Coach Gary Pinkel hauled in 27 signees on National Signing Day. Though the team’s celebratory reception was snowed-out, the Tigers still have reason to celebrate. Maneater Sports’ recruiting analysts break down the Class of 2014 position by position.
Quarterback: The Tigers’ lone signee under center is Florida native Marvin Zanders. He also considered offers from Duke and Georgia Tech as well as a late push from Florida. Zanders is a good athlete with good speed but will likely redshirt due to clutter of quarterbacks around him with Maty Mauk, Eddie Printz and Corbin Berkstresser. Nevertheless, Zanders has the talent to get on the field in the next few years even if it’s not under center.
Running backs: The Tigers signed a pair of Florida natives in Trevon Walters and Ish Witter. Of the two, Walters has a greater chance at making an impact right away, especially with the departure of Henry Josey. With Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy both returning next season, the Tigers backfield should not miss a beat.
Wide Receivers: The Tigers have a plethora of wide receivers coming in next fall, which will help spell the loss of guys like Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington. Of the six commits, Georgia native Nate Brown enters Columbia coming off a big senior season and has a solid chance of seeing the field next fall. DeSean Blair, a former Louisville commit who flipped to Missouri on signing day, is a 6-foot-4 target for the Tigers, who have a good history with tall receivers.
Tight End: The lone tight end committed to the Tigers is in-state prospect Kendall Blanton. Blanton is a very raw player who could benefit with some proper coaching and some time in the weight room. Listed at 6-foot-6, Blanton is also a basketball player who could be a big contributor if he reaches his full potential.
Offensive Line: With three seniors on offensive line next fall, Missouri was looking for guys to step in right away as well as build depth for the future. Top overall signee Andy Bauer has the brute strength and “the look” to see the field next season with the departures of both Justin Britt and Max Copeland. Meanwhile 6-foot-7 Nashville native Paul Adams has the size to be a contributor early in his career while the early-enrollee Michael Fairchild serves as the sleeper in the five-man class.
Defensive Line: Shane Ray and Markus Golden will step into the spotlight next season but the Tigers need depth if they want their D-line to be as solid as it was in 2013. The Tigers have four of D-ends in Grant Jones, Rocel McWilliams, Walter Brady and Signing Day surprise Spencer Williams. As of right now it’s uncertain which side of the ball Grant’s future is on (he played tight end in high school) but Jones may need to play D-end due to the Tigers’ lack of depth. Brady will remind fans of Michael Sam not just for his two-star rating out of high school but also for his motor.
Linebackers: Early enrollee Brandon Lee will almost certainly see the field even if it’s just on special teams. The outside linebacker is too explosive and versatile to spend a year on the sidelines. However with the return of Kentrell Brothers, it will be tough for Lee to crack the starting lineup as a true freshman. Texas native Roderick Winters uses his athleticism and speed very well and could be a key member of the Tigers defense in a few years.
Cornerbacks: Maybe the most underrated group of the Tigers class, the four man class of Logan Cheadle, Raymond Wingo, Finis Stribling IV and junior college transfer Kenya Dennis has the chance to surprise many over the next few years. Wingo is the true definition of an athlete, having played and succeeded at three different positions in high school. The possibilities for him are endless. Cheadle, on the other hand, is one of the Tigers’ more polished prospects and has a solid chance at seeing the field next season. Coach Gary Pinkel proved he isn’t afraid to start freshman at cornerback (see Aarion Penton) and Cheadle fits the bill to be a solid, if not very good, starter.
Safeties: The three man class of Greg Taylor, Tavon Ross and Thomas Wilson won’t have to step into the spotlight early with Matt White and Ian Simon returning, but all three are playmakers and have the potential to have reservations for six if the ball winds up in their hands. Ross is a highlight machine and could wind up playing multiple positions on defense if need be. Taylor establishes a much-needed pipeline with East St. Louis, which is a school consistently loaded with division-I talent.
Overall Grade: B+
With one of the more underrated classes, the Tigers have stored depth for the future while also bringing in a handful of playmakers. The Tigers also out-dueled big dogs like Georgia, Alabama and Florida to keep guys like Ross and McWilliams committed, which goes to show how far the Mizzou brand has come.