COLUMBIA — The Missouri football program had plenty to be happy about Wednesday.
Coach Gary Pinkel confirmed that it signed 23 recruits who had orally committed to the program. For the third year in a row, the Tigers signed the majority of the top players in its home state, which Pinkel likes to call the “lifeblood” of his recruiting.
Rivals.com ranked Missouri's recruiting class 21st in the nation, the highest the team has been ranked by the site since earning the No. 24 spot in 2008. The site ranks Missouri first in the Big 12 North, and fourth overall in the conference behind Texas (1), Oklahoma (2) and Texas A&M (3).
Schools like Texas and Oklahoma often sign higher ranked recruits than Missouri, but Pinkel said he was satisfied and that he wants to continue to raise the bar.
“Texas gets a lot of the recruits that they want,” Pinkel said at a press conference Wednesday at Mizzou Arena. "I think what you do is keep winning, and you keep breaking down the barriers. It’s not a magic wand. You have to keep winning.”
Some experts claimed this is the best recruiting class in the Pinkel era, including Gabe DeArmond, publisher of PowerMizzou.com.
"On paper they don’t have a player that is ranked below three stars, which has not happened in previous years,” DeArmond said by phone.
Missouri signed six players from the state who were all ranked among the top 11 recruits in the state by Rivals.com. Offensive lineman Nick Demien (from Timberland High School), defensive end Kony Ealy (New Madrid) and wide receiver Marcus Lucas (Liberty) were ranked in the top three.
Demien was the only Missouri recruit ranked in the top 100 in the nation by Rivals.com. He missed most of his senior season because of a knee injury but still managed to play in U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Demien is listed at 6 feet, 6 inches and 295 pounds, and J.P. Rock, publisher of ShowMeMizzou.com, said Demien was physically ready to play football at the college level.
“He is a man among boys,” Rock said. “He has great size and quickness, and he can play multiple positions on the offensive line.”
Last season, a lack of depth at quarterback forced Tigers starter Blaine Gabbert to continue to play after injuring his ankle. Missouri addressed the situation by signing Blaine Gabbert's younger brother Tyler as well as Texas recruit James Franklin early, and both are already enrolled in classes.
“As far as James Franklin and Tyler go, they will be vying for the No. 2 quarterback position,” Rock said. “(Blaine) Gabbert was playing with one leg the entire season. The whole season depended on Blaine’s health. Both of these guys can fill in when Gabbert leaves."
Like his brother, Tyler Gabbert originally committed to Nebraska but later decided on Missouri.
Tyler Gabbert is among four players who switched commitments to Missouri, along with tight end Matt Hoch of Harlan, Iowa, defensive back Daniel Easterly of Cass Tech High in Detroit, Mich., and defensive back Tristen Holt of Gilmer, Texas, High.
Missouri lost one commitment when defensive back Dexter McDonald of Rockhurst High in Kansas City decided on Kansas last week.
— the Associated Press contributed to this report.