When Lutheran North football coach Carl Reed met with his star linebacker Antonio Doyle on Thursday, his four-star recruit was down to two college choices.
"He told me it was Oklahoma or Texas A&M, for sure," Reed said.
Reed had one request: First take a drive west on I-70.
"One thing I try to tell all my guys is you at least need to visit the state school," Reed said Sunday morning. "I’m a firm believer that you need to take advantage of meeting with Coach (Barry) Odom and see what he has to offer with his program. He’s a great man and we’ve had a tremendous relationship for a long time. He at least needed to go see it."
By Saturday, during his official visit to Missouri, Doyle's mind was made up. The Sooners and Aggies were out. Odom's Tigers were in.
Doyle, one of the state’s top-rated players for 2020, became the latest in-state prospect to commit to Mizzou, making his verbal pledge on social media Saturday night.
"He called me Saturday night and wanted to go to Missouri after going on his visit," Reed said. "I was 100 percent for it. Ultimately it all comes down to what the kid wants to do. That’s what he wants to do."
Doyle, rated the state’s fourth-best 2020 recruit by Rivals.com, began his high school career at Lutheran North then transferred to Hazelwood West for the 2018 season. He played just four games there last year before moving back to Lutheran North. He'll play middle linebacker for Reed's team this fall.
Doyle was on the move between schools last fall but that didn't hurt his recruitment. He's collected loads of Power 5 scholarship offers and in recent months has announced offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Oregon and Texas, among others. Rivals rates Doyle the nation’s No. 19 outside linebacker prospect for 2020 and No. 232 player overall, making him the highest ranked of the seven players committed to Mizzou.
Naturally, Reed is bullish on the player headed to Mizzou and compared his commitment to some of the area's top players who have picked Mizzou over the years.
"They’re getting the best linebacker in the country," Reed said. "He’s a prime-time recruit, similar to what Terry Beckner was, and Sheldon Richardson and Jeremy Maclin. He could have played anywhere in the country. Everybody recruited this kid. Everybody wanted him. My phone was blowing up last night from all the college coaches of the schools that he didn’t pick. He’s an unbelievable player. He’s got NFL size. He’ll be a guy that plays at Missouri from the moment he steps on campus."
"Antonio’s been on the scene for a long time," Reed added. "When he came back (to Lutheran North) he had to sit for a little bit but everybody knew the kind of player he was and that didn’t have any bearing on the level of interest from universities."
In Reed's defense, Doyle patrols the inside at middle linebacker but at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds he could line up several places in Odom's 4-2-5 base system.
"He’s capable of playing inside or outside (linebacker)," Reed said. "He can rush the passer on third down. He’s an every-down player with a lot of versatility. The way the offenses have changed over the years you have to have guys like him who have the skill set to do multiple things."
Doyle's commitment continues Odom's strong run this offseason with local targets, becoming the fifth player from the area to pick the Tigers. Since last fall, Mizzou has secured pledges from Chaminade quarterback Brady Cook, Francis Howell offensive lineman Drake Heismeyer, Kirkwood receiver Jay Maclin and Mehlville offensive lineman Mitchell Walters. Mizzou landed two out-of-state commitments last week: Texas running back Dominique Johnson and Memphis, Tenn., offensive lineman Ray Curry.
Just two years ago Mizzou didn't sign a single in-state high school player. Odom made subtle progress with the 2018 class with three high school recruits, though none from St. Louis. In 2019, with his staff intact and more momentum at his back, Odom landed six in-state players, five from St. Louis, including four-star safety Jalani Williams from Parkway North and four-star offensive lineman Jack Buford, who played for Reed at Lutheran North.
With six months to go before high school recruits can sign letters of intent in December, Mizzou is the only FBS program with multiple commitments from in-state targets in Missouri.
"People sometimes overreact at the results," Reed said. "It took Barry a minute to come in and establish the relationships that he needed to establish in the city to get the pipelines going how they needed to get going. They’ve done a tremendous job. Their commitment to St. Louis has never wavered. Now you’re start to see the plants sprout from the seeds that have been planted."