Mizzou 'brand name' gets a boost

2012-02-02T09:30:00Z 2012-06-11T17:05:09Z Mizzou 'brand name' gets a boostBY VAHE GREGORIAN • vgregorian@post-dispatch.com stltoday.com

COLUMBIA, Mo. • As one of only six schools in BCS-automatic qualifier conferences to win eight games or more the last six seasons and with 96 percent of its seniors graduating since 2007, Mizzou already had what coach Gary Pinkel called "a pretty good brand name."

But that brand added some luster on Wednesday with a 19-man recruiting class highlighted by the signing of Dorial Green-Beckham, the No. 1 prospect in the nation out of Springfield, Mo.

"I think the Mizzou stock market went up a little bit today," Pinkel said.

Having Green-Beckham don a Mizzou hat in his announcement nationally televised on ESPNU is the key to that surge, even if it was a moment Pinkel couldn't bear to watch.

Instead, he waited in his office, hoping to hear screaming and yelling from staffers watching.

While staying optimistic, Pinkel recalled thinking, he tried to cover himself with 'self-talk" that it would still be a great class and still would be OK if DGB chose differently.

But when the outburst came, Pinkel jumped out of his seat over what he called "a statement about where we've come from and where we're at now, and, most important … where we're going to go."

Literally and figuratively, as Mizzou prepares to leave the plenty-rugged Big 12 for the unsurpassed Southeastern Conference — whose schools have claimed the last six national titles.

"There's a lot of football (around) the country, but there's one place that really plays football," Pinkel said, smiling.

Because Mizzou's move to the SEC didn't become official until Nov. 6, it was difficult to trace the full impact of the move on this year's class.

All who had committed up to that point, Pinkel noted, were committing based on the notion of playing in the Big 12.

Perhaps in part because of the change, Evan Boehm of Lee's Summit, rated the No. 2 guard in the country by ESPN, de-committed from Mizzou last fall before deciding on the Tigers after all.

"It probably had a little bit to do with (the conference change); it was just the transition taking place," Pinkel said, though adding the fact MU was 4-5 at the time might have had something to do with Boehm's uncertainty.

Missouri signed only one player out of the SEC footprint, Sean Culkin, rated the nation's No. 24 tight end prospect from Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.

Ultimately, Pinkel expects SEC membership to "enhance" MU recruiting, especially as Mizzou turns more of its resources in that direction with new safeties coach Alex Grinch recruiting Georgia, running backs coach Brian Jones in Florida and co-offensive line coach Josh Henson in southern Georgia and the Florida panhandle, according to recruiting coordinator David Yost.

Then there's MU's planned public-relations blitz on SEC turf, where, Pinkel said, Mizzou will send out mass "propaganda" to high schools, in "numbers you can't imagine," to emblazon the Mizzou name on the scene.

Recruiting in the SEC era, though, also will require more work at home in terms of facilities upgrades.

"We need to invest; we're working on that right now," said Pinkel, noting the quality of the competition's resources could be seen via an online tour. "Take a visual gander and you'll see what I'm saying."

But that's not the only way closer to home still will matter in the SEC future. Texas, where MU got seven players, will remain a focal point, and nothing will remain more of a priority than Missouri — where MU got six, including three from St. Louis.

Nothing illustrates the significance of the in-state emphasis more, of course, than Green-Beckham, whose recruitment included a helicopter pop-in by Pinkel.

On the way to Springfield that day, Pinkel said the helicopter's electrical system malfunctioned and it had to land at the Springfield airport for repairs before going on to see Green-Beckham.

"Talk about someone putting their life on the line for a recruit," Pinkel said, smiling. "I did, and thank heaven we didn't go down."

And up Mizzou's stock went because of it all.

"It kind of puts a stamp on your program, but also it's our selling point," Yost said. "The best players in Missouri should come to Missouri. We have proof: the best guy in the country is from Missouri, and he chose to come to Missouri, so why wouldn't all you guys want to come?"

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