Mighty MO State Football Recruits, snOMG Class of 2011

Mighty MO StateThe Springfield News-Leader’s Lyndal Scranton reported the #snOMG-delayed Missouri State football recruiting class is 17 deep so far, with coach Terry Allen expecting to add a handful more, once schools are able to dig out and get back in session. Here’s what we know so far about the future Bears of Mighty MO State.

Note: This list will be updated when necessary. Missouri State has received LOIs from 21 recruits. They expect to sign a total of 24.

Offense

All-American left tackle David Arkin is gone to graduation, as are center Erik Dahl, right guard Bob Shapel and right tackle Jake Duron. It should come as no surprise, then, that Allen has inked six offensive linemen so far, including a pair of junior college transfers. There are also big shoes to fill at quarterback – though Trevor Wooden is the heir apparent to Cody Kirby – and tight end, though the Bears are set at wide receiver and running back. Offensive signees are:

Charleston Antwine, OL (6-foot 4, 290; Wake Village, Texas; Texas High): Be sure to watch this right tackle’s highlight video. He’s listed there at 6-foot-6, 300, and he can motor (claims of a 5.0 in the 40). Several times on the video you can see him finishing a block at the line of scrimmage, then moving to the next level in pursuit of a block. Antwine was a second team all-district selection in 2010 and led his team in pancake blocks.

Robert Booker, OL (6-foot-2, 290; Ozark, MO; Ozark High): A familiar name to local football fans, Booker was a key member of Ozarks’ line in their wing-T offense. Booker was named all-Central Ozark Conference-Large Second Team and Third Team All-State by the Missouri Football Coaches Association last fall. He also earned Academic All-State honors. How brains-and-brawn is he? The News-Leader reported last fall that nearly all Ivy League schools had inquired about his availability.

Richard Darden, TE (6-foot-4, 220; Memphis, Tenn.; Ridgeway High): There’s a lot to like about Darden, including a big frame and good hands. The first clip on his highlight video is a jaw-dropper, as he catches a pass, fights his way out of a quadruple-team tackle, then sprints 65 yards for a touchdown. Wow. He’s also a basketball player, so he’s clearly an athletic get for Allen and the Bears. Ridgeway went 10-0 in the regular season and finished 13-1 in Darden’s only year of varsity football. He was selected for the 2010 Liberty Bowl High School All-Star Game. Darden has a great pedigree, as both his father and grandfather have played FCS football and earned all-America honors, for Austin Peay and Tennessee State respectively.

Emerson DePeel, OL (6-foot-4, 300; Bentonville, Ark.; Bentonville High): DePeel is a Class 7A all-stater, who chose MSU over Pittsburg State and Southwest Baptist. His Bentonville teams were two-time state champions. DePeel also excels on the mat, earning all-state honors in wrestling.

Robert Fields, WR (6-foot-1, 189; Memphis, Tenn.; Memphis East High): The first two plays on Fields’ highlight reel show great elusiveness and speed, as he takes a bubble screen between the hashes for a long touchdown, then uses great speed -and a well-placed stiff-arm – for what appears to be at least a 98-yard TD catch-and-carry. Fields looks taller than 6-foot-1 on tape. He’s lanky and does a good job stretching to haul in some high passes on tape. Fields caught 40 passes for 705 yards and 11 TDs in his senior season. Scout lists him an inch taller and he apparently drew interest from some SEC schools (Alabama, Kentucky and Mississippi) as well as Memphis. Interesting note: A Story in the Commercial Appeal claims he was part of a quarterback rotation at Memphis East.

Kierra Harris, QB (5-foot-11, 190; Texarkana, Ark.; Arkansas High): I would’ve loved to found some video on Harris, who lacks in size but could be a great athlete at the quarterback position (he also plays basketball at Arkansas High), as at least one report referred to him as a threat with his arm and his feet.  Harris earned the all-Southwest Arkansas Offensive Player of the Year award and was a two-time Arkansas Class 6A All-State selection. He threw for 2,238 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior and rushed for 959 yards and 12 scores. His career totals were 5,500 passing and 1,500 rushing yards.

Ryan Heaston, RB (5-foot-11, 175; Cordova, Ten..; Cordova High): This is an intriguing sign for MSU. Heaston logged time at running back and wide receiver, and was a return specialist for Cordova (Missouri State also considers him a potential defensive back). His on-the-field stats are great: 146 carries for 1,264 yards and 15 TDs; 11 catches for 237 yards and a TD; eight kickoff returns for 261 yards; six punt returns for 215 yards and a touchdown. Those stats earned him the Old Spice Red Zone Player of the Year award for the state of Tennessee. He was selected from over 2,000 players in the state for that award. Heaston was also selected for the Tennessee East-West All-Star Game, where he was a team captain. Heaston wows off the field, too, winning the Liberty Bowl/FCA John “Bull” Bramlett Award, given annually to the Memphis/Shelby County are football player who”exemplifies academic excellence, outstanding on-field performance, community service and Christian character and values on and off the field.” Heaston is a junior deacon at Oak Grove Baptist Church, usher and choir member. He’s also involved with FCA, Bridge Builders and Youth United Way and is a two-time state champion in three different track events. Wow. He’s also an all-state track performer in events including the 200- and 400-yard dashes.

Maddy Johnson, RB (5-foot-8, 165; Webb City, Mo.; Webb City High): Johnson is a player I had the privilege to see in person, and I can tell you that he impresses with his toughness as much as his speed (4.37 in the 40). Those qualities helped him gain 1,800 rushing yards and score 35 TDs as a senior. Johnson was the COC-Large Offensive Player of the Year and was named First Team All-State by the Missouri Sportscasters and Sportswriters as Webb City went 15-0 and won another state championship.

Jake Lasater, OT (6-foot-6, 300; St. Charles, Mo.; Francis Howell High): Another big-bodied lineman, highlight video shows Lasater lined up at right tackle. I loved watching this kid move his feet and run block on plays to his side. Lasater’s award sheet includes First Team all-Gateway Athletic Conference, First Team MSSA All-District and Second Team Class 6 All-State (Missouri Sportscasters & Sportswriters).

Patrick Morse, OL (6-foot-4, 275; Springdale, Ark.; Springdale High): Morse was part of a stellar group of linemen at Springdale. How good? Three of his linemates also signed Letters of Intent, to Arkansas, Arkansas-Monticello and Tulsa. Morse was named a 2011 Arkansas All-Star. Fitness shouldn’t be an issue for Morse. He played every snap for Springdale.

Randy Richards, OL (6-foot-5, 300; Royal Palm Beach, Fla.; Royal Palm Beach High; College of Sequoias): Richards comes to Missouri State from Royal Palm Beach (FL) High, by way of College of Sequoias…fitting for a man of Richards’ size. There’s an interesting trail on Richards, who apparently committed to Florida Atlantic (perhaps out of high school), but did not enroll there. He then committed to Marshall last February, but didn’t play there either. New  Mexico State also expressed interest in him. My best guess is he’d have two years of eligibility at MSU. Clearly has the size and talent to draw interest from I-A schools. Clearly he fills a need for MSU. Will he play here?

Clay Spruill, OL (6-foot-5, 300; Mt. Pleasant, Texas; Mt. Pleasant High; Tyler Junior College): Another 6-foot-5, 300-pounder, he comes from Mt. Pleasant, Texas, by way of Tyler Junior College. Spruill was named 1st Team All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference this past season. He has played right tackle – another area of need – in the past. I wasn’t able to get confirmation on what position he played in 2010.

Defense

This was a senior-laden group for Missouri State in 2010, with seven seniors starting in the regular-season finale. The Bears must replace a pair of defensive ends, three linebackers, and both safeties. There are lots of holes to fill, meaning lots of opportunities. There’s just one JuCo on this side of the ball, and he should have a chance to play immediately.

Dondelaro Crosby, LB (5-foot-11, 200; Leesburg, Fla.; Leesburg High): Small in size for a linebacker, though not a lot smaller than Nick Canavan, who made quite an impact as a freshman for MSU in 2010. Crosby was another player I couldn’t find much on, though the former sprinter recorded 120 tackles, three interceptions, nine tackles and four forced fumbles. He could play inside or outside for the Bears.

Nate Davis, LB (6-foot-2, 215; Liberal, Kan.; Liberal High; Garden City CC): Another fun highlight video to watch. Davis appears to have good speed and the ability to shed blocks and get to the ballcarrier. I’m particularly fond of the play that starts at about the 2:38 mark, where he submarines a blocker and – with the blocker on top of him – makes a tackle. Davis, a KJCCC Honorable Mention selection, picked Missouri State over Southern Illinois, thanks in part to his future position coach, Wayne Chambers. “He played at Oklahoma for four years, he’s coached a few years and that to me showed that he knew what he was doing and would bring a lot to the table,” Davis told The Garden City Telegram.

Corey Feagin, DE (6-foot-3, 230; Cedar Hill, Texas; Cedar Hill High): I couldn’t find much on Feagin, other than he was Honorable Mention in District 5-5A and drew some interest from FBS schools Syracuse, TCU and Texas Tech.

Josh Hampton, DL (6-foot-4, 265; Benton, Ark.; Bryant High): One thing my research on Hampton showed me was that this cat won’t smile for a picture – and he got a lot of them taken after a great senior year. He was a finalist for the State Farm Award for defense in Class 6A/7A after he was the leading tackler for Bryant High. He also played some offensive line, fullback and tight end, leading the WarHawk Report to name him a “Natural State Player to Watch” at tight end. Another page credited his athleticism as a reason he projects to a couple of different positions. Hampton finished last season with 104 tackles, 12 for loss, five sacks and seven pass break-ups. He has 4.7 speed.

Christian Hoffman, LB (6-foot-1, 210, Webb City, Mo.; Webb City High): MSU also lands the COC-Large Defensive Player of the Year, in Hoffman – also an all-state selection for the state-champion Cardinals. Hoffman recorded 125 tackles, including a pair of sacks, last season, while forcing three fumbles.

Rufus Sullivan, OLB/DE (6-foot-3, 215; Lebanon, Mo.; Lebanon High): Another local signee for Allen and I’m intrigued to see where he ends up playing. He’s got good height, but 215 seems a bit light for a defensive end. Sullivan was all-everything last season, as he averaged 8 tackles and 1 sack per game.

Bernard Thomas, DB (5-foot-11, 172; Blue Springs, Mo.; Blue Springs High): This is an interesting get for the Bears. Thomas’ play apparently earned him an offer from Kansas. Thomas, ,who runs a 4.4 40 and has a 35-inch vertical, visited Missouri, went to Arkansas on junior day, and took unofficial visits to Colorado and Oklahoma. His Rivals page claims offers from Arkansas, Kansas State, and Tulsa. Hopefully his time at MSU lives up to the high-level attention he got. Thomas was named First Team Suburban All-Big 6 and First Team AP All-State.

Jordan White, DL (6-foot-6, 280; Alma, Ark.; Alma High): Boasting 4.9 speed, White earned Class 5A all-conference and all-state honors for the Airedales of Alma. White is also an all-stater in track

Combo

Eric Christophel, WR/DB (5-foot-10, 170; Nixa, Mo.; Nixa High): Full disclosure: I’m a Christophel fan. I covered him as a high school junior and senior at Nixa and love the kid. His father, Rob, is the Bears’ offensive coordinator. In my biased opinion, Christo has a great motor and fiery competitive drive that will give him a chance to contribute at MSU…somewhere. A second-team all-COC selection as a wide receiver, Christophel is really a utility player – you can plug him in on offense, defense, or special teams. He caught 14 passes for 330 yards and five TDs for the Eagles last fall, while totaling 700 return yards and picking off three passes.

–QCFM

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Mighty MO State lays the first brick

Courtesy of Missouri State University Photographic Services

Chris Douglas' 86-yard touchdown run sparked Missoui State to victory as they open The Most-Anticipated Season in Missouri State Football History©.

Using “Missouri State” football and “laying a brick” in the same sentence is a dangerous thing. This is, after all, a program that has lost two home openers to NCAA D-II schools. But 2010 is a different year, with different Bears and the brick in question is part of MO State quarterback Cody Kirby’s theme for the year.

“If I’m going to build a wall, I don’t set out from Day 1 and say, ‘I’m gonna build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall in the history of man.’ Instead, you say, ‘I’m gonna take this brick and lay it as perfectly as it can be laid,’ every day.”

Kirby and coach Terry Allen’s Bears laid the first brick with aplomb Sept. 3, routing Eastern Kentucky 31-9 to open The Most-Anticipated Season in Missouri State Football History© off in thrilling, if belated, fashion.

This win is legit. Missouri State was 168th in the first Sagarin Ratings of the season, while Eastern Kentucky was 169. The Colonels were picked third in the Ohio Valley Conference and returned 9 starters on defense as well as the 2009 OVC Freshman of the Year in quarterback T.J. Pryor. The Colonels were a formidable foe.

And it showed through the first quarter, as the Bears went 3-and-punt on their first three possessions and fell behind 3-0. MO State was only up 7-6 when junior tailback Chris Douglas took a handoff, rounded the corner and flat exploded through the Eastern Kentucky secondary for an 86-yard touchdown run–the fifth-longest rush in school history.

The momentum from that run – which was a thing of beauty – was enough to help Missouri State outscore EKU 31-6 over the middle two quarters and walk away with a victory that lives up to the pre-season hype. There’s reason for optimism after that win. Here’s why:

1. The Bears showed they have some offensive weapons. Kirby was a known quantity entering the season. But the backfield was depleted, with Jonathan Davis off the team and both Mikael Cooper-Falls and Drew Temple injured. Perhaps a bigger question mark was who’s going to become Kirby’s new favorite target, with Clay Harbour gone to the NFL? While the final offensive numbers weren’t glittering (388 yards of total O), Douglas looked sharp at tailback, Kirby was his usual self and both Jermaine Saffold and redshirt freshman sensation Trevor Wooden made great catches.

2. The defense looks even more improved. MO State limited EKU to just 350 yards of total offense, 35 on the ground, and harassed Pryor into six sacks and a pair of interceptions. They also didn’t allow a touchdown. And this was without junior linebacker Michael Keck, out after suffering a pre-season concussion.

3. This is only the beginning. There were causes for concern, of course, but not necessarily a lot of glaring deficiencies. They appeared to be things that can be corrected in practice.

But I’m aboard the playoff wagon just yet. MO State’s football tradition is not good – to put it nicely – and I’ve been let down before. And the Missouri Valley Conference is an especially long row to hoe for any school with playoff aspirations. Southern Illinois, South Dakota State and Northern Iowa are all ranked in the top 13 in the Coaches Poll, and North Dakota State – picked behind the Bears in the preseason league poll – just went on the road and upset Big XII school Kansas 6-3. So let’s not throw out the baby before the bathwater.

That said, I’m basking in this one for a while. Kansas State will be a challenge to be certain, but as long as no key players get injured, a loss isn’t a big setback. The real fun begins Sept. 25 with the Valley opener at Illinois State.

–QCFM

Required Reading:

“Wait pays off for MSU in win” — Lyndal Scranton, Springfield News-Leader’

“Grading the Bears” — Springfield News-Leader

“Colonels drop 10th straight season opener” — Nathan Hutchinson, The Richmond Register

Highlights, courtesy of KSPR