Is MU's recruiting class Pinkel's best?

Some pundits say Gary Pinkel has wrapped up his best recruiting class yet. Although according to the numbers that may not but true -- Pinkel had six four-star recruits in 2002 and has four in this class –- we all know too well that the star ratings are, by nature, subjective and hit-and-miss.

Here's what we at Inside Mizzou do know: this class is the most tailor-made to MU's needs of any in Pinkel's tenure. Several recruits could have an impact next fall.

For the fourth time in Pinkel's career here, it appears Missouri's class will finish sixth in the Big 12 rankings according to most analysts. had it rated No. 36 in the nation on the eve of signing day. Probably the biggest concern for MU fans is that after Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State sits not Mizzou, but Colorado. Nebraska is understandable, but the Buffs out-recruiting MU is a bit of a surprise.

The biggest fish reeled in by the Tigers is Harrisonville defensive end Michael Keck. A four-star recruit, he is already on campus and is expected to play linebacker at Mizzou. He was rated as one of the nation's top few weakside ends. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds -- and growing -- he should help fill the void created by the graduation of MU linebackers Dedrick Harrington and Marcus Bacon. Two other linebackers will also have that opportunity: Andrew Gachkar (6-2, 208 pounds, 4.42 40-yard dash) from Overland Park, KS and Brookfield, MO standout Luke Lambert (6-3, 215 4.6), who is also already on campus.

Another player who could have just as much impact as Keck is defensive tackle Andy Maples, a four-star recruit from the College of the Sequoias rated the No. 16 junior college prospect in the nation. MU, which struggled against the run late in the year, will need help on the line particularly after losing four of eight players from the two-deep roster. He won't be the only player to get an opportunity. Sacramento (Ca.) City College lineman Jayson Corbett will get a look as well. Also at end, the speedy Tyler Crane (6-2, 210, 4.48) could be the sleeper the Tigers always seem to find, while Chris Earnhardt (6-5, 250, 4.8), from Springfield; Dominique Hamilton (6-4, 279, 5.6), from El Paso, TX; and Jefferson City product Jay Terrell Resonno (6-3, 250, 5.6) all project inside.

Junior college defensive back Justin Garrett (6-2, 200, 4.5) has also made it to campus after being recruited last season. He originally verballed to Tennessee, but Coach Phillip Fullmer pulled his scholarship offer after he failed to make grades. Thankfully his grade issues appear resolved. He played safety in juco, but his cover skills will earn his looks at every position in the defensive backfield. He is a hard hitter and has a chance to make the depth chart. Also, look for the speedy Trey Hobson (5-10, 167, 4.5) from Stanley, KS. The Tigers final signee, safety Donte Neal from Arlington Seguin (Tex.) High will add depth to the mix. Neal was rated in the Texas Top 100 (95th) this past year.

The burgeoning star of this class could be Gilbert Moye, a four-star recruit who was rated as the No. 24 quarterback in the country, but who is a top-notch all-around athlete. The question is where the Diboll, Tex., star ends up. Moye runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and at 6-2 and 200 pounds, looks like a shorter, slightly stockier, version of former Mizzou quarterback Brad Smith. Is he a quarterback? Or does he switch to wide receiver and possibly play immediately? Or will he switch sides of the ball and help the secondary? He was rated 46th on Texas Top 100. We all know what kind of talent Texas produces.

The guess here is he will stay on offense. Don't be surprised if you see him on the field this fall. And Moye isn't the only recruit on the offensive side of the ball that could see the field come September.

Missouri got help at wide receiver this past season from freshmen Denaraio Alexander and Jared Perry. But the two best-looking recruits at that position may have been Jeremy Maclin and Tremane Vaughns. Maclin was injured early and red-shirted, while Vaughns'arrival was delayed by grade issues. Those issues are cleared up and the 5'9", 180-pound receiver is on campus hoping to make headway into the Tigers deep receiving corps.

Grade issues continue to plague Lutheran North/Fenton star Rolandis Woodland. Insiders suggest Woodland will not be at MU this fall and that he plans to attend a prep school before arriving in January of 2008. That's too bad. He is an imposing target at 6-5, 185 pounds. He also possesses 4.45 speed. Arlington, Tex.., two-star recruit Kendall Irving (5-10, 175, 4.56) closes the class at WR unless Mizzou gets the nod over Texas Tech for Jacob Amie of Tyler, Texas. He isn't expected to announce until the last minute and seems to be a Texas Tech lean.

Despite losing just three starters from the most productive offense in the Big 12, Missouri is bringing in four offensive linemen, three running backs, one tight end and three potential wide receivers. The best of the lot could be Raymore-Peculiar running back Derrick Washington. Washington is a 5-11, 194-lb workhorse that likes to run north and south and could challenge for the back-up spot behind Tony Temple. He is versatile and can catch the ball out of the backfield. Two St. Louis-area products could also add depth for next season: Carl Gettis (5-10, 187) from O'Fallon (Ft. Zumwalt West) and Devion Moore (5-8, 178) from St. Louis Hazelwood Central.

On the offensive line, the MU coaches have been raving about the nasty attitude of Dyersburg, Tenn., recruit J.T. Beasley. The 6'2", 260-pounder is probably slated for guard or center but will need time to add weight and strength. Elvis Fisher, 6'5", 310 lbs, out of Saint Petersburg, FL., will join him assuming he isn't an academic casualty. Another nasty-attitude dude is Kansas City North guard-tackle Jayson Palmgren (6'2", 295), and then there is Austin Wuebbels (6-4, 260) from Troy, IL. Some say he'ss the steal of the class. And don't forget one of the Tigers earliest verbals. There are early suggestions that Tecumseh, OK., tight end Bryan Webb (6-4, 254) could end up as a tackle or center with the Tigers. There's also Brendan Donaldson. He is a preferred walk-on from St. Joseph Central. At 6'3, 250 he has some work to do in the weight room, but could help the Tigers down the road.

Missouri did most of its recruiting damage early in the season when the Tigers were on their way to a 7-1 start. But Pinkel managed a valuable pickup late in the recruiting season when he landed Palomar Junior College punter Jake Harry. The 6'1, 190-pounder is expected to challenge incumbent Adam Crossett for both the punting and kickoff positions.

The Tigers snagged nine of the top 30 in-state prospects. In-state recruits Nos. 1 and 4 left town, which hurts. It hurts a lot. Rock Bridge quarterback Logan Gray and TE/DE Aron White could certainly help the Georgia Bulldogs, but just their presence to this class would have helped Missouri even more.

Some fans say Pinkel still needs to get over the hump, both on the field and in recruiting. Win the big game and land a big five-star recruit. The two appear to be tied together and that leads us back to the age-old question. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Mizzou fans hope this class begins to make that question a non-issue.

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