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December 24, 2011

Signing Day approaches


Missouri's 2012 football recruiting has mirrored its football season. There's been highs, lows, and a lot of inconsistency. With National Signing Day six weeks away, however, the Tigers' class has the ability to end on a high note, much like the football season.

Currently, Missouri has 17 commitments in its 2012 class, a number slanted heavily to the defensive side of the ball. Eleven defenders have pledged verball to the Tigers: Four defensive linemen (two each at tackle and end), four linebackers and three defensive backs (two safeties, one corner). On offense, the commitments are concentrated on the offensive line: Three linemen (two tackles, one guard) and three skill-position players (A quarterback, running back and tight end).

In six weeks, Missouri will look to add between six and eight more recruits, finishing with a class total of between 23 and 25. Before we break down the remaining recruits, we'll focus on the dominating storylines of this year's recruiting cycle for Missouri.

UP AND DOWN: That's been the main theme of this class. Missouri rode a wave of momentum in June, and by August Missouri had 16 commitments. Then, the wave crested and broke back. Missouri gained one commitment between September and the the beginning of December. In that time, the Tigers lost three highly regarded prospects -- Allen (TX) RB Jonathan Williams, Houston (TX) OL Germain Ifedi and Lee's Summit (MO) OL Evan Boehm. At the same time, the move to the SEC forced a few Texas recruits to look around, such as Lago Vista (TX) DT Donald Hopkins, Waco (TX) CB Will Hines and Keller (TX) OT Simon Goines. Goines, however, has re-affirmed his commitment. Hopkins and Hines are still planning other visits.

Momentum would return, however. Missouri gained two commitments during a big recruiting weekend on Dec. 9, as O'Fallon (IL) safety Ka'Ra Stewart and under-the-radar Atlanta (TX) DE Rickey Hatley. Hatley was so under-the-radar, in fact, that he wasn't listed in any of the major recruiting networks at the time of his commitment. Following that weekend, Missouri also regained Boehm, who pledged to the Tigers on Tuesday, Dec. 20. On Thursday, rising tight end recruit Sean Culkin verbally committed to Missouri. Culkin became the first fruit of Missouri's new-found recruiting labors in the Southeast. Momentum still seems to be on Missouri's side, as a handful of recruits from that big visit weekend are still considering Missouri. Namely, Arlington (TX) RB Russell Hansbrough and Keller (TX) DT Aaron Curry are two players seriously considering Missouri in their final group.

WHERE HAVE THE RECEIVERS GONE?: After signing one receiver in 2011, there figured to be a big rush on receivers in the 2012 class. That seemed especially true considering the 2012 in-state crop of receivers was Missouri's best in years. However, Missouri missed out on four-star Durron Neal (Oklahoma), and three-star Brandon Sheperd (Oklahoma State) and Jehu Chesson (Michigan). To be fair, however, Missouri and Chesson didn't seem to show much interest in each other since the summer, so that outcome was not a surprise. Sheperd's departure hurts, because Missouri seemed like the odds-on favorite to land him as late as August.

With those departures, coupled with whiffing on out-of-state offers as well, Missouri is still searching for its first wide receiver commitment of 2012. However, this may be an area where our projections of signing three receivers were off. Fact is, Missouri hasn't offered any more receivers, despite missing on most of their early offers. That shows that the Tigers may be content with landing just one or two pass-catchers, coupled with tight end Culkin. At this stage, Missouri is very much in the picture for Dorial Green-Beckham, the nation's top-ranked player. If depth is a concern for him, the Tigers will have the edge over his other four finalists. Arkansas (5), Oklahoma (4), Texas (3) and Alabama (2) have all gained early verbals from multiple receivers.

FOUR STARS ON THE BOARD: One benefit with the upswing in momentum is that it corresponds with impending decisions by some highly touted four-star athletes. San Antonio (TX) DE Javonte Magee and South Bend (IN) athlete David Perkins recently visited Missouri, and the Tigers have at least a decent shot with each. Perkins may be the more difficult to land, but Magee appears set to decide between Missouri, Baylor and Texas A&M. Distance from home may work against the Tigers, but Missouri impressed Magee on his visit and are a prominent piece of the conversation. In addition to Magee and Perkins, Missouri is in solid shape with Whitleand (IN) OT Jake Meador. Meador, however, remains a soft-verbal to Ole Miss, and his recruitment will remain hazy until he takes his official visit to Oxford to see the new coaching staff.

What remains now for Missouri? As stated, Missouri should have room for between six to eight more recruits. It appears the Tigers would have room for one more running back, two more receivers, one more offensive lineman, two defensive linemen and one cornerback. The Tigers, however, must also hold onto Hines and Hopkins, who are both taking other visits in January. Missouri also does not absolutely need another running back, but its recruitment of Hansbrough shows that there is plenty of interest in the shifty back from Arlington. Should Missouri miss on Hansbrough, there may not be a lot of action in pursuit of a different ball carrier.

Right now, Missouri's class remains solid, but not spectacular. It's on par with many of the classes of the last five years, but there is still a chance for it to rival the 2010 class. Realistically, Missouri may land two of those four or five-star recruits remaining, and then fill the rest of the class with three-star recruits.

One thing Missouri fans can look forward to, however, is a fun January. For the first time since 2009, Missouri enters the last month of the recruiting cycle with plenty of spots to fill. Feb. 1 is fast approaching, and January figures to be a frantic month for the Tigers.

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