I got the following e-mail the other day:
Actually, wait...does this mean this qualifies as a mailbag? I THINK IT DOES!!!
Ahh, that's better. Anyhoo...here's the e-mail:
I just took a look at Rivals.com's top 100 prospects for 2009. I see that only four of those 100 list Mizzou as a school they're considering, and the highest of those is ranked 33rd. This is a bit disappointing to me as I expect we should have a marked boost in recruiting this year after last year's success on the field. Pinkel & Co. really have no excuses this year for a sub-par recruiting class. I would expect us to get at least a top-25 class this year. What is your take on recruiting so far? Thanks.
I started responding to the e-mail and realized I was getting close to unleashing about 4,000 words at the e-mailer, and if I was going to write 4,000 words, I might as well make it a post!
Now...as a fair warning...I'm a huge 'gray area' person. Almost nothing is black-and-white to me...which, honestly, limits my success as a blogger I'm sure. And judging recruiting on an immediate basis (instead of waiting five years to see what happens) is a huuuuuuuuge gray area. So...that said...how's recruiting going?
To me, this question requires two things: 1) determining exactly what the best-case scenario is for Mizzou in recruiting, and 2) looking at what has worked for Gary Pinkel and Mizzou in the past. It's going to take me a while to get through (1), so we'll make (2) a second post.
I don't want anybody to think I just turned into a nerd with all these Beyond the Box Score posts. I've been a nerd for quite a long time. Case in point: The Spreadsheet. Ask The Beef about the vaunted spreadsheet, which listed every Mizzou target and Mizzou dream target (as in, "in my dreams, we've got a chance for this guy"), projected recruiting classes, and then projected depth charts out for about four years. (I'm not sure why I'm using past tense here...it's not like I don't still do this...) Here was always the best-case scenario: we get every in-state kid we offer, and we round out the class with 4-star out-of-staters and 3-star out-of-staters with lots of offers.
We get every in-state kid we offer
Obviously, this will never happen. We will never get 100% of the MO kids we offer because, well, some kids just want to leave the state. We bank on that when we're recruiting the state of Texas--kids we offer could always go to Texas Tech or Baylor or TCU or Houston if they wanted to, but we're hoping to find the ones that don't mind playing further from home. I believe Pinkel and crew have set the bar around 90%--the goal is to get basically 85-90% of the MO kids they offer. Here's who they've offered so far in-state, listed in order of PowerMizzou's latest Missouri Top 20 list.
(Also note: I'm using a ton of information from Rivals here, and some--or most--of it may be 'subscriber only' info. I assume someone will let me know if that's a problem, but in general I'll just add a major disclaimer here that you really should be a Rivals subscriber...if for no other reason, because their recruit database is so great.)
1. Sheldon Richardson (****, St. Louis, #2 TE for now, 6'4/280). Committed to Mizzou a loooooooong time ago and is positioning himself to be this year's Andrew Jones, the kid who calls and makes friends with every Mizzou target he can find.
2. Ronnie Wingo (****, St. Louis, #4 ATH, 6'2/210). Mizzou is in pretty good standing with Wingo, though as my latest Links post pointed out, he's the kind of kid who loves every school he visits...which makes it hard to get a good read on where he truly stands. We'll say Mizzou has a 40% chance at landing him.
3. Nathan Scheelhaase (****, Kansas City, #7 Dual-Threat QB, 6'2/185). My feelings on our chances with him change by the day. Sometimes it looks like we're the leader, sometimes it looks like he's itching to play further from home. We'll say Mizzou's got a 35% chance with him.
4. Darris Ford (***, St. Louis, OL, 6'6/270). Committed to Mizzou a few weeks ago. Is friends with Wingo, Richardson, and the other StL kids. Bonus points to Mizzou for not only landing a Hazelwood East kid, but landing him this early.
5. Blaine Dalton (***, Blue Springs, QB, 6'1/190). Also committed to Mizzou a long time ago. Scheelhaase wants to play QB in college, and the presence of both Dalton and Blaine Gabbert might scare him away from Mizzou a bit. Then again, every school on Scheelhaase's list will have some impressive QB competition.
6. Montee Ball (***, St. Louis, RB, 5'11/205). Was really excited when Mizzou offered, but seems to be shaken a bit by Mizzou's spread--even though Tony Temple rushed for 561 yards in last year's Cotton Bowl, Ball seems to be worried about getting enough carries in the Mizzou offense and is (for now) leaning toward Big Ten schools like Wisconsin.
7. TJ Moe (***, St. Louis, DB, 6'0/180). If Richardson isn't this year's Andrew Jones, Moe is. He committed to Mizzou a few weeks ago as well, and he's glad-handing whenever he gets the chance.
8. Kerwin Stricker (***, Washington, WR, 6'2/190). A sleeper a few months ago, Stricker quickly accepted a Mizzou offer, and now that film of him has emerged, he's moved up the rankings.
9. Big Jack Meiners (***, St. Louis, OL, 6'6/315). Another kid who's all about Mizzou and committed quickly.
10. Tyler Evans (***, Strafford, OL, 6'6/280). Was ready to commit to Mizzou until he got an OU offer, got starry eyes, and committed to the Sooners. Mizzou's first official miss.
12. Andrew Wilson (***, Peculiar, LB, 6'4/230). A Brock Christopher-style kid who committed pretty early on.
13. Adam Burton (***, Lee's Summit, LB, 6'2/225). Received a Mizzou offer after Mizzou's KC camp and immediately committed.
14. Bryant Allen (***, St. Louis, ATH, 6'0/160). A two-sport athlete, Allen has yet to commit to a) a school, or b) a sport. Mizzou appears to be in pretty decent shape with him, but climbing into his head has been more or less impossible.
15. Alex Sanders (***, Springfield, TE, 6'5/205). Another sleeper who went from nowhere to 3-stars pretty quickly. Like Burton, he received a post-camp offer and immediately accepted it.
NR. Justin Britt (**, Lebanon, OL, 6'5/270). Apparently wasn't thought of as much of a prospect (by Mizzou or any other school) until he dominated at a recent camp. As with Burton and Sanders, Britt immediately accepted a Mizzou offer.
So Mizzou has offered 15 MO kids (that we know of), which is a bit higher than normal. It's a pretty deep year for MO. You figure there will always be another 1-3 MO kids who get offers later on, so that's a really deep year in MO. Of those 15 kids offered, 10 have committed to Mizzou and only one has committed elsewhere...meaning we're sitting at 90.9% so far. Four MO kids remain uncommitted--#1 Wingo, #3 Scheelhaase, #6 Ball, and #14 Allen. If I had to bet, I'd say we get 2 of the 4, which (barring any other offers) would put us at 12-for-15, or 80%. That would be about as good as Mizzou has done in-state anytime in the last 20 years, but it's not 90%.
Really, though, the offer of Britt (and before him, Sanders) has raised the anxiety level of some Mizzou fans on recruiting boards. 'Since this is the year our recruiting is supposed to take off thanks to the '07 season, why are we wasting offers on what will probably be low-ranked kids?????' goes the logic. Honestly, I just don't have a problem with this. First, as Gabe at PM has said often, if they offered him in June, they think he's the real deal. Second, we've built a Top 10 program (at the moment) due in part to MO kids who would kill for Mizzou. You just can't have enough of them.
And besides, since when have recruiting rankings mattered to Mizzou coaches? But we'll get back to that in another post. For now, let's assume that any MO kid MU offers is someone we want on this team. It kinda stinks simply because Britt's commitment means one less 4-star recruit for whom we have a scholarship, but...well...that probably wasn't going to happen. We'll get back to that in a moment.
The fact that 10 in-state kids have already committed by mid-June is awesome, and the fact that Mizzou is in pretty good standing with at least 3 of the remaining 4 kids we've offered makes this first 'Best Case Scenario' scenario a reasonable success so far. Where Wingo ends up will most directly dictate how we consider the in-state haul. So let's move on to the second part of my dream scenario.
We round out the class with 4-star out-of-staters and 3-star out-of-staters with lots of offers
This is the part that usually only happens in my recruiting fantasies. Brian Pickryl, Carl Pendleton, Sergio Kindle, etc...there always seems to be a blue chipper who mentions Mizzou for a while (or even just once, in an article very early on in the process), and that's enough to get the fantasizing started. This year has seen plenty of big-time out-of-staters either mentioning Mizzou once or twice before eliminating them (Russell Shepard, Devon Kennard, Gabe Lynn), or including Mizzou--for now--on a loooooong list of possible favorites (Marlon Brown, Jheranie Boyd). In all, Mizzou is in on a ton of 4-star out-of-staters at the moment, but how many of those can we legitimately expect to end up with Mizzou? Here's the list of 4-star out-of-staters (high school only) Mizzou's locked down over the years:
2002: none (Fabian Bean signed, but he was a prep-schooler)
2003: Josh Barbo
2005: none (though we all know Chase Daniel should have been 4-stars)
2007: Gilbert Moye
2008: Dan Hoch
So...3 in 7 years. By that measure, if we were to land two 4-star out-of-staters in this class, that would be tremendous progress. It's not if you consider we finished #4 in the nation last year, and therefore these kids should be lining up for offers to play here, but...that's just not reasonable. I really really wish it would happen...that would be fantastic...but we've got a lot more winning to do before 16-year olds become convinced that we're here to stay and actually consider spending 4 (or so) years in Columbia.
So let's say that 2 4-star (or, ahem, 5-star) out-of-staters would be a sign of major progress. It's hard to accept as a 'best case scenario', but it is what it is. Right now, Mizzou has (to me) some sort of chance at the following recruits who fit the above criteria (and yes, I'm consulting The Spreadsheet for this one...and moreso the Rivals database):
- RB Knile Davis (****, Ft. Bend, TX) - Pretty stout competition for this guy. Let's just say that when a guy has offers from LSU and OU, I'm going to assume he doesn't end up at Mizzou.
- RB Stepfan Taylor (****, Mansfield, TX) - Kenji Jackson's high school teammate, he has Mizzou on a relatively short list, and honestly I like our chances.
- RB Jeremy Smith (****, Tulsa) - Has committed to Oklahoma State, but there are rumblings that he might still be considering taking some visits, including one to Columbia.
- RB Daniel Jenkins (****, Moreno Valley, CA) - Is striving for a Mizzou offer--which is great to see--but doesn't have one yet for whatever reason.
- RB Brandon Wegher (****, Sioux City, IA) - Haven't heard anything about this kid in a while, but Mizzou was on his list a while back.
- WR Marlon Brown (*****, Memphis) - Has talked up Mizzou a couple times, but it's obviously a pretty tall task to think he'd choose Mizzou over USC, Georgia, Florida, etc.
- WR Jheranie Boyd (****, Gastonia, NC) - Sought out a Mizzou offer because he loves the offense...but he's still an ACC-country kid, and I have to figure he ends up closer to home...somewhere like Clemson. But assuming he doesn't commit soon (which is always possible), we should get an official visit from him, which is cool. There's always a chance that he falls in love on his visit.
- WR Kraig Appleton (****, East St. Louis) - I'm putting him on this list simply because he's from nearby, at E. StL. He's got Big Ten on the brain, and I'd be shocked if he doesn't end up somewhere in that conference.
- WR Terry Hawthorne (****, East St. Louis) - For some reason, I feel really good about this kid, even though he's just barely given Mizzou more mention than Appleton has. While Appleton seems to have a Randy Moss skill set (go long!), Hawthorne's skill set is more like Jeremy Maclin--he's got speed, but his agility makes him seem even faster than he is. (Now...I'm not saying either of these guys is as good as Moss/Maclin...just that their skills seem to be in that vein.) Anyway...we're on Hawthorne's list, but it'll be pretty tough going here.
- WR Emory Blake (****, Austin) - Well, we're on his list. That's all I know about him.
- WR Justin Brown (****, Wilmington, DE) - He mentioned us a while back, but not in the latest article written about him. Take that for whatever it's worth.
- WR Uzoma Nwachukwu (****, Allen, TX) - I'm betting he stays in Texas, but who knows.
- WR Rodney Smith (****, Miami) - We were on him early, but his offer list has exploded recently. I doubt he strays from the South.
- OL Chris Watt (****, Glen Ellyn, IL) - Mizzou's on his list, but I'd assume he stays in the Big Ten region.
- OL Patrick Ward (****, New Lenox, IL) - Ditto...plus it appears that we've been removed from his favorites list.
- DE Craig Roh (****, Scottsdale, AZ) - Has a huge list of favorites, and Mizzou's been on it at times. I'll assume we don't have a chance at him until he names his official visits.
- DE David Gilbert (****, Oakland Park, FL) - Another guy who doesn't have a Mizzou offer but would strongly consider us if he got one.
- LB Chris Williams (****, Abilene) - This kid's film is REALLY impressive, and he certainly seems to like Mizzou...he just seems to like LSU more. Hard to compete with LSU just yet.
- DB Kevin Brent (****, Dallas) - We're on his list...that's about all I know.
- DB Daytawion Lowe (****, Midwest City, OK) - He's slipped a bit in the recruiting rankings, and honestly I'll be shocked if he ends up anywhere other than OSU.
So I just listed 20 guys. Landing 2 is not too much ask, right? Especially with the national recognition our offense is getting? If I had to predict, I'd (rather blindly) say we end up with Stepfan Taylor and Terry Hawthorne. Maybe we end up with another RB/WR (J. Smith or Jenkins or Boyd or Blake or Nwachukwu) and another random guy (Watt or Gilbert or Williams or Brent). That's certainly not out of the realm of possibility...but it also means that we'd be landing more 4-star out-of-staters in this class than we did in the last 7 years combined. Is that too much to ask, or was our 2007 breakthrough really worth that much? Granted, my 'best case scenario' list has us landing Marlon Brown and Jheranie Boyd and Williams and Brent, etc., but I accept that there are best case scenarios, and then there are my best case scenarios. That simply isn't going to happen, and it's silly to wish too hard for it.
What does this all mean?
Okay. So we land 2 of the 4 remaining Missouri kids with offers. And we snag, say, 3 4-star out-of-staters. That puts us at 16 commits. Assuming we land a full class of 25, that leaves 9 slots available. Who fills those slots?
- First, I'm going to say we get another 2 random MO kids...whoever they may be. Someone else will emerge from these latest camps and start their senior years on fire, and we end up offering them. So that puts us at 18.
- Over the last seven years, we've averaged 3.7 2-star Texas kids per recruiting class and 3.6 3-star Texas kids. That's 7.3 per year, and being that we've expanded our recruiting base a bit, let's say we only end up with 5-6 TX recruits this year...say, 4 3-star kids and 2 2-star kids. We've already got Brayden Burnett in the books, so that leaves 3 more 3-star TX recruits (Dameon Smith or Terrell Williams at WR? Jordan Navjar at TE? Terrance Lloyd at DE? Chris McCallister--no, not that one--at LB? #1 kicker Dustin Hopkins? ATH Kenric McNeal?) and 2 2-star sleepers who come out of nowhere. That means we're now at 23.
- The final two go to either kids from regions different from the typical Mizzou recruit or guys from Oklahoma, another state from which we've plucked plenty of recruits in the past. Right now, OK's not looking too strong for us this year, so I'll say these two slots go to PA's Jaleel Clark and GA's Joe Stewart, both of whom are quite high on Mizzou at the moment (of course, that can change in an instant).
So after all this, we end up with something resembling the following recruiting class.
|QB||Blaine Dalton||Blue Springs, MO||***||6'1||190|
|RB||Ronnie Wingo (or Scheelhaase)||St. Louis, MO||****||6'2||210|
|RB||Stepfan Taylor (OOS 4-star)||Mansfield, TX||****||5'11||205|
|RB||Jeremy Smith (OOS 4-star)||Tulsa, OK||****||5'10||197|
|WR||Terry Hawthorne (OOS 4-star)||East St. Louis, IL||****||6'1||185|
|WR||Jaleel Clark (random OOS)||Oreville, PA||***||6'4||200|
|WR||Kerwin Stricker||Washington, MO||***||6'2||190|
|WR||Terrell Williams (random TX 3-star)||Keller, TX||***||6'2||175|
|TE||Alex Sanders||Springfield, MO||***||6'5||205|
|OL||Darris Ford||St. Louis, MO||***||6'6||270|
|OL||Jack Meiners||St. Louis, MO||***||6'6||315|
|OL||Justin Britt||Lebanon, MO||**||6'5||270|
|OL||John Tabash (random MO sleeper)||St. Louis, MO||**||6'2||285|
|DE||Brayden Burnett||Southlake, TX||***||6'3||240|
|DE||Terrance Lloyd (random TX 3-star)||Stratford, TX||***||6'4||230|
|DT||Sheldon Richardson||St. Louis, MO||****||6'4||280|
|DT||C.J. Keeney (random MO sleeper)||Smithville, MO||**||6'5||285|
|LB||Andrew Wilson||Peculiar, MO||***||6'4||230|
|LB||Adam Burton||Lee's Summit, MO||***||6'2||225|
|LB||Chris McCallister (random TX 3-star)||Converse, TX||***||6'2||210|
|DB||TJ Moe||St. Louis, MO||***||6'0||180|
|ATH||Bryant Allen (or Montee Ball)||St. Louis, MO||***||6'0||160|
|ATH||Joe Stewart (random OOS)||Hampton, GA||***||6'0||165|
|?||Random Texas Sleeper||_____, TX||***|
|?||Random Texas Sleeper||_____, TX||**|
So this is basically the worst-case best-case scenario, if that makes sense. We'd have to consider that a tremendously successful class, right? The problem is...and if you've read this far, pay close attention to this part...if you follow recruiting, you're bound to be disappointed more often than you're pleased. Missouri, like every school in the country, is going to fail to land more kids than they land. And thanks to improved recruiting coverage, we get to read about more and more of these kids who are bound to end up elsewhere. Even in the process of landing the above class--and I don't think anybody in the world would consider that class a disappointment--we will be disappointed a) every single time we don't land a Marlon Brown, Jheranie Boyd, Nathan Scheelhaase (especially someone like Scheelhaase), etc., and b) every time we land one of those 2-star sleepers that hurt our recruiting class, instead of a 4-star stud...even though the following names were all once 2-star sleepers (or, worse yet, walk-ons): Brad Smith, Sean Weatherspoon, Stryker Sulak, Danario Alexander, Tommy Saunders, Colin Brown, Tommy Chavis, Jimmy Jackson.
Now, it's quite possible that we've moved beyond 2-star recruits at this point--this early in the process, we've never had this many 3- and 4-star guys considering us, and maybe that really will pay off more than I think this year. But to stay sane in recruiting, you have to have to have to keep an eye on the big picture, and the big picture here is that a) the class above would be the best class Mizzou's had, especially if we land both Wingo and Scheelhaase, which is still a distinct possibility (and besides, we've built a top program without classes this good), and b) if 2008 is as good to us on the field as we know it might be, the 2010 class will be even better than this.
Like I said, at some point soon, I'll take a look at what has (and hasn't) worked for Mizzou re: recruiting in the past. But I'd say these 3,500 words will suffice for now...don't you think?