- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Gary Pinkel isn't naive. Missouri's coach understands a new recruiting game has to be played now that the Tigers are moving to the SEC.
The states of Missouri and Texas will continue to be recruiting priorities, but stretching out to southeastern states will now become very important.
"That makes sense," Pinkel said about generating more recruiting efforts in southeastern states.
Pinkel said the main areas of importance outside of the Tigers' home state are Dallas and Atlanta. The good thing for Pinkel and his staff is that it's only about an hour longer drive to Atlanta compared to Dallas. It still accounts for 10-plus hours on the road, but if you're going to take the time to head to Dallas, you might as well make it out to the hub of the South.
And for Pinkel, it's well worth it.
"If you look at statistics and analysis of BCS players, they come out of the metroplex around Dallas and then you look at the greater Atlanta area," he said. "The parallels are staggering between those two cities. They produce a lot of athletes."
Currently, Missouri has just six players from SEC states -- three from Florida, two from Arkansas and one from Louisiana. Mizzou increased that number by two after signing two players from Florida in its 2012 class.
Pinkel said things are certainly different when it comes to the 2013 class. There's a lot more marketing in the South from the Tigers. Pinkel said the school is sending "thousands of pieces of information" about Mizzou to southeastern high school coaches and counselors each week. There are also Mizzou billboards in the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.
While Mizzou hasn't received any verbal commitments from southeastern prospects in its 2013 class, according to ESPN recruiting services, the coaches have issued scholarships to 19 of those prospects. Expect that number to grow as coaches get out on the road more.
While Pinkel wants to hit Atlanta hard, he doesn't have experience recruiting that area, but has recruited off and on in Florida. Here's a look at the coaches who will be patrolling the southeast:
Safeties coach Alex Grinch: Atlanta area
Running backs coach Brian Jones: Tampa and part of Orlando
Co-offensive line coach Josh Henson: Florida Panhandle, Jacksonville, Fla., and down toward Orlando
Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel: West Dallas
Co-offensive line coach Bruce Walker: East Dallas
Defensive line coach Craig Kullgowski: Houston area
Offensive coordinator David Yost: Missouri and Memphis, Tenn.
Pinkel understands that Mizzou is a foreign program to a lot of southeastern prospects, but slowly he expects that feeling to disappear. He experienced it recruiting the state of Texas as Toledo’s coach and when he first arrived at Mizzou, but saw it turn around twice.
Pinkel said his first Mizzou roster had around 10 or 11 players from Texas and now has more than 30. Once southeastern players get to know his program, Pinkel insists Mizzou will be more appealing to recruits in this talent-rich part of the country.
"We've been here before," he said. "We understand it's a process.
"I also think we walk in the door with some credibility -- winning and success and graduating our players. In the last five years or six years -- I'm not sure what it is -- we're the eighth winningest BCS program in the country and we're graduating in the last six years 96 percent of our players. Those are facts."