Signing Day is about three months away, but Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and his staff are entering one of the most crucial times of the year in recruiting.
Eight recruits have given MU an oral commitment, including seven in-state pledges. Each weekend in fall becomes a showcase for potential recruits with players and staff doing their best to make sure the athletes leave with Missouri on their mind.
The Tigers are within a win of bowl eligibility, and recruiting coordinator David Yost said this is the time to invite recruits to Columbia for official visits.
A potential recruit can take up to five official visits beginning the first day of the athlete’s senior year. These recruits schedule visits in advance and the school pays all of the athlete’s expenses. Missouri’s improvement on the field is paying immediate dividends in the recruiting game.
Yost said Missouri invites every recruit, regardless of year in school, to every game. Local recruits such as Chase Patton and Van Alexander of Rock Bridge can attend every MU home game if they want.
Television is perhaps the biggest gain Missouri has made in the recruiting chase. The Tigers will appear in six televised games this season with a possibility for more.
Pinkel said appearing on television isn’t easy; the way to get that exposure is through one thing.
“It’s all based on winning and if you win you’re on TV,” Pinkel said. “We have been on more probably this year than we have the combination of the last two years. Exposure is huge for recruiting.”
The Nebraska game was a prime example of the Tigers’ positive recruiting strides. Outside of the black shirts Missouri fans wore and the red Nebraska fans donned, the numerous varsity letter jackets of the recruits was the next group to standout. Yost estimates that Missouri had 300 recruits attend the game and expects the same kind of turnout for Saturday’s game against Texas Tech.
In addition to the recruits in attendance, many more had the chance to watch the Tigers’ nationally televised game on TBS.
Yost said the historic win could be the best selling point for the Tigers.
“The Nebraska victory is a tremendous boost for recruiting,” Yost said. “First, it’s a national TV game and beating a top 10 team is a huge thing. It kind of helps puts you on the map that way with these kids, show them, ‘Hey, that’s what I want to be a part of.”‘
Pinkel focuses his staff’s recruiting efforts on a few states. He said it is his goal to land about 90 percent of the best recruits from Missouri each year. Aside from the local athletes, Pinkel emphasizes recruiting hotbeds such as Texas and Oklahoma. MU has 18 players from Texas and six from Oklahoma.
Because recruits from those states rarely get a chance to see the Tigers, the television coverage plays a more important role.
The television exposure has paid off for Missouri with the Sept. 25 commitment from Texas athlete Mack Breed. Breed, a 6-foot-2 quarterback from San Antonio, is an all-around athlete, who might move to defensive back at Missouri.
Offensive tackle Kyle Riggs, of Festus, and Alexander lead this year’s crop of in-state commitments. Both committed in the winter.
Alexander said the increased attention Missouri is receiving should improve the quality of players that join him in this year’s class.
“Being able to watch Missouri on television and seeing a team that is on the verge of greatness has to help tremendously,” Alexander said. “They can see broadcasters talking about their team and think, ‘One day that will be me they are talking about.”
The talented group of seniors in Missouri this year makes this an important class for Pinkel.
ESPN analyst Tom Lemming ranks Patton as the No. 14 quarterback and has narrowed his list to five. He will choose from among Missouri, Kansas State, Iowa, Tennessee and UCLA.
Tailback Tony Temple, of Rockhurst, is Pinkel’s other major target. Temple is Lemming’s No. 2 running back.
Temple hasn’t trimmed his list yet, but he is receiving attention from many of the nation’s top programs. Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Kansas State and Michigan are among the schools Missouri is competing with for Temple’s services.
Alexander said he does what he can to sway Patton and Temple, but it is the team’s performance on the field that will ultimately make their decision.
“The Nebraska game was the best environment I have ever seen here,” Alexander said. “I would think seeing the team play well would help recruiting tremendously."