COLUMBIA — It's taken months, but many of Gary Pinkel's questions are beginning to have answers.
First it was the draft. Who would stay? Who would go? And then it was Sheldon Richardson. He's coming. He's not coming. He's maybe coming. Why isn't he here? And as Missouri's coach and his staff went to bed Tuesday night, several questions remained.
- CORBIN BERKSTRESSER, QB, 6-3, 220, Lee's Summit, Mo. (Lee's Summit HS)
- MICHAEL BODDIE, OL, 6-6, 280, Gilmer, Texas (Gilmer HS)
- KENTRELL BROTHERS, LB, 6-1, 220, Guthrie, Okla. (Guthrie HS)
- CORTLAND BROWNING, DB, 6-2, 195, Tyler, Texas (Lee HS)
- TAYLOR CHAPPELL, OL, 6-6, 280, Canadian, Texas (Canadian HS)
- BRANDON DURANT, LB, 6-0, 205, Copperas Cove, Texas (Copperas Cove HS)
- CLARENCE GREEN, LB, 6-0, 210, Clute, Texas (Brazoswood HS)
- BRANDON HANNAH, TE, 6-3, 235, St. Louis, Mo. (Chaminade HS)
- DAVID JOHNSON, DB, 6-0, 190, Spring, Texas (Spring HS)
- GERRAND JOHNSON, DL, 6-2, 285, Rayville, La. (Rayville HS)
- WESLEY LEFTWICH, WR, 6-2, 200, Columbia, Mo. (Hickman HS)
- CONNOR McGOVERN, OL, 6-4, 280, Fargo, N.D. (Shanley HS)
- BRAD McNULTY, OL, 6-3, 305, Allen, Texas (Allen HS)
- ERNEST PAYTON, DB, 6-3, 195, College Station, Texas (A&M Consolidated HS)
- SHANE RAY, DL, 6-3, 230, Shawnee Mission, Kan. (Bishop Miege HS)
- SHELDON RICHARDSON, DL, 6-4, 290, St. Louis, Mo. (Gateway Tech HS/College of the Sequoias)
- IAN SIMON, DB, 5-11, 180, Mansfield, Texas (Legacy HS)
By early afternoon Wednesday, many of those questions had been answered in the form of 17 signed commitments from members of the team's 2011 recruiting class. Although uncertainty remains (the team's quarterback job is up for grabs, and junior college transfer Richardson still has not arrived on campus) things are beginning to look more clear.
“This is always an exciting day for our program and for these newest members of our family at Mizzou,” Pinkel said in a release. “We feel very good that this group addresses our biggest needs on the football field, but just as importantly, they are high-quality young men who will represent our program and this university the right way.”
By the numbers, the 2011 recruiting class is far from Missouri’s typical group. The class, the smallest Pinkel has recruited at Missouri, comprises nine players from Texas, four from Missouri and one each from Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and North Dakota.
Having more recruits from Texas than any other state is not unprecedented in Missouri recruiting. Last year, Pinkel and his staff signed the same number of Texas athletes but had six from Missouri. However, Pinkel is aware of the shift toward heavy recruiting in Texas, and he thinks it's a positive development for his team.
“Missouri obviously is the most important state, but that’s (Texas) a place where there’s a lot of athletes,” Pinkel said.
Pinkel cited the team’s history of success with players from the state. Successful Texas natives like Danario Alexander, Sean Weatherspoon, Ziggy Hood and Chase Daniel are all currently playing in the NFL, and some of the team's most prominent players this season (Michael Egnew, Henry Josey, Jacquies Smith and Jerrell Jackson, to name a few) are from Texas.
Pinkel said that he has “five and a half” members of his staff (five exclusively and one who spends some of his time there) recruit in Texas, and that recent conference realignment has only strengthened the Tigers’ position in the state. Now that Missouri will play each team in the Big 12 every year, the Tigers will be traveling more to the state and might even see a future recruiting boost.
Although the 2011 class did not boast as many talented athletes from Missouri, Pinkel said that the team is biding its time until next year, when there will be a large number of highly ranked recruits out of the state. Even so, two of the most talked about members of this year’s Tiger recruiting class are Missouri natives: Richardson and Corbin Berkstresser.
Richardson, who was originally part of the Tigers’ 2009 recruiting class, will join the team after spending two years at the College of the Sequoias in California. Although the team hoped that he would be able to be in Columbia for spring practices, Pinkel said that it is most likely that Richardson will arrive this summer. However, he said he has no doubt that the defensive lineman will eventually join the team.
Berkstresser, a quarterback from Lee’s Summit, was the first member of this year’s recruiting class to sign with Missouri in June 2009. At 6 feet, 3 inches, 218 pounds, he has been compared to former Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, and Pinkel said that Berkstresser could definitely play a role on next year’s team. Although current freshman James Franklin will go into spring practices as the team’s starting quarterback, Pinkel said that nothing is certain.
“The best player plays,” Pinkel said. “That’s just how we do it. Our players respect it. We have a lot of examples where we show that there’s no pecking order here.”
Other Missouri football notes
Gabbert, Aldon Smith and Kevin Rutland have been invited to participate in the 2011 NFL combine, which will take place in Indianapolis beginning Feb. 23. Center Tim Barnes, who some analysts believe could be one of the top centers in the draft, was not invited.