Don't take the stars too seriously

COLUMBIA --- Gary Pinkel doesn't look at the stars.

He takes even less stock in these stars than he does in Astrology.

He's a Taurus, by the way.

One set of stars, however, seems to be a bit more accurate than the other.

Wednesday was National Signing Day for college football teams, and form held true. Year after year, this changes less Jimmy Hoffa's status of dead or alive.

According to the stars, seven of top nine recruiting classes are from the SEC --- Alabama (shockingly is No. 1 for the third straight year), followed by LSU (2), Texas A&M (4), Tennessee (5), Florida (6), Auburn (8) and Georgia (9).

Missouri? Not just yet, let's keep going.

Ole Miss is next (17), followed by Kentucky (20), South Carolina (21) and Arkansas (30).

Now we're down to Missouri, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt still standing in the SEC recruiting battle, according to the starry-eyed experts. Drum roll, please. It is ...

Missouri at No. 33 overall, No. 12 in the SEC.

Hah! Take that Mississippi State and Vanderbilt!

"We don't talk about stars, we don't look at stars, ever," said Pinkel, the Tigers head coach. "Some programs look at the stars and see where they rank, and those type of things.

"But I would suggest that people look at the math a little bit --- in the last seven years, we're the eighth-winningest BCS program in the nation, and we've always been ranked 30th or 40th in recruiting.

"The numbers don't match."

This isn't about Pinkel not landing 5-star recruits. If he could, he surely would. This year's class is once again barren of 5-star players and has only two 4-star recruits.

This is about what Pinkel and his staff have done with a bunch of players with only 2 or 3 stars by their name. That's what makes what they've done so impressive.

"Obviously, we recruit at a very, very high level," said Pinkel, whose team was 12-2 last season, the SEC East champion, the Cotton Bowl winner, and ranked No. 5 in the final polls. "We have a system in place that works, bringing the right players and the right young men in here."

Evidence? Here are some of Missouri's 2-star recruits you may have heard of:

Michael Egnew (NFL), Danario Alexander (NFL), Sean Weatherspoon (NFL), Michael Sam (the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.)

That's just a few examples.

"We develop players in our program, which we call 'Mizzou Made,'" Pinkel said "And I think we do that better than anybody in the United States of America --- that's talking about academics, developing them as young men, that's talking about developing football players.

"All of those are components in Mizzou Made. You just do the math, our success and winning, compared to what they say about our recruiting. It certainly doesn't reflect the success we've had.

"We will continue to do it our way. And this year, we've got some great players coming in."

In alphabetical order, they are (including high school, if from Missouri):

* Paul Adams, OL, 6-6, 280, Nashville, Tenn.

* Sam Bailey, OL, 6-4, 265, Lamar

* Andy Bauer, OL, 6-3, 300, St. Louis (DeSmet)

* Kendall Blanton, TE, 6-6, 230, Blue Springs (South)

* DeSean Blair, WR, 6-2, 185, Jacksonville, Fla.

* Walter Brady, DE, 6-3, 255, Florence, Ala.

* Nate Brown, WR, 6-3, 205, Suwanee, Ga.

* Logan Cheadle, CB, 5-10, 170, Lee's Summit (West)

* Kenya Dennis, CB, 6-0, 198, Leland, Miss.

* Keyon Dilosa, WR, 6-3, 190, Round Rock, Tex.

* Mike Fairchild, OL, 6-5, 280, Overland Park, Kan.

* Darnell Green, WR, 6-5, 180, Springfield (Hillcrest)

* Grant Jones, TE, 6-3, 225, Columbia (Hickman)

* Brandon Lee, LB, 6-2, 215, Indianapolis

* Lawrence Lee, WR, 5-11, 175, Pensacola, Fla.

* Rocel McWilliams, DL, 6-3, 245, Pensacola, Fla.

* Kevin Pendleton, OL, 6-3, 320, Lee's Summit (West)

* Thomas Richard, WR, 6-0, 190, Nashville, Tenn.

* Tavon Ross, DB, 6-0, 200, Cochran, Ga.

* Finis Stribling, DB, 5-11, 180, Thompson's Station, Tenn.

* Greg Taylor, DB, 5-11, 185, East St. Louis, Ill.

* Trevon Walters, TB, 5-10, 195, Bradenton, Fla.

* Thomas Wilson, Athlete, 5-11, 185, Buford, Ga.

* Spencer Williams, DL, 6-4, 220, Jacksonville, Fla.

*Raymond Wingo, DB, 6-0, 175, St. Louis (University High)

* Roderick Winters, LB, 5-11, 195, Arlington, Tex.

* Ish Witter, RB, 5-8, 195, Tampa, Fla.

* Marvin Zanders, QB, 6-2, 180, Jacksonville, Fla.

"I feel very, very good about our (28-player) class," Pinkel said. "We recruit athletes and we recruit speed potential, as well as the character of our athletes.

"These kids are the kids we wanted."

Here are some things worth noting:

* Five graduated high school early and are already enrolled at Missouri --- Cheadle, Dennis, Fairchild, Brandon Lee and Zanders.

"We never really push that, it's personal to the player," Pinkel said. "If the player wants to experience that last few months of high school, we certainly understand that. But if they choose to come early, I think it's a big advantage.

"But it's completely their decision."

* There are eight players from Missouri, including one of the four-star recruits, 6-3, 300-pound offensive lineman, Andy Bauer from DeSmet.

"Andy's a good guy, he's very talented and very bright, and we expect him to come in and be a very good player for us," Pinkel said.

Bauer, however, didn't play last fall after having surgery to remove a bone spur from his right thigh.

The rest of the breakdown by state is: Florida (seven), Tennessee and Georgia (three), Texas (two), and Alabama, Mississippi, Indiana, Illinois and Kansas (one).

* The breakdown by position is:

Wide receiver/tight end (eight), including the other 4-star recruit, Georgia product Nate Brown, who was also recruited by Georgia and South Carolina, among others; defensive backs (six), offensive linemen (five), defensive linemen (three), running backs (three), linebackers (two), and one each for quarterback and "athlete."

"We hit the numbers we wanted to hit at every single position," Pinkel said. "We not only look at this year, but we look at next year, too, as far as the numbers we need.

"The decisions we make and our evaluations we make, it's really about the future and what these young men are going to bring to our football program."

Will the stars align for the Tigers? We'll see.

If you're curious, here's a portion of what Pinkel's horoscope said Wednesday:

"Try not to let today's blues get you down. Frustration arises if you attempt to make use of your fantastic ideas, but there's no reason to be overly concerned about productivity right now."

Don't take the stars too seriously.