COLUMBIA — The Missouri football team did not exactly make a splash on national signing day.
Rivals.com ranks the Tigers' 2013 recruiting class last in the Southeastern Conference. Fourteenth out of 14.
On that list, Missouri is behind all the conference's bottom dwellers. Even Kentucky.
It didn't help that Ezekiel Elliot, the highly touted running back from St. Louis, announced at 4 p.m. that he had chosen Ohio State over Missouri.
But at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel seemed pleased with his haul of football recruits this year.
He says he doesn't care how many five-star or four-star prospects he signs, even though last year he cheered and raised his arms in triumph after landing five-star prospect Dorial Green-Beckham.
This year, running back Chase Abbington is the highest rated Missouri prospect and the lone four-star prospect in the new class of Tiger recruits.
Pinkel said Wednesday that coaches at Missouri evaluate players differently than others, and he believes in the way he and his staff do it.
Missouri cornerbacks coach Cornell Ford agreed with Pinkel. Ford recruited some of the top players in this year's class: Abbington and defensive tackle Josh Augusta from Peoria, Ill.
Ford said that most of the star ratings are based on the attention players are getting rather than the actual talent of the players.
"I know a lot of five-stars who didn't become anything," Ford said.
Jeremy Maclin, a former Rivals.com four-star prospect, did become something in his career at Missouri. The former Tigers star receiver and current Philadelphia Eagle was present at the press conference and backed the Missouri coaches' philosophy.
Maclin pointed out that former Missouri teammates Danario Alexander and Sean Weatherspoon were both just two-star prospects. Both Alexander and Weatherspoon became stars at Missouri and currently play in the NFL.
"You can't really get caught up in recruiting rankings," Maclin said. "Obviously, everybody wants to see all of the five-stars, and all of the No. 1 rankings and stuff like that, but you still have to go out and perform."
Even without looking at rankings, though, Missouri falls behind the conference in recruiting. The Tigers signed fewer recruits (20) than any other program in the SEC.
Still, the low number did not cause panic for the Missouri coaches. The Tigers had 19 recruits in 2012 and just 17 in 2011.
"I think all of the classes are based on what your needs are," Ford said. "This class is right about what we thought it would be."
Quantity does not necessarily mean quality, but it couldn't hurt to have more players. Alabama brought in 25 recruits. While Missouri's eastern division foes, Georgia and Vanderbilt had 32 and 26, respectively.
Texas A&M, which had a much more successful first year in the SEC on the field than Missouri, signed 33 players in its class.
Missouri coaches said they have started the process of shifting recruiting efforts to SEC territory, though 11 of the 20 players that signed are from Missouri.
Ford said he expects challenges in the coming years as the Tigers focus more and more on prospects coveted by other SEC schools, but he didn't have to battle as much in recruiting this year.
"I think we may have wanted maybe one more tight end, maybe one more wide receiver," Ford said. "But for the most part, we were able to fill each spot."
Regardless of rankings, Missouri coaches insist that their needs are filled and that they are excited about this year's class.
"You really don't know about how successful a kid is until four or five years down the road," Ford said.
After a 5-7 season, Missouri can only hope the 2013 recruiting class fares better than the 2008 or 2009 ones did.