Pinkel's recruiting taking Mizzou to another level

In the film <i>The Perfect Storm</i>, George Clooney portrayed the captain of the fishing boat, Andrea Dorea. When his character was asked why he would risk the vessel and crew by sailing to a stretch of sea known as the Flemmish Cap, where hurricane conditions prevailed, Clooney responded, "Because that's where the fish are." Much like Clooney, Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel has not hesitated to focus his recruiting efforts in hotly contested areas such as St. Louis and Texas.

Recruiting is the lifeblood of any Division 1-A football program. Only a few select programs truly recruit on a national scale. The Stanford or Notre Dame game rosters will list football players from all corners of the United States. However, the vast majority of college football programs focus their recruiting on a particular region of the the country. Those football programs will concentrate on areas, "where the fish are," and where there is reason to be optimistic of recruiting success. For the current Missouri football program, those areas are Missouri and Texas.

The best evidence of a football program's area of recruiting emphasis is their coaches' time/effort spent. Applying that criteria, the states of Missouri and Texas are absolutely pampered by the Tigers' coaches. No single city is targeted by as many Missouri resources as St. Louis.

The Bob Stull and Larry Smith coaching staffs held a series of one-day camps for eligible high school football players in eastern Missouri and southern Illinois. These camps were moderately successful events that attracted approximately two hundred participants each year. Attracting and ultimately signing a player like Kirkwood High's Terrance Curry was more the exception than the rule. These one-day camps were always conducted at one of St. Louis' outlying suburban high schools. Hosting a Missouri University football recruiting event at an outer suburban St. Louis high school was an inadvertant slap at potential inner city and southern Illinois prospects.

Gary Pinkel, Missouri head coach, said, "It was bein held in the wrong place. (Ex-Missouri Tiger and Detroit Lion) Demetrius Johnson told me the camp was not very city-friendly. I listened."

Pinkel listened and then moved the event to where the fish were. Washington University is located on the western edge of the City of St. Louis. The university is renown for its academic excellence. U.S. News and World report annually rankes Washington University's undergraduate school and graduate medical and low school programs among the nation's finest. It's football program competes at the NCAA Division III level and plays at Francis Field. Although seating capacity is only 3,000, Wash U's total football facilities and its strategic location made it ideal for Pinkel to dramatically escalate the benefits of MU's annual camp. It didn't hurt that Pinkel and Wash U's head football coach, Larry Kindbom, have a great deal of mutual respect. "He's a diamond," says Pinkel of Kindbom.

The St. Louis one-day camp now attracts over 500 campers per year, and includes many of eastern Missouri's and southern Illinois' best prospects. An additional incentive for high schoolers to attend are the two dozen other midwest colleges who attend the camp and obtain the highly prized physical testing and performance data. Missouri coaches are rarely surprised by an senior football player's testing and performance because they have already identified and evaluated the senior in-state players. However, Pinkel added that, "You always want access to more current data."

There is a potential for discovery with sophomores and juniors who attend the camp. The best senior high school football player in Missouri this past season was Eureka's Darnell Terrell. He was first identified by Missouri's coaches before his junior year at Pinkel's first St. Louis camp.

Working out the logistics for this large-scale camp is the responsibility of recruiting coordinator David Yost. He arrives in St. Louis a day in advance with a crew of graduate assistants. Yost makes certain that everything needed to make the camp operate precisely and effectively is in place. This allows Gary Pinkel to arrive in St. Louis on camp day and hit the ground running. The head coach is not surprised how smoothly the camps run, simply stating, "David Yost is very good at what he does."

The manner of Pinkel's camp arrival is hardly typical. Early on the moring of June 1st, Pinkel jumped on his Harley Davidson motorcycle and met director of football operations Mark Alnutt. The two left Columbia and rode their motercycles east on I-70 to St. Louis. After arriving at Washington University's football complex, Pinkel said that, "I did a quick leather to coaching gear change." He is acutely aware of his imate as the head football coach of the state's only Division 1-A football program. Pinkel states, "I just find (riding the motorcycle) very relaxing. But believe me, I respect the bike."

Campers wre divided into groups for initial physical testing. Testing included timing the forty yard dash, bench pressing 185 lbs. for maximum repetitions, and vertical jumping.

While every college football staff intuitively realizes the significance of explosive vertical jumping ability, few have quantified the concept to the extend Missouri's football staff have. Pinkel uses a quantititative scale for vertical jumping developed for each position by the University of Washington football staff. Pinkel was an offensive assistant there for twelve years, and said that "Coach (Don) James wanted a scale as an evaluation tool, so we created one." While vertical jumping prowess is only a single strong indicator of fast-twitch muscle fiber, one camper from St. Louis Parkway West High caused excitement. This St. Louis high school that has produced D1 players heading to Michigan, Indiana and Kansas last season, may just have another. Inside linebacker Jason Hayths stands over 6 feet tall, and is almost 200 lbs. His vertical leap of over 38 inches was absolutely eye popping.

Missouri offensive tackle recruit Kyle Riggs from Festus did ot run the forty yard dash, but he did crank out fifteen reps of 185 lbs. in the bench press. for a 6-7" athlete with long arms, 15 reps is considered to be a respectable performance. New Madred County Central's Edgar Givens is a 6-4", 211 lbs. tight end-defensive end who has already given Mizzou an oral commitment. Givens looks silky smooth running and catching the ball in drills. He is a fluid athlete with terrific weight gain possibilities. Vashon's William Franklin has also committed to Missouri. Because of a high school transfer, Franklin was ineligible to play football this past season. But that didn't effect Missouri's evaluation of him. As soon as he suits up, Franklin will become one of the best athletes on the Tigers' roster. These players represent the new direction the Missouri football program has taken under Gary Pinkel.

Creating more buzz than anyone at the June 1st camp was Webster Groves 5-A state championship quarterback Darrell Jackson. Mizzou has offered Darrell a scholarship along with a number of other schools. Jackson is 6-3" and 220 lbs. of sculptured muscle. His body is so chissled that if he were bitten by a pit bull, the dog probably chips a tooth! Darrell has a live arm and excellent throwing mechanics. Although Columbia Rock Bridge's Chase Patton is this year's gold standard of Missouri high school quarterbacks, Mizzou could compete for the Big 12 North with a quarterback like Jackson at the controls.

Perhaps Gary Pinkel will get an oral commitment from Darrell Jackson. After all, when George Clooney was challenged by his crew in The Perfect Storm, he confidently responded, "I always find the fish."

(Danny Heitert is the publisher of the STC Grid Report, a twice-per-year publication focusing on Missouri high school football player evaluations. Danny is also a frequent contributer to

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