Heralded Missouri recruit headed to junior college

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Top Missouri recruit Sheldon Richardson is headed for junior college after failing to qualify academically.

Several Missouri newspapers report that Richardson is head to the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif., to improve his grades.

Richardson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he still plans to attend Missouri after junior college.

"I'm not opening up my recruiting: It's still Mizzou," he told the Post-Dispatch Tuesday morning. "It's going to hold up. Me and (assistant coach Cornell) Ford and (head coach) Gary Pinkel and Coach (Curtis) Allen (in California) planned a year-and-a-half and then I'll be back."

The Columbia Daily Tribune reported that several key Tigers over the years have faced similar educational challenges before attending Missouri. Players like defensive lineman Atiyyah Ellison, cornerback Darnell Terrell and tailback Damien Nash all attended junior college before enrolling again at Missouri. Richardson will have to earn his associate's degree from junior college before enrolling at Missouri, plus sign another letter of intent.

Interestingly, Richardson and his family had been impressed with Missouri's potential plan if he did not qualify academically. When he announced he would be attending Missouri back in February, those plans were among the major reasons he opted to attend that school rather than Miami. The Hurricanes were Richardson's other finalist.

Richardson plans to play both tight end and defensive tackle at junior college with eventual plans to try to play both positions in college.

And he also made a direct promise to Kansas fans on his Facebook page of his plans when he returns to Missouri, according to the Kansas City Star.

"While I'm there, we won't lose (to KU)," Richardson wrote.

Richardson's loss is a disappointment to Pinkel and his staff, but I don't really know how seriously they thought his chances of qualifying would be. They likely prepared for the worst and if Richardson would become eligible, it would be a bonus.

But he could still develop into the kind of player that recruiting analysts were salivating about, at the most important of all defensive positions.

Some recruiting analysts have said that Richardson could develop into the kind of player that Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy are for their respective teams.

If so, Richardson would still be well worth the wait.