When you look up and down the Missouri and Illinois rosters this college football season, one thing becomes readily apparent. St. Louis has become a recruiting battleground for Lovie Smith and Barry Odom.

The "Arch Rivalry" is still in full effect.

The two schools might not have squared up on the football field since 2010, but just a quick glance at either team's depth charts shows there's still a battle going on between Mizzou and Illinois every year in St. Louis.

It's just in recruiting.

There are 25 players from the immediate St. Louis area suiting up for the Tigers or Illini this season. It's also split almost exactly down the middle. 13 St. Louis kids at Missouri and 12 at Illinois.

Up in Champaign, there's a St. Louis youth movement taking form.

"When I got here I was the only one," Junior tight end and St. Charles native Griffin Palmer said. "And now they've made a huge impact on the kids in St. Louis and I think it's become a destination for St. Louis kids."

This season, head coach Lovie Smith has added high profile St. Louis area freshmen Isaiah Williams, Shammond Cooper, Moses Okpala and Keith Randolph to build a new foundation to the program.

"It's kind of a St. Louis family, you know what I mean," Ladue alum and defensive lineman Moses Okpala said.

"I feel like it's (the St. Louis connection) big," former Trinity star linebacker Shammond Cooper said. "I feel like there's a couple more guys we can get in the next recruiting class and more."

Back in Columbia, St. Louis area veteran leadership will be on display this season, with perhaps a glimpse at some talent to come.

Barry Odom has made St. Louis a priority in recruiting, and it's been all about one word. Relationships.

"Odom has done an excellent job building relationships with coaches and players and I think the class that is coming out now is probably the group that came in when he took over there and you can see the footwork he's done in building those relationships," Lutheran North head coach Carl Reed said.

There's evidence of that relationship building emphasis in four star Lutheran North linebacker Antonio Doyle, who committed to play for the Tigers next season.

"He showed me what his ground and foundation in being a coach was, and I liked it," Doyle said.

Missouri and Illinois will rekindle their arch rivalry on the field in 2026, but as long as St. Louis continues to churn out some of the best football talent in the country, you can bet Odom and Lovie will be battling in the recruiting game in the background.

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