COLUMBIA - For the second straight year, Missouri’s football team kept one of the nation’s top high school recruits within state borders. Sheldon Richardson, a defensive end and tight end from Gateway Tech High School in St. Louis, signed his Letter of Intent to play for Missouri on Wednesday.
Last year, the state's top player, quarterback Blaine Gabbert, chose Missouri after initially committing to Nebraska. On Wednesday, Richardson chose to stay in his home state, rejecting offers from multiple top-tier schools, including Miami, Oklahoma and Florida. He visited Miami last weekend and didn’t make his decision until 7 a.m. Wednesday.
The University of Missouri announced the signing of the following high school and community college recruits to letters of intent Wednesday. List includes name, position, size and hometown, and it is arranged according to the number of stars the player received out of a possible five from Rivals.com
Sheldon Richardson, TE, 6-4, 275, St. Louis.
Joshua Tatum, LB, 6-1, 235, Oakland, Calif. *
Brayden Burnett, DL, 6-3, 240, Southlake, Texas
Blaine Dalton, QB, 6-1, 190, Blue Springs.
Kendial Lawrence, TB, 5-9 185, Rockwall, Texas
Jack Meiners, OL, 6-6, 305, St. Louis.
T.J. Moe, DB, 6-0, 190, O’Fallon.
Jasper Simmons, DB, 6-1, 205, Pensacola, Fla. *
Jaleel Clark, WR, 6-5, 210, Allentown, Pa.
Chris Freeman, OL, 6-8, 350, Trotwood, Ohio
Ashton Glaser, QB, 6-2, 210, Springdale, Ark.
Jarrell Harrison, DB, 6-2, 210, Las Vegas *
Kerwin Stricker, WR, 6-2, 195, Washington, Mo.
Adam Burton, LB, 6-2, 235, Lee’s Summit
Ty Phillips, DL, 6-3, 250, East St. Louis, Ill.
Alex Sanders, TE, 6-5, 220, Springfield, Mo.
Andrew Wilson, LB, 6-4, 230, Peculiar
Tavon Bolden, LB, 6-2, 210, Houston
Donovan Bonner, DB, 6-2, 230, Dallas
Justin Britt, OL, 6-6, 270, Lebanon, Mo.
Marvin Foster, DL, 6-2, 265, Fort Worth, Texas
Mark Hill, OL, 6-6, 260, Branson
Michael Sam, DL, 6-3, 230, Hitchcock, Texas
L’Damian Washington, WR, 6-4, 180, Shreveport, La.
Matt White, DB, 6-0, 180, Dallas
* - denotes junior college transfer
Source: The Associated Press
How close was he to signing with Miami?
“Fifty-fifty. It was up in the air,” said Richardson during a phone interview shortly after signing his Letter of Intent.
Richardson, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound senior ranked the No. 4 overall player in the nation by Rivals.com, said it was difficult to turn down Miami’s warm weather and beaches, but he wanted to stay close to home.
“It just came down to which school I would enjoy more and have a better college experience,” Richardson said. “It (MU) just felt like home.”
Richardson is one of 25 players in Missouri’s 2009 class, ranked No. 41 in the nation. Last year, Rivals.com ranked Missouri’s class No. 25.
“Overall, I’d say it’s similar to what Missouri has done most years under Gary Pinkel,” said Gabe DeArmond, publisher of Rivals.com’s PowerMizzou.com.
After finishing No. 4 and No. 19 in the Associated Press polls the past two years, some fans might have expected more.
“There’s two ways to look at that,” said DeArmond in a phone interview Tuesday. “I think number one is, it’s gotten them to this point, so it works well, and the coaches’ evaluation system obviously is solid.
“The other way to look at it is, Missouri’s coming off the best two-year run in school history, and I think it’s fair to say some fans expected on paper for this class to rank a little higher.”
Rivals.com ranks Missouri’s class eighth in the Big 12, behind Nebraska (4) and Kansas (5) in the Big 12 North.
“Facts are facts. It’s really tough to crack that upper echelon in the Big 12 in recruiting,” said Jeremy Crabtree, national recruiting editor for Rivals.com, in a phone interview Tuesday. “…Some people might look at it and say, ‘Gosh, they did a bad job this year.’ I don’t look at it that way.”
Pinkel doesn’t either. He has always placed greater emphasis on Missouri’s evaluation system than rankings done by Web sites or publications.
“I don’t know whether we’re ranked fifth in the nation or 80th in the nation,” said Pinkel at a press conference Wednesday. “That really means nothing to me.”
Pinkel said Missouri’s evaluation system is thorough and involves several steps.
“This is what high school coaches tell me, that you guys do the most thorough job of evaluating (recruits) than anybody that’s ever come into my school,” Pinkel said.
MU signed 10 players from Missouri, including four of the top 10 as rated by Rivals.com. Defensive back T.J. Moe (Fort Zumwalt West), quarterback Blaine Dalton (Blue Springs South) and wide receiver Kerwin Stricker (Washington) ranked in the top 10.
“The state of Missouri is our lifeblood,” Pinkel said. “We’ve made tremendous progress there.”
Pinkel said the team’s goal for players in Missouri is to sign 80 percent of the players MU offers scholarships to.
“(We’re) never satisfied,” Pinkel said about in-state recruiting. “I think we’re doing a good job, but we want to do better.”
Missouri continued its practice of recruiting players from Texas, signing seven players from the football-rich state. Running back Kendial Lawrence and defensive end Brayden Burnett are Missouri’s highest-rated Texas recruits.
Experts say Lawrence, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound first team All-State selection from Rockwall-Heath High School, was overlooked by schools in Texas.
“Kendial Lawrence is probably the most underrated player in the state of Texas,” said James Bryant, publisher of Scout.com’s InsideMizzou.com, in a phone interview Tuesday.
Burnett is from Southlake’s Carroll High School, where former MU quarterback Chase Daniel starred.
The Tigers signed one player from eight different states, including California, Florida and Ohio. Springdale (Ark.) quarterback Ashton Glaser, along with Dalton, will compete with Gabbert for the starting quarterback position.
Richardson was Missouri’s only five-star recruit, as rated by Rivals.com. Missouri had one four-star recruit and 15 three-star recruits. The four-star recruit is Joshua Tatum, a linebacker from City College of San Francisco. Tatum was on USC’s team for a year but never played because of an injury.
One of the day’s biggest questions was which position Richardson will play. When Pinkel was told Richardson said he wants to play on both sides of the ball, Pinkel said, “He probably should talk to me about that,” drawing several laughs.
But Pinkel said Richardson playing defensive end and tight end isn’t out of the question.
“I think what you have to do is get him in and work with him,” Pinkel said. “I’ve seen guys play both ways sometimes in certain situations. Certainly, he’s athletic enough to do it.”
Although fans might be upset by the rankings of Missouri’s new class, keeping Richardson in Missouri is a victory.
“I think he’s a tremendous athlete, and I could have four assistant coaches fighting over him to have him play,” Pinkel said.