April 29, 2011
It was no surprise that two Missouri Tigers went in the first round of Thursday night's NFL Draft. That had long been expected.
Aldon Smith went seventh to San Francisco and Blaine Gabbert tenth to Jacksonville. They became the fourth and fifth Missouri players to be drafted in the first round over the last three years.
Before Jeremy Maclin and Ziggy Hood were picked in the first round in 2009, it had been eight years since a Tiger was picked that early (Justin Smith in 2001). In fact, from 1977-2008, six Tigers were taken in the first round. Combined.
Gary Pinkel said that he did not necessarily think the lack of draft picks was a hindrance in his early years at Missouri. But the fact that the Tigers are now regularly putting players in the NFL can be viewed as nothing short of a major benefit to Pinkel's recruiting efforts.
"As you build your program, certain things have to take place if it's growing and maturing in the way that it should. Really, this is where it should be going right now," Pinkel said on Friday morning. "My first couple years here, coach (Don) James, I was talking to him and I said, 'We're doing everything right.' He looked at me and said, 'Gary, when you start getting more guys drafted, you're going to start winning more football games.' Well, ding, ding."
And the success could not come at a better time. The Class of 2012 in Missouri may be the best crop of high school talent the state has ever produced. Witness:
Dorial Green-Beckham has a chance to be the No. 1 prospect in the entire country.
Durron Neal is a likely top 250 player with 22 offers already, including the likes of Alabama and USC.
Evan Boehm has 13 offers, recently adding Auburn and Michigan to his list.
Michael Scherer's next offer will be his tenth with programs such as USC, Stanford and Boston College already on board.
Ondre Pipkins has offers from Michigan and Michigan state among his early haul.
All told, Missouri has extended 11 offers in the state, the highest early total we can remember. And to all of them, Pinkel hopes Thursday night put the exclamation point on a simple message:
"The top players in the country want to go to a place where they're recognized and they know they can reach excellence and be a first round pick, be a top ten pick," Pinkel said. "If you're in the state of Missouri, why in the heck would you go anywhere else?"