COLUMBIA — David Yost has never considered the possibility. What if blue-chip quarterback Ryan Perrilloux had never committed to Texas? What if quarterback Chase Daniel, a former standout at Southlake (Texas) Carroll High School, had received an early scholarship offer from the Longhorns and lived a childhood dream?
What if Daniel's career at Missouri had never happened?
Yost, Missouri's recruiting coordinator and quarterbacks coach, hunched forward and dipped his mop-like blond hair toward the tile floor after hearing the question. On a recent Monday afternoon, he stood inside the lobby of the Mizzou Athletic Training Complex, his back turned from a large glass panel that revealed a view of Memorial Stadium rising from across Providence Road. Daniel has led Missouri to heights that rival the program's golden age during the 1960s: The Tigers' first 12-win season, their highest Heisman Trophy finish (fourth), their first No. 1 ranking since 1960 and their first New Year's Day bowl game since the 1970 Orange Bowl. Daniel has accomplished a lot.
"Chase Patton would probably be the guy," Yost said. "Hopefully, Blaine Gabbert would be here competing and there probably would have been some other recruits between the years. It would be quite a bit different.
"I've never thought of that, and I don't like to think about that."
He doesn't have to. In February 2005, Perrilloux stunned Texas coach Mack Brown and offensive coordinator Greg Davis by choosing LSU on NCAA Signing Day. The summer before, Perrilloux had committed to the Longhorns and remained solid in his decision throughout the fall. Texas coaches assumed they had secured the 6-foot-3, 227-pound athlete from LaPlace, La., whom some considered to be the nation's top high school prospect. Consequently, Texas coaches inquired about Daniel's interest only after Perrilloux decided to attend LSU. Daniel declined, choosing to stay true to Missouri. Perrilloux followed a much different path.
"I just knew he was going to Texas all along, but when he pulled on that LSU hat, it was amazing to me," said Larry Dauterive, Perrilloux's coach at East St. John High School in Reserve, La. "It really messed Texas up, especially in this state. I don't think they recruit this state anymore.
"In retrospect, it was probably the wrong decision."
Dauterive had no reason to suspect Perrilloux wasn't going to Texas. The night before NCAA Signing Day, Dauterive quizzed Perrilloux about his intentions for a final time. Perrilloux remained firm.
"Tomorrow, I'm going to be a Longhorn," Dauterive remembers Perrilloux saying.
Dauterive was driving Perrilloux home after a basketball game at East St. John High. Their final discussion before Perrilloux made the most important decision of his young life marked a curious journey's end. During the summer, Dauterive had received a call from Perrilloux who was attending the Elite 11 Quarterbacks Camp in California with top recruits such as Daniel and Mission Viejo (Calif.) High School prospect Mark Sanchez, now at USC. Some campers had started to make their college choices. Perrilloux wanted to commit, too.
He wanted to go to Texas.
"It's awful early to do that," Dauterive remembers telling him. "You have 100-some offers. You need to take your time."
"Everyone out here is committing," Dauterive remembers Perrilloux saying.
Perrilloux established himself as one of the nation's most-promising talents. In 2004, he was named USA Today's national offensive player of the year. As a senior, he had accounted for 69 touchdowns and more than 5,000 yards of total offense. He had charmed traditional powers such as Michigan, Florida, LSU and Miami with his mobility. Some envisioned him toying with opposing defenses with an athletic build that resembled star quarterback Michael Vick's. His future appeared limitless. Texas coaches were enamored when they learned of Perrilloux's intention to call Austin his new home.
Come NCAA Signing Day, the stage awaited its star. At East St. John High, three caps were placed on a table: Texas, Mississippi State and LSU. Television cameras switched on. A crowd milled around the spectacle. Everyone expected Perrilloux to make his Texas commitment official.
Then, a twist. Perrilloux slipped on the LSU cap over his fuzzy black hair. The Texas cap just sat there, ignored.
"I told Texas I wasn't coming to Austin the day of Signing Day," Perrilloux said.
"That night before Signing Day, me and my family sat down and we just went over all the variables.
"I just realized I didn't want to be away from home. You know, Austin is a long way from home (about eight hours from Reserve). I called Coach Davis that morning and told him. He was upset, but he accepted it, and I decided to go to LSU."
Said Dauterive: "I was the most surprised guy in the world."
In the meantime, Yost and the Missouri coaching staff weren't sleeping easy. For some time, there had been rumors that newly named LSU coach Les Miles had been making progress with Perrilloux. Miles had recruited Perrilloux when he coached at Oklahoma State. Rumors grew that if Perrilloux were to sign with LSU, Texas would make a run at Daniel.
For Missouri's staff, Daniel had become the centerpiece of the Tigers' future plans. At the time, record-setting quarterback Brad Smith was entering his senior year. Rock Bridge High School quarterback Chase Patton had highlighted Missouri's 2004 recruiting class, but Daniel offered improved accuracy over Patton and more knowledge of the spread offense, which offensive coordinator Dave Christensen planned to install later that spring.
"All those things make you nervous," Yost said. "We were sitting there with a great, great prospect in the recruiting class and there's a chance somebody might come in on him that we know he had been interested in.
"We talked to him, and he said, ‘Coach, there's no question. I'm a Missouri Tiger. I've been a Missouri Tiger since I've committed. I'm not switching for anything.'
"We see him as a man of his word. There are some guys who will tell you, ‘Oh, I'm not visiting there, Coach.' ... But no, they were on a visit to another school. With Chase, when he said, ‘Coach, I'm coming to Missouri,' ... that was the type of kid he was and the personality he always had. When (Signing Day) came around and the fax came in, it solidified that."
Texas had been too late.
Yost can chuckle about the Perrilloux and Daniel saga now. It's Texas week, and he knew the questions would come.
Since being named Missouri's starter in 2006, Daniel has become one of the most successful quarterbacks in program history. Last year, he was named the Big 12 Conference offensive player of the year. Also in 2007, he was named a Davey O'Brien and Walter Camp finalist. Entering this season, some experts considered him to be a Heisman Trophy favorite.
In the meantime, Perrilloux's road has been littered with pitfalls. At LSU, he sat behind quarterbacks JaMarcus Russell, an eventual No. 1 NFL draft pick by the Oakland Raiders, and Matt Flynn, now with the Green Bay Packers. He became undisciplined. Reports suggested Perrilloux missed classes, workouts and team meetings. Last spring, LSU's coaching staff dismissed Perrilloux, saying in a release, "He didn't fulfill his obligations as an LSU student-athlete."
He has fallen far from his once-bright football future. Now he starts for Jacksonville (Ala.) State, part of the lower Football Championship Subdivision.
"I live for the future. I don't look back on the past," Perrilloux said. "I'm just trying to move on from all the bad decisions that I have made.
"I just learned that I needed to make more of my own decisions. Basically, all my decisions were made not by me, but by my family and other people around me. I believe that as I grew older, I realized that, maybe sometimes, if I would have just stuck with my first (decision), things probably would have turned out to be different.
"I keep up with all the guys that I met at the Elite 11 camp. I wish that they all do well. I don't ever think that he (Daniel) is there because of me. I just think he made the decision to go to Missouri, and he's doing well."
Daniel is. Above Yost hangs a banner of Daniel celebrating a touchdown against Nebraska last year. Daniel remained true to Missouri, even after Texas made an impromptu offer after Perrilloux's surprising move.
Yost knew Daniel would be successful wherever he signed. He is glad Daniel signed with Missouri.
"I don't know much about Ryan. You read the stories and hear about that stuff, but I think Chase Daniel would have been very successful wherever he was playing quarterback, just like I think he will be successful at the next level playing quarterback no matter what they do offensively," Yost said.
"Just his personality, the type of competitor he is, the type of individual he is with how hard he works, he was going to be really good whether he was at Missouri or if he was playing at Texas, he was going to be a good player ... helping them win a lot of games, which is what he is doing for us."