Over the next two weeks, PowerMizzou.com is investigating how Missouri's recruiting has changed over the last ten years. In the first installment of The Evolution of Recruiting, we're taking a look at the Tigers' all-sleeper offensive team.
QB: Brad Smith (2002-2005)
A member of the 2001 class that was largely made up of recruits that Gary Pinkel recruited while at Toledo, Smith was ranked a 2-star by Rivals.com. Despite being a two-time all-state selection, expectations were low for Smith when he entered campus. After redshirting his freshman year, all Smith did was single-handedly spearhead Missouri's campaign to relevancy. Sure, he had his ups-and-downs, and his foray into more of a pure pocket-passer had to be considered a failure, but Smith made the Tigers a program worth noticing again. He finished his career with 101 total touchdowns, more than 13,000 total yards and a slew of team and NCAA records.
HB: Jimmy Jackson (2005-2008)
Jackson was an unheralded two-star out of Caruthersville and to this day, Missouri fans might underrate his value. Fact is, the team didn't ask a whole lot of Jackson, as his time in Columbia was spent backing up Tony Temple and then Derrick Washington. But, Jackson did just what the Tigers needed, picking up tough yards, especially around the goal line. For all his talent in the world, fans were continually frustrated with Temple's east-west roaming. Jackson was a little bulldozer, putting down his head and going north (or south, depending on the set-up of the drive). He finished his career with 883 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. He was a big reason for Missouri's success on the ground in the 2007 season -- its best rushing season since Brad Smith. Jackson finished that year averaging five yards a carry and had seven touchdowns to go along with his 331 yards.
WR: Danario Alexander (2006-2009), Tommy Saunders (2005-2008), Jared Perry (2006-2009)
Alexander and Saunders are easy picks for the all-sleeper squad. Alexander, along with Sean Weatherspoon, began Pinkel's reputation for finding two-star diamonds-in-the-rough in Texas. Alexander was a two-star wide receiver coming out of Marlin, Tex., and -- after battling injuries -- made good on his potential with a video-game 2009 season. Saunders, a former one-star walk-on, became Mr. Reliable for Missouri, finishing his career with 150 catches for 1,600 yards and 11 touchdowns (he also threw two TDs).
Perry was a bit more difficult to add to this list, as he was a three-star out of Texas and had higher expectations put on him from the fans. Still, you don't expect a 5.5-three-star to become a freshman All-American, as Perry was in 2006. Though he never had any eye-popping seasons, he finished with 1,844 yards and 13 touchdowns. If he didn't get injured near the end of his senior season, those could have been much greater.
TE: Martin Rucker (2004-2007)
Sure, Rucker was a three-star recruit, so he didn't exactly fly under-the-radar, especially considering his family ties at Nebraska. But, many forget that Rucker was only the 12th-ranked recruit in Missouri, and 28th overall tight end. Heck, Missouri itself even secured the commitment of a higher-ranked tight end (four-star Josh Barbo). But, Rucker outperformed all of the other tight ends in his class, finishing with 203 receptions, 2,175 yards, 18-touchdowns, and plenty of bad-assery.
OL: Colin Brown (2005-2008), Mike Cook (2003-2006), Adam Spieker (2004-2007), Monte Wyrick (2004-2007), Tim Barnes (2007-2010)
Brown is the easiest addition to the offensive line list. A walk-on, Brown saw some playing time in 2006, and then won the starting job during fall camp in 2007. Brown was instrumental in Missouri's success in both years, and became a late-round NFL draft pick. That's the definition of sleeper.
Spieker and Barnes are both very similar. Both were three-stars, coming from small towns, and became decorated three-year starters. The success Missouri has had at center really is impressive.
Likewise, Wyrick and Cook are similar cases. Both are out-of-state two-star recruits -- Wyrick from Arkansas, and Cook from Texas. Unheralded, both went on to become solid, if not spectacular, linemen. Wyrick, of course, will forever be remembered for a phantom holding call that cost Missouri a win against Iowa State. Still, to have two two-star recruits combine for over 30 starts is very impressive.
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