NCF Nation: Aarion Penton

Why Missouri is SEC East favorite 

October, 7, 2014
Russell HansbroughScott Clarke/ESPN ImagesRunning back Russell Hansbrough leads the Tigers' strong ground game.
The SEC has had more than its share of surprises through Week 6, including Ole Miss pulling off the upset over Alabama, Mississippi State becoming a top-5 program and South Carolina having more conference losses by the first weekend in October than it had in the entire 2013 season.

This amazing turn of events has made this a campaign to remember, but it's also masked another potentially surprising development in the SEC East.

The Missouri Tigers are the defending division champions, but the loss of 13 starters made this team a long shot to defend its title.

That underdog status has now changed.
One of the most important aspects in recruiting is protecting your backyard. It's basically a known on Day 1 of recruiting 101 when coaches get to the college ranks.

Missouri struck gold with its 2013 recruiting class by signing in-state prospects like Aarion Penton, Chase Abbington and Eric Beisel, but as RecruitingNation's Damon Sayles writes, the Tigers appear to be losing ground on the coveted St. Louis area:
Ohio State running back signee Ezekiel Elliott never intended on being the focal point of a panic attack. Neither did offensive tackle Andy Bauer (St. Louis/De Smet) or running back Markel Smith (St. Louis/St. John Vianney), two 2014 standouts.

While the three football stars may have little in common, they share two major details:

They are three of the best college football recruits the St. Louis metropolitan area has to offer. And whether they want to believe it or not, they are why Missouri Tigers fans are beginning to question the program's loyalty to recruiting -- and sometimes over-recruiting -- the greater St. Louis area.

Missouri didn't land Elliott back in February, and Bauer and Smith both have committed to and decommitted from Missouri. Bauer is currently pledged to Ole Miss, while Smith, who informed Mizzou of his choice to decommit Sunday, remains undecided.

Because of these recent developments, some followers already are comfortable with the notion that keeping the area's best close to home is a puncher's chance, if that. Some of the high school coaches in St. Louis, however, feel the apprehension is premature -- particularly when anything can happen from now until next February, when the Class of 2014 players sign their national letters of intent.

"It's early. It's way too early," said Van Vanatta, the head coach at Hazelwood Central in Florissant, Mo., about 20 minutes from St. Louis. "[Missouri] do a great job of recruiting players from the area, but a kid's going to go where he wants to go. There's nothing you can do. A lot of good kids still want to go to Missouri. It's just too early right now."

To read more of Sayles' piece on Mizzou losing ground in St. Louis, click here.