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May 29, 2013

Recruiting Rewind: Chase Daniel


Over the summer, PowerMizzou.com is taking a look back at some of the most celebrated recruitments in the Gary Pinkel era.

Today, we'll look back at one that should have been the most celebrated of them all. But the reason is stands out is that it largely wasn't viewed as a program changing moment when Chase Daniel chose the Tigers.

On March 23rd, 2004, Rivals.com wrote a story about the first offer for the Southlake Carroll signal caller. "Last week he received a written offer from Missouri - we're pretty excited about getting the first one and that is certainly a program that is on the rise," Daniel's father, Bill, said.

Six weeks later, Daniel was included with Colt McCoy and Casey Dick as the three standouts among that year's Elite11 quarterbacks. Rice had offered Dick, the Allen, Tex. prospect, but no one else had. It was McCoy to which Daniel's recruitment--and college career--would become inextricably linked.

Both Texas and Texas A&M offered McCoy early. The Jim Ned quarterback had made it clear early on that he wanted to play his college football in Texas. Thus, neither major program extended an early offer to Daniel.

By early May, Maryland, Wisconsin, Duke, UTEP, Houston, Oklahoma State, Colorado State, Stanford and TCU had joined Mizzou in offering Daniel a scholarship.

Still, the one offer Daniel waited on did not come. He had made little secret that he coveted a scholarship from the University of Texas. In June, he worked out at a Longhorn camp in front of Mack Brown.

"They also said that they have offers out to two other quarterbacks and that you never know what's going to happen," Daniel said. "They told me that I was a great player and to just hang in there with them. They said, 'We know you bleed orange, so just hang in there.' Who knows? It made me feel like they definitely are interested."

But in May, McCoy had committed to Texas. If Daniel was going to be a Longhorn, he was going to be the second QB in the class. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt and Tulsa would extend offers in the next two weeks, bringing Daniel's haul of options to 14.

On July 9th, Daniel ended the suspense with a commitment to Mizzou.

"Missouri has been on me ever since I started getting letters and attention. They were the first school to offer me back on March 16. They got it started. It's kind of ironic that the first school to offer me was the one that I committed to," Daniel said. ""I was up there and coach (David) Yost spent five hours with me. He's the one that really sold me. He made it clear that he really wanted me. He spent a lot of time talking to me about how their offense is just like what we run, and the more that I looked at it the more that he was correct."

I remember vividly the day Daniel committed. I coached my son's T-ball team and we were at the team banquet. We had just finished pizza and were about to hand out the trophies when my phone rang: "Chase Daniel just committed to you guys." Somebody else had to stand in for the coach.

In the fall, Daniel would lead Southlake Carroll to another Texas state title...and also to the national No. 1 ranking by USA Today. Every year, we receive a few emails from our bosses asking for feedback on the recruiting rankings. Any players we know that should get an extra star or a bump in the rankings?

I rarely fight those battles passionately. I leave the rankings to the guys that do them. But in that case, I made the case for Daniel needing a fourth star. A guy who puts up those numbers in that class of football in Texas and has double-digit scholarship offers before his senior season starts, well, four stars was the minimum I thought he needed.

I will never forget the answer: "Chase Daniel will never play a down of quarterback at Missouri."

See, Daniel was vertically challenged. He was listed at 6-foot-1/2 inch. He was too little according to most (it's still not a label that's completely gone away, even entering his fifth NFL season).

So Daniel kept his three-star ranking and his fairly low expectations...at least outside of Columbia, Mo. That remained true even after he was named the EA Sports/Student Sports National Offensive Player of the Year.

There is an urban legend that late in the recruiting process, Texas came back and offered Daniel that scholarship he had coveted. To this day, I honestly don't know for sure if it's true. The only thing we know for sure is that Daniel signed with Missouri in February of 2005.

"We miss 325 guys a year," Mack Brown said in 2007, "And every one of them stays in the Big 12 area, and every one of them plays against us, and every one of them is mad at us."

"It wasn't just us. There are a lot of people that didn't (offer Daniel)."

Daniel, of course, went on to have what is probably the greatest career in Missouri football history. He played sparingly as a true freshman behind Brad Smith. Daniel's legend started on October 15, 2005. Smith went down--and stayed down--after a vicious hit. Daniel entered with Missouri trailing 24-14 and just more than nine minutes left.

The freshman led Missouri 73 yards in 13 plays for a field goal that made it 24-17. On his next drive, the Tigers moved 88 yards in 11 plays, capped off by a four-yard touchdown pass to Sean Coffey to tie the game. Missouri won 27-24 in overtime.

That Missouri team ended the regular season 6-5. Without Daniel's comeback, the Tigers miss a bowl game for the second consecutive year. Who knows what happens? Many speculated a coaching change was in the offing if Missouri had missed the postseason.

Instead, what followed was the best three-year run of any Missouri football player. Ever.

In 2006, Daniel threw for 3,527 yards as the Tigers won eight games and lost a heartbreaker in the Sun Bowl. The following year, Daniel threw for 4,306 yards and 33 touchdowns in leading Missouri to its first Big 12 title game, a Cotton Bowl blowout and a 12-2 record. He finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Many, myself included, believe he would have won it were it not for two turnovers in a Big 12 title game loss to Oklahoma.

Daniel's senior season started with Mizzou in the top five nationally and astronomic expectations. The national title helps went by the wayside in a three-interception loss to Oklahoma State. Missouri finished 10-4 with an Alamo Bowl win over Northwestern.

The final tallies for Daniel's Mizzou career were a 30-11 record as a starter and school records for completions, passing yards, touchdown passes and total offense.

Daniel ranks 16th all-time in Division One football with 12,515 passing yards. He ranks 14th with 101 touchdown passes. To be fair, though, the choice worked out fine for the Longhorns. McCoy actually ranks above Daniel on both of those lists and took Texas to the 2009 national title game...which the Horns may have won had the quarterback not been injured in the first quarter.

Sometimes, things work out for the best for all involved. Such was the case with Daniel and McCoy and the Tigers and Longhorns. Both had stellar college careers. Both, to this day, have fans of their schools wondering when the next guy like them will come along. And one can stake claim, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to being the best quarterback his school has ever had.

Not bad for a three-star kid who some thought might make a decent college wide receiver.

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