O’Fallon, Illinois; offensive lineman Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms from East St. Louis, Illinois; wide receiver Harry Ballard from Florissant; and safety Jerod Alton, the last Tiger commit to come from the city of St. Louis. (Ballard and Antar Thompson, both in the Class of 2018, attended high school in St. Louis but played at junior colleges before signing with Missouri.)
“Missouri could have found an equivalent blocker (out-of-state) and have been fine,” Heitert said, “but this does interrupt the troublesome St. Louis narrative, which is no small thing.”
About being the first player from St. Louis to commit to Missouri in three years, Buford said, “It took a lot of planning and praying and waiting, and I did all of that and was patient with it. Coach (Barry) Odom and Coach Davis and Coach (Derek) Dooley did a great job recruiting me, especially Coach Davis. I’m not basing my recruitment based off of other players — I feel like a lot of people do that.”
Reed was impressed with how Missouri, led by coach Barry Odom, has connected with players in St. Louis this offseason.
“Mizzou really rolled their sleeves up and they really worked really hard to repair some of the relationships in St. Louis and made sure to open up St. Louis again as a gateway of talent for them,” Reed said. ... “It just was a commitment to really getting guys up on campus, being a little more personable, and I think that Barry Odom and his staff have done a phenomenal job with the way they’ve recruited this class.”
Buford thinks if he can convince one or two more St. Louis-area players to come with him to Missouri, they could kickstart a recruiting wave.
“Be a hometown hero,” said Buford, echoing his recruiting pitch. “There ain’t nothing like playing in your home state. I have a feeling if I can get at least a guy or two, we can help turn it around and we can do some things here that they’re going to remember and they’re going to love us.”
Lutheran North was a Class 2 juggernaut last season, steamrolling seven local Missouri schools and two out-of-state teams to finish the regular season undefeated. They made it to the Class 2 MSHSAA semifinals, where they lost 7-6 to Lamar – who went on to win a state-record seventh-straight championship.
Missouri previously got 2019 commitments from Aidan Harrison, a defensive back from Flushing, Michigan; and Shamar Nash, a wide receiver from Bradenton, Florida.