Pinkel still convinced Richardson will help Missouri

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said he prepared for two scenarios when recruiting heralded nose tackle/tight end Sheldon Richardson.

The Tigers' top product in their 2009 recruiting class failed to qualify to attend Missouri. Instead, he is expected to start summer classes today at the College of the Sequoias, a junior college in Visalia, Calif.

Pinkel told the Columbia Tribune that Richardson is expected to return to the Missouri program for the start of the 2011 season. He compared Richardson's path to the Tigers as similar to former tailback Damien Nash, who needed two years at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College before arriving at Missouri.

"There was an A plan and a B plan," Pinkel told the Tribune. "If the A plan works, that's fine. Let's roll. If not, [Richardson] can still graduate from Mizzou. He can still be a great football player. He can still accomplish all his goals. There's just a little detour here.

"He's going to do Plan B. He can still be a great player and still graduate from college, which at Mizzou, he will."

Pinkel said that his staff prepared for the eventuality that Richardson might not qualify. He will be the only member of Missouri's recruiting class who did not qualify academically.

"We didn't wake up one day and say, 'Oh my gosh!'" Pinkel said. "We were aware of what's happening a year and a half ago, as we are with all our kids."

The loss of Richardson for the next two years is a big loss for the Tigers, who could have really used one of the nation's top defensive line prospects. But Pinkel and his coaches are obviously preparing to make sure he arrives two years from now.

His loss for the upcoming season places more pressure on projected starting sophomore tackle Terrell Resonno, Andy Maples, converted tight end Bart Coslet and Jimmy Burge to replace Ziggy Hood.

It will be one of the biggest challenges for new defensive coordinator Dave Steckel, who will have to wait for Richardson for two seasons.