Former top-recruit Alex Ross hopes to live up to high school career hype
Ross’ path to Columbia leads to the hope that he could be Mizzou’s featured running back.
Aug. 30, 2016
It’s understandable for Missouri football fans to be skeptical of the Tigers’ future.
Following a recruiting season that saw Mizzou lock up ESPN’s No. 2 ranked player in Terry Beckner Jr., the Tigers failed to score a single player in the 2016 ESPN 300. While Missouri could end up turning out unheralded stars like they have in the past — Shane Ray and Ziggy Hood, to name a few — talent is still the key in catching up with the top programs in the Southeastern Conference.
However, Missouri did land two of the nation’s top recruits from five years ago. Both Chris Black, No. 22 on the 2012 ESPN 300, and Alex Ross, No. 70 on the 2012 ESPN 300, have relocated to Columbia to try to help the Tigers join the SEC elite.
While Black’s playing time at Alabama was scarce, Ross’ made the most of his time at Oklahoma. Judging by the highlight reel he put together at Oklahoma and even from his days at Jenks High School, Ross could soon become Missouri’s featured running back.
Right from the start, Allan Trimble knew there was something different about Ross.
Trimble, who has been the head coach at Jenks since 1996, saw a running back who had an uncommon set of physical tools and knew how to blend them together to create a near-unstoppable force.
“(He had both) speed and power,” Trimble said. “Alex also had the ability to get on the edge and outrun people as well as the ability to get the tough yards. He has sprinter speed.”
Ross used both tools to average more than eight yards per rush as a senior while scoring 11 touchdowns. His efforts were awarded with a place on The Oklahoman’s All-State football first team.
While being a force on the field, Ross was a sparkplug while watching from the sidelines.
“He was a guy that they loved being around because of his temperament,” Trimble said. “Alex was the teammate that kept them loose and waiting to see what he would say or do next.”
His efforts were noticed by Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who out-recruited Oklahoma State and Arkansas to make him a Sooner. However, Ross’ efforts in high school did not earn him a starting spot when he arrived in Norman, Oklahoma.
After redshirting his freshman season, Ross was hard-pressed to find playing time as Oklahoma’s feature back.
After losing out on the starting running back spot to then-freshman Samaje Perine, Ross was relegated to a special teams role. Despite his disappointment at not receiving the playing time he craved, Ross chose to hone his abilities as a return man in order to make an impact on the field.
“When it didn’t go his way, he didn’t put his nose down, but he continued to compete and found a role and found a way to help the football team win,” Missouri offensive coordinator and former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said.
Ross was placed on the All-American second team as a returner by CBS Sports his sophomore season. He also rushed for 613 yards and four touchdowns in Heupel’s final year at Oklahoma.
In his junior season, Ross’ opportunities to run the football were cut back as Oklahoma turned into a more passing team with Baker Mayfield at the helm. Ross only received 32 carries on the year, down from his 88 the previous year.
After last season’s loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl, Ross decided to follow his old coach and come to Columbia.
Ross carries an advantage over some of his teammates because he already knows Heupel’s offense.
The two often showcase their bond while meeting with the media. During a question directed at Ross about why he chose Missouri, Heupel shouted from the background, “He likes playing for Coach Heupel! That’s what he really likes!”
Ross laughed and said, “I love Coach Heupel.”
Ross has described the two as being like second cousins. Heupel is quick to deny that claim but does admit that the two share a close bond.
“There’s a high trust factor [between the two of us],” Heupel said. “I trust him because he’s consistent everyday. He wants to be a great player and pushes for it every single day.”
Still, Ross has a lot to learn. He will be a part of what appears to be a running-back-by-committee scheme for the 2016 season.
“[The running backs] are all coming along real well,” Ross said. We all just split reps and just push each other. If someone makes a big play, then the other running backs have to make a big play.”
Ross hopes his experience at Missouri will be different than his role as a backup for the Sooners. If his reps do increase, his old high school coach already knows what to expect.
“On the field, he’s a player that will be fun and exciting to watch when he gets the ball in his hands,” Trimble said. “Off the field, he’s a player that will represent the University of Missouri in a positive way.”
Edited by Peter Baugh | firstname.lastname@example.org