Throughout the recruiting process, Evander Hood received eight scholarship offers from schools all over the map. But he focused in on the Missouri Tigers early and never seriously considered going anywhere else.
"It was the team, how they treated me when I came down here," Hood said. "The last couple visits, I went, it was all right, everybody was friends, but I came here and everybody treated me with respect. Instead of a recruit, they already had me on the team."
The Tigers must have known something. Before he has taken his first class as a freshman at Missouri, Hood is already an integral part of the team.
"Ziggy's gonna play," head coach Gary Pinkel said after practice on Thursday. "There's no question about it."
That was the first time Pinkel had come out and said that the freshman from Amarillo, Texas would see the field this season. Even when told that after the practice, Hood didn't bat an eye.
"We haven't said too much about it," he said. "I'll just stay focused through two-a-days and what happens, happens."
What has happened is that Hood has moved from end to tackle and moved his way up to second on the Tigers' depth chart.
"He's just an athlete," said Tigers' defensive end Xzavie Jackson. "He's got the size and stuff like that to play tackle, and the speed and quickness to play end. He's going to be a great asset. If he just gets out here and uses the stuff that we do in summer time to teach him, he's going to have a lot of fun every year."
Hood has drawn comparisons to Jackson, the Tigers' leader on the defensive line.
"He's going to be a real good player. He's a lot like Xzavie was when he came in his freshman year. You never count on that," Pinkel said. "To have a freshman come in and look like he can play as a freshman is a real bonus. You never, ever predict that."
The most surprising thing about Hood is that he may not be the only freshman lineman to see the field this season. Offensive tackle Dain Wise has also risen to second on the depth chart. He is slated second at right tackle behind starter Joel Clinger as of Thursday's workout.
"He's really a talented young guy," Pinkel said of Wise. "The toughest positions to come in and play are quarterback and offensive line because of how difficult it is in terms of knowledge. They're so complex at both positions. If there was ever a player, he's got a chance."
In fact, Pinkel said he has never had a true freshman offensive lineman see the field as a head coach. Wise, like Hood, says he is not worried about that right now. However, he also says he hasn't had much trouble picking up the knowledge of playing in college.
"The tough thing hasn't really been the schemes," Wise said. "I think the schemes have come pretty easy. It's just the quickness that everything moves. You have to be able to sit there and read and react a lot quicker than you did in high school."
Wise also had a summer cheat sheet.
"Tony Palmer helped me," Wise said. "I was rooming with him this summer and he showed me a lot about technique and stuff like that."
Wise and Palmer both came to Missouri from Midwest City, Oklahoma, as did defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams. In fact, Wise said his father taught both of those players English at Midwest City High School. It is now Palmer passing along his wisdom to the younger Wise. Whether enough of that knowledge sinks in for Wise to see the field remains to be seen.
"I'm just going to take it one play at a time and try to get better," said the freshman. "What happens, happens."
Both freshmen will have a chance to solidify their spots as Mizzou holds its second fall scrimmage this afternoon at 1:00. Continue to check PowerMizzou.com for complete coverage of the scrimmage throughout the weekend.
PowerMizzou.com will be your most complete source for news throughout fall camp. We will be at every practice and update you on the day's happenings live. Stay tuned for a photo gallery and interviews from each day of camp. To talk about it with other Tiger fans, visit our premium forum, The Tigers' Lair.