Missouri football locks up 2016 signing class

Five players signed from Missouri and Illinois; two from Arkansas, Georgia and Texas; and one from Alabama, California, Kansas and Oklahoma.
Barry Odom, Missouri's newly announced Head Football Coach, gives a press conference on Dec. 4 at the Mizzou Arena. Maneater File Photo

Many Alabama fans know Chris Black as the wide receiver who criticized his team’s system after winning two national championships.

After announcing his transfer from the Crimson Tide weeks ago, Black spoke to Gridiron Now about his struggles within the Alabama system saying, “I always felt like the system didn’t fit my type of skill set.”

Black, who had been rumored to have committed to Missouri a week ago, made his move official on Monday in a big roster pickup for the 2016-17 season.

Why? Well, Black is a former 4-star recruit and a guy who was ranked ahead of former All-American Amari Cooper coming out of high school. Ultimately, he was plagued by injuries the majority of his Alabama career and as AL.com’s Alabama football beat writer John Talty says, the graduate-transfer needed a change of scenery.

“It seems to me like it’s going to be a pretty good fit for him,” Talty said. “He’s been very eager to show off his skills and show that he can do some different things and it seems like Missouri is a place that can plug him in and play him right off the bat and have an opportunity to contribute.”

Coming into 2015-16, he was the No. 1 returning wideout for the Crimson Tide and was in position to man the slot on offense. That was before he hurt an ankle injury in fall camp and his shoulder in November — two injuries that derailed a season of high hopes.

Ultimately, Black caught 25 footballs for 290 yards and two touchdowns in three years playing for Alabama coach Nick Saban.

“When I saw he was going to Missouri, I thought it was fantastic,” former Alabama tight end Michael Nysewander said. “For him, to get another opportunity at a school like Missouri that’s been in the SEC Championship, I thought that would be great for him and I’m excited that he’s getting that opportunity.”

Black will bring “foot speed” and “good hands” at wideout, but Nysewander believes that more importantly, he’ll be a leader for the young receiver group.

“The expectations for Chris being so high, I think there had to have been some sort of ‘man, I wish that was me’ but he’s just such a team guy and humble guy, and even when Amari succeeded, he was always happy for those guys,” Nysewander said. “Without a doubt, not only do I think he’s going to come in and have an impact on the field, but I think he can serve the leadership role too because he’s gone through a lot of adversity and I think he’s glad to have a fresh start at a school especially like Missouri.”

Five notes from signing day:

—Missouri signed 20 players on Wednesday including Black, totaling a recruting class that’s ranked as No. 49 on 247sports.com, No. 46 on Rivals.com and No. 57 on Scout.com.

—Five players signed from Missouri and Illinois; two from Arkansas, Georgia and Texas; and one from Alabama, California, Kansas and Oklahoma.

—Natereace Strong, the 6-foot-0 running back from East St. Louis, signed last year but couldn’t qualify so he attended Hinds Community College and again signed with Mizzou this signing day. Strong is a physical running back and among a backfield that could use able bodies, Strong should provide that.

—Tyler Howell is a 6-foot-8 offensive tackle from Butler Community College who signed with Mizzou on Wednesday. According to 247sports, Howell was the fifth offensive tackle on the board, so after losing tackles Connor McGovern and Tyler Chapelle from last year’s roster, this was a position of need and Howell should be able to come in and play immediately.

—Along with Black, JUCO wide receiver Dominic Collins and 6-foot-4 tight end Brendan Scales will add nice perimeter presences for sophomore quarterback Drew Lock. Collins, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound receiver from Saddleback College, was another nice pickup for Odom, while Scales flipped from Alabama on Tuesday night.

All the signees:

—Trey Baldwin, LB, 6-2/240, Fr., Houston, Texas (Cypress Falls HS)

—Chris Black, WR, 6-0/192, Sr., Jacksonville, Florida (Alabama)

—Tyler Howell, OL, 6-8/305, R-Jr., Bonner Springs, Kansas (Butler C.C.)

—Tucker McCann, K, 6-0/185, Fr., O'Fallon, Illinois (O'Fallon HS)

—Trystan Castillo, OL, 6-4/295, Fr., Webb City, Missouri (Webb City HS)

—Markell Utsey, DL, 6-4/285, Fr., Little Rock, Arkansas (Parkview HS)

—Micah Wilson, QB, 6-3/205, Fr., Tulsa, Oklahoma (Lincoln Christian)

—Greg Taylor, S, 5-10/200, R-So., East St. Louis, Illinois (Hinds C.C.)

—Christian Holmes, CB, 6-1/182, Fr., Atlanta, Georgia (McNair HS)

—Damarea Crockett, RB, 5-11/212, Fr., Little Rock, Arkansas (Little Rock Christian HS)

—Cale Garrett, LB, 6-3/225, Fr., Kearney, Missouri (Kearney HS)

—Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, 6-5/225, Fr., Springfield, Illinois (Sacred Heart Griffin HS)

—Jerod Alton, CB, 5-10/180, Fr., Kirkwood, Missouri (Kirkwood HS)

—DeMarkus Acy, S, 6-2/183, Fr., Dallas, Texas (Wilmer-Hutchins HS)

—Tre Williams, DL, 6-5/235, Fr., Columbia, Missouri (Rock Bridge HS)

—Tre'vour Simms, OL, 6-5/300, Fr., East St. Louis, Illinois (East St. Louis HS)

—Brendan Scales, TE, 6-4/235, Fr., Wildwood, Missouri (Lafayette HS)

—Dominic Collins, WR, 6-2/175, Jr., Fullerton, California (Saddleback CC)

—Natereace Strong, RB, 6-0/211, So., East St. Louis, Illinois (Hinds C.C.)

—Dimetrios Mason, ATH, 6-0/170, Fr., Loganville, Georgia (Grayson HS)

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