COLUMBIA — Gary Pinkel is happy. Excited, even. So are offensive coordinator Josh Henson, defensive coordinator Dave Steckel and the rest of Missouri's assistant coaches. In fact, ask any college football coach around the country how he feels about the players he signed on National Signing Day, and it's not hard to find one who doesn't feel excited about what his school was able to accomplish.
So, as Pinkel answers questions about the class of 28 players Missouri signed on Wednesday, he insists he and his staff hit every area they wanted to. He reminds the fans not to pay attention to the stars or the recruiting rankings because he said he never looks at them.
Most of the members of this recruiting class are on Twitter. We pulled them together in this Twitter list. Check out what the players are tweeting, and hit "subscribe" to receive their updates in your feed.
The only surprises Missouri dealt with on National Signing Day were pleasant ones. Missouri signed two players who were verbally committed elsewhere at the beginning of the week. Two of Missouri's top prospects reaffirmed their commitments on Wednesday after significant interest from some of the top programs in the Southeastern Conference.
Why wouldn't Pinkel be excited?
Maybe because the class ranks No. 33 in the country and No. 12 in the 14-team Southeastern Conference, according to ESPN. Alabama and LSU spent the day battling for airtime on ESPN and finished as the top two classes in the country littered with five- and four-star prospects. Missouri had three four-star players and not a single five-star player.
"There's no (recruiting) numbers that reflect how much we've won," Pinkel said.
Pinkel admits that the 5-7 season in 2012 didn't help. The perception of the team prior to the 2013 season didn't match the reality that unfolded throughout the fall. Still, the success of 2013 came a bit late to affect recruiting dramatically. Missouri was facing an uphill battle.
"Moral of the story, don't have a bad season," Pinkel said.
In the back corner of the Clinton Club inside Mizzou Arena on Wednesday, safeties coach Alex Grinch can't hide the real emotion of signing day: relief. Grinch was one of the stars responsible for putting together this class Pinkel is so excited about. He was in charge of recruiting Georgia, where the Tigers landed three commitments, including Tavon Ross, who chose Missouri over Alabama, Georgia and Miami among others.
For Grinch and Missouri's other position coaches, recruiting isn't all the glamour people see on ESPN. It's not about the validation of having a highly-ranked class, or even beating out rivals for top-ranked prospects.
It's more about the stress. It's about Grinch's face turning white as he recalls his reactions to each offer Ross picked up. It's about Grinch wanting to make sure the car was warm enough and the food just right when Ross visited Columbia this past weekend. It's simultaneously about the relief Grinch felt when Ross sent him a message on Tuesday reassuring him of his commitment, and the panic Grinch felt when he woke up at 3 a.m. on Wednesday praying Ross wouldn't change his mind.
"Everything panics you," Grinch said. "You're paid to stress. The real stress comes in wanting to coach these guys.
"You kind of duck and take cover."
At the end of Wednesday, Missouri had a fairly typical recruiting class. There wasn't a splash signing like Dorial Green-Beckham two years ago. But, the system Pinkel has used to recruit since he got to Missouri is still in place and he still trusts it.
"We do what we do," Pinkel said.
What Missouri did with this class was a bit different, though. Pinkel and his staff are starting to make their mark in the southeastern region of the country and they are developing a recruiting pattern in the new conference. Missouri only has two commitments from Texas, where the Tigers have fared well in the past.
But Grinch was able to bring in three players from Georgia, and Missouri signed seven players from Florida. The Tigers also took care of business in Missouri, signing offensive lineman Andy Bauer. New pipelines, filling positions of need and signing some of Missouri's best prospects are all reasons to be excited.
Still, the effect of the 2013 season hasn't been felt on the recruiting trail just yet. Missouri coaches had only three real recruiting weeks, as opposed to the usual six, due to rule changes and their postseason success, according to defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski. The hope is that the lost time in 2013 will be worth it when it comes to recruiting the 2015 class.
Cornerbacks coach Cornell Ford is already noticing a bit of momentum on the recruiting trail. While Missouri isn't likely to pay attention to stars any time soon, Ford does enjoy what the recent success has done for the national perception of the program. You could even say the idea of signing more highly regarded prospects in future years excites Ford and the other coaches.
"When the program is doing as well as it has been in recent years, you can broaden your horizons a bit," Ford said.
Among all the players who signed with Missouri on Wednesday, 18 are three-stars, eight are two-stars and two are four-stars, according to recruiting website Rivals.com. The website also calculates that the average recruit for the Tigers this year is 2.79 stars, making Missouri’s recruiting class 35th in the nation. This chart shows the breakdown of Missouri’s football recruits for each year on a two-star to five-star scale. | Graphic by Weicheng Zhao
The Missouri football team signed 28 new players from the high school class of 2014. The Tigers signed six wide receivers and six defensive backs, the most at any position for this year’s class. | Graphic by Heather Adams