Missouri’s a Draft Day Winner
By Paul Myerberg // Apr 29, 2011
There are no losers on draft day, though programs that lost underclassmen to the N.F.L. draft can’t help but sit back and envision what might have been. Even when a program loses a star early, however, the day can turn out to be a success. Take Missouri, for example, which in the span of five picks lost a pair of team leaders but earned more positive publicity than any win, any official visit or any hundred of letters could achieve. Yeah, the Tigers lost a pair of would-be contributors, but the end gain might make the losses worth it.
Of course, Aldon Smith and Blaine Gabbert would have been top picks in the 2012 draft, had each returned for this season. Both might have gone higher, in fact, particularly in Gabbert’s case; he slipped to the 10th overall pick, slightly below his pre-draft expectations.
Here’s the fact of the day: Missouri’s is the only team to the country with each of its last three starting quarterbacks — Gabbert, Chase Daniel and Brad Smith — currently in the N.F.L. Yeah, Smith’s not playing quarterback for the Jets, but he earned his shot in the N.F.L. because of what he did as Missouri’s dual-threat signal caller.
Aldon Smith’s fast rise from relatively overlooked to top pick was unexpected nationally, but those inside the Big 12 knew about Smith — and knew the sky was the limit on his development. He gave Missouri a marquee face on draft night on each side of the ball, letting potential recruits know that not only can you win under Gary Pinkel, you can make it to the next level.
And recruits will pay attention. You’ll see Gabbert and Smith prominently featured in Missouri’s fall media guide; glossy photographs of each as a Tiger, followed by pictures of each on draft night, putting on hats embossed with the logos of the 49ers and Jaguars. That’ll sell, believe me.
As well it should. Generally, mid-tier recruits — players that typically compose most of Missouri’s recruiting classes — care more about winning, one could say, or location, comfort, what have you. Not to say that the five-star recruits don’t take similar issues under consideration, but the top recruits are also looking at cashing on their college success. There’s a reason recruits continue to flock in droves to places like Oklahoma, and it’s not because of the local scenery.
It’s because Oklahoma is a stepping-stone to the N.F.L., and has been for decades. Missouri will never have the same cachet as O.U., but it can begin to sell to recruits the idea of not just coming to a winning program but to a place that will get you ready for the next level.
It’s all part of the bigger picture. Pinkel gets little respect outside of his conference, but he’s one of the best coaches in the country; he’s built a consistent winner, and he’s put kids in the league — not quite on the level of last night, but this isn’t the first time Missouri has made waves on draft day. And if top recruits begin to view Missouri as a destination, if won’t be the last.
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Tags: Aldon Smith, Blaine Gabbert, Gary Pinkel, Missouri, N.F.L.
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