COLUMBIA, Mo. – In the end, the highly-touted “Tiger 10” netted just one Tiger.
Missouri didn’t have to look far for talent in the Class of 2018, one of the best years for talent in the Show-Me State since recruiting services started keeping track. The Tigers embraced it, and, after getting just one in-state recruit in its 2017 class, Missouri went so far as to host the state’s top 10 prospects for a special “junior day” campus visit shortly after last year’s signing day.
“The 2018 class in the state of Missouri is, obviously, in my opinion, one of the best classes that I’ve ever seen or remembered,” Odom said in February 2017.
Six new players signed with the Tigers on Wednesday, which is still considered National Signing Day even though much of its excitement was sucked away by the early signing period in December. Nineteen players signed with Missouri during the early signing period.
“This was always a day where everybody woke up early and you put on your nice stuff and you literally went for four hours — you’re calling, you’re talking, you’re congratulating, and every once in a while you’re devastated,” offensive coordinator Derek Dooley said during a press conference Wednesday. “It was a little anticlimactic this year, a little uneventful.”
The signing period doesn’t expire until April, so there’s still a chance for the Tigers to add to its 2018 class. But of the 10 that famously visited MU last February, just one – Blue Springs defensive end Daniel Parker, who signed in December – ended up at Missouri. The other nine signed elsewhere.
Anticlimactic, indeed. But maybe it isn’t that cut-and-dried.
“The tough thing in sports is there’s so many false narratives, straw-man arguments. You lump players in state as one unified group, but they all have singular mindsets,” said A.J. Ofodile, who was hired as Missouri’s director of recruiting in May 2016 and promoted to wide receivers coach in January.
“To lump them into a collective,” Ofodile continued, “that there’s one way to recruit this collective, for me, it’s illogical. It doesn’t make sense. You recruit each individual prospect and do your best with trying to determine how to connect with them, how to present your university to them as best as possible. … I think we have a pretty good system in terms of how we evaluate players and how we try to connect with them. Obviously, we didn’t do as well as we would have liked to in-state this year, but I think, overall, I think we did as well as we would have liked in terms of the players we brought into our program.”
Odom also weighed in, emphasizing that in the future Missouri would go after “guys in-state with as many people on our staff as we can.”
“We’re going to get there,” he said. “The sooner we identify guys and get them on campus and have real relationships with them, it’s going to turn. We’ll go to work on next year’s class and the year after that. I like the direction we’re going to be going with how we’re structuring some different things in our recruiting department.”
The major recruiting services did little to clear the gloom. Missouri failed to crack the national top 40 on any of the top three sites, clocking in at No. 41 per Rivals, No. 41 per ESPN and No. 42 per 247Sports as of Wednesday night. Two of the three sites (ESPN and 247Sports) ranked the Tigers 13th in the Southeastern Conference, ahead of only Arkansas, which is still finding its footing after hiring Chad Morris on Dec. 6.
So what did the Tigers come away with in its 2018 class? Some serious size, a lot of speed and a potential quarterback of the future.
The biggest splash in the class was the addition of Lindsey Scott Jr. (5-foot-11, 210 pounds), a native of Zachary, La., who quarterbacked East Mississippi Community College to a junior college national championship this fall after leaving LSU in August. He’ll have three years to play three seasons at Missouri.
The Tigers started recruiting Scott during the season, meaning Dooley had to make up ground when he took the offensive coordinator job Jan. 5. They caught up quickly, thanks in part to the connections Dooley made as an assistant at LSU from 2000-04.
Scott figures to challenge for the backup spot behind Drew Lock this season along with fellow sophomore Micah Wilson and redshirt freshman Taylor Powell.
“He’d been through the recruiting cycle before,” Odom said during a press conference Wednesday. “He wasn’t interested in a fresh coat of paint. He’s into substance and going to work. He’s going to make our program better.”
Missouri ended up with five in-state recruits in the 2018 class. Parker is the headliner, but none is bigger than 6-8, 300-pound offensive tackle Bobby Lawrence of St. Joseph.
Lawrence was the only player from the Show-Me State to sign Wednesday. He’s one of four players in the class who is 6-6 or taller.
“It’s been an emphasis on both sides of the ball – just getting bigger overall. It’s really the frame size we’re looking at,” Ofodile said. “... In this league, you just got to be big.”
Lawrence was one of two offensive linemen to sign Wednesday. He was joined by Glendale, Ariz., native Xavier Delgado (6-5, 300), the only member of the class who primarily played guard in high school.
Missouri also added depth to its defensive line Wednesday with Jatorian Hansford (6-4, 222) of Forsyth, Ga. The Tigers list Hansford as a defensive end, but his primary position in high school was outside linebacker.
Hansford was committed to Missouri in December but did not sign during the early signing period, and the Tigers continued to recruit Hansford through the end of December and all of January.
“It was rough. It was long,” defensive line coach Brick Haley said. “The biggest portion of it was, you’re trying to still recruit a guy and you’re trying to get ready for a bowl game. Now you gotta work a little harder to make sure you don’t lose that communication and that connection you had through the season.”
The Tigers avoided the last-second shenanigans that cost them last year when Jafar Armstrong and Elijah Gardiner ditched their commitments to Missouri less than a week before signing day.
Odom was on the receiving end this year. Lawrence flipped his commitment from Iowa State to Missouri on Monday. Linebacker Nick Bolton (6-0, 227) of Frisco, Texas, walked away from his commitment to Washington in October and pledged to the Tigers on Monday, too.
They couldn't top running back Tyler Badie (5-9, 170) of Eads, Tenn., who was committed to Memphis for 18 months going into a school signing ceremony Wednesday morning. When the time came to sign, he reached toward a Memphis hat sitting on the table – but instead grabbed the Missouri hat next to it and signed with the black-and-gold Tigers.
It was a bit of consolation for the lackluster end to a once-promising recruiting era.