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Missouri Makes Its Presence Felt in the SEC

Want to play in the SEC? Landing SEC-caliber players helps. You know those guys: five stars, built like a statue, hits like a truck, runs like a gazelle and ready for the N.F.L. from day one. The SEC dominates all of our college football acronyms, from the F.B.S. to the B.C.S. to N.S.D. – I’m sure there are others. And the conference’s newest addition, Missouri, is doing what it takes to keep pace. The SEC-bound Tigers signed wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the country regardless of position, sending a fairly clear message to its new conference brethren: If you’re looking for a pushover, look elsewhere.

Missouri could have played in the SEC without Green-Beckham. The Tigers are balanced offensively, laden with potential on defense and stacked with top-tier coaching; that’s enough to win games, even in the SEC. That Missouri will play in the SEC East – Texas A&M, unfortunately, takes home in the West – will help the program find its footing early.

Adding Green-Beckham achieves two feats. The first is in body: Green-Beckham is the nation’s best talent, a sort of receiver who can immediately step into a void and become Missouri’s top target in the passing game. Not that the cupboard is entirely bare for the Tigers: T.J. Moe will return, as will Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington. Moe, the team’s leading receiver in 2011, has developed a nice rapport with quarterback James Franklin.

But Missouri needs to replace tight end Michael Egnew and receiver Wes Kemp, two big-bodied options who served in substantial roles on third down and in the red zone. Green-Beckham, at 6’6 and 220, can at the very least help Missouri convert near the goal line while learning the intricacies of a college offense.

The biggest signal this signing sends, however, goes beyond Green-Beckham’s physical presence. Emotionally, his announcement puts Missouri on the map in a conference defined by its signing day dominance. According to reports, Green-Beckham was leaning towards Arkansas prior to taking his official visit to Missouri last week; after that trip, Green-Beckham switched his commitment to the home-state Tigers.

Missouri beat out the rest of the F.B.S., in essence, for Green-Beckham’s signature – every school in the country would have taken him with open arms, as you’d suspect. But the Tigers also beat out the rest of the SEC, led by Arkansas. In doing so, the program illustrates that it can win on the field and on the recruiting trail.

And winning on the latter wins national championships. The SEC has now landed each of the last four No. 1 national recruits, as ranked by Rivals.com: Green-Beckham, Jadeveon Clowney, Ronald Powell and Bryce Brown. The conference wins in early February, out-dueling the rest of the country for the cream of the crop, and then wins again in September, October, November, December and January – in January most of all.

Now add Missouri to the mix, and consider how strong this program can be if its recruiting picks up an SEC pace. Missouri’s recent talent, along with its coaching, would have been good enough for annual bowl trips out of the SEC. What if the Tigers start adding the sort of talent that could have gone to Alabama, L.S.U., Arkansas and the rest of the conference? What if Missouri recruits as well as the rest of the SEC?

Then the sky is the limit. With how Gary Pinkel and his staff have fared since arriving in Columbia more than a decade ago, adding five-star prospects like Green-Beckham into the mix would make Missouri a genuine conference title contender. And being an SEC title contender, as we know, makes you a national title contender. It takes more than one five star, of course, but Green-Beckham’s a start. And one heck of a start at that.

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