So...How's Recruiting Going? (Part Two)

This post is a follow-up to last week's "So...How's Recruiting Going?" piece.  And in a way, both of these posts are a follow up to my "Culture vs Caliber" post from a while back.

Now's a good time to talk about what's worked for Mizzou, as there has been at least a hair of hand-wringing regarding the fact that Mizzou got two more commits this week, neither of which were from highly-recruited, big-time guys.

We're going to start out by playing a little game.  Rivals.com subscribers should go to the Football Recruiting Database (by far the #1 reason to become a Rivals subscriber...just a lovely tool) and enter the following criteria.

  • Recruiting Year: 2002
  • School: Missouri
  • Interest Level: Any

Okay, now take a look at the list.  If you were into recruiting back then (like me), think back to who was on your 'best case scenario' list (i.e. the "I sure wish we'd have gotten _____ because he's 4 stars!" list) for that year.  Let's say we'd landed the 'best case scenario' list.  Gary Pinkel breaks through with major recruiting success in his first full season!  The Tigers have a Top 15 class!  Here's the catch: for every big-time recruit we land, you have to eliminate the lowest-rated person at that position that we actually signed.

The changes:

  • We land Brian Pickryl (*****) and JUCO stud Seante Williams (****) as DE bookends!  And we therefore do not sign Brian Smith (***) (or prep school flameout Fabian Bean).  Pickryl's career is quickly doomed due to injury, Williams doesn't qualify and ends up at Jacksonville State, and Mizzou's career sack leader instead becomes TCU's career sack leader.
  • We land JUCO LB Pasha Jackson (*****) and OSU-bound Lawrence Pinson (****) instead of Emmett Morris and Mau Uiagalelei.  Win-win!  Jackson is a 2-year starter, and Pinson is a solid 4-year contributor.
  • Kansas City QB Joseph Ferguson (***) chooses Mizzou over Northwestern, and Mizzou goes with him instead of Dallas' David Overstreet.  Ferguson is a career backup, while Overstreet ends up the starting strong safety at Arizona State.
  • New Orleans WR Akieem Jolla (****) chooses Mizzou over Miami!  A recruiting coup!  With Jolla on board, Mizzou has no need for WR/DB Marcus Guerrero-Bacon.  Jolla catches 24 passes in three seasons before transferring to New Mexico State for his senior season.  Meanwhile, having shortened his name, Bacon becomes an All-WAC LB for Louisiana Tech.

Any time I think about recruiting and wish really hard for Mizzou to land somebody highly-rated, I think of the 2002 class.  Outside of Dedrick Harrington, every guy from that class who came to Columbia (or wherever else they ended up) with high expectations ended up amounting to next to nothing, while Smith, Overstreet, and Bacon were major contributors for a program undergoing a slow-but-steady turnaround.  If Pinkel had actually landed the 2002 'dream class', he might not still be coaching here.  Examples of misses that ended up working out well can be found in every recruiting class.

  • If we'd landed Parkway West's Will Paul (****) in 2003, maybe we wouldn't have gone after one of the other potential TEs from that class--Martin Rucker, Xzavie Jackson, Victor Sesay...all of whom worked out better than Paul would have. If we land Victor DeGrate Jr., maybe we don't land Lorenzo Williams.
  • If we got William Bell or Chris Todd in 2004, maybe we don't offer major sleeper Stryker Sulak.
  • If we landed good ol' Chris Brooks in 2005, maybe we wouldn't have had a scholarship available for one of the 2006 WR trifecta--Jeremy Maclin, Jared Perry, or (most likely) Danario Alexander.
  • If Sergio Kindle ends up at Mizzou, Sean Weatherspoon likely does not.
  • Et cetera.

Now...all this said, I'm not pretending to convince you that 2-star recruits are better than 4- or 5-star recruits.  Far from it.  But as we continue to fill in this 2009 recruiting class with sleepers like Marvin Foster and Ashton Glaser (though it sounds like Glaser might not remain a sleeper), this is very much something to keep in mind.

Alright, new game.  In looking at what has worked for Mizzou, let's take a look back at previous recruiting classes.  I'm going to give recruits from each class a new rating and compare it to their Rivals rating.

My rating system: 5 stars = All-American caliber, 4 stars = All-Conference, 3 stars = solid contributor/starter, 2 stars = made some sort of contribution, 1 star = no contribution.

2002

Despite the 'misses' I walked through above, this was seen as a pretty successful haul, especially in the nabbing of four-star studs Mario Whitney, Zach Zwilling, Dedrick Harrington, Atiyyah Ellison, Howard Brissette, and Fabian Bean.  However, if you don't follow recruiting, you probably only recognize two of those names.  So here is the 're-ranked' class (rivals star rating in parentheses):

1 star - Fabian Bean (****), Mario Whitney (****), Zach Zwilling (****), Josh Hibbets (***), Emmett Morris (***), Alex Pettersen (***), Corey Taylor (***), Mau Uiagalelei (***), Todd Gohsler (**), Phil Tizzio (**), Rahman Lockhart (**)

2 stars - Howard Brissette (****), Brandon Coleman (***), DeQuincy Howard (**)

3 stars - Atiyyah Ellison (****), Dedrick Harrington (****), Joel Clinger (***), David Overstreet (***), Steve Sanchez (***), Zach Ville (***), Mike Cook (**)

4 stars - Marcus Bacon (***), Brian Smith (***)

5 stars - none

So there were 11 1-star recruits (47.8%), 3 2-stars (13.0%), 7 3-stars (30.4%), and 2 4-stars (8.7%).  To compare to other classes coming up, that's a re-ranked average of 2.00.

Looking at Rivals rankings...

** recruits: 1.75 're-ranked' stars
*** recruits: 2.17 're-ranked' stars
**** recruits: 1.83 're-ranked' stars

Now, it's worth noting that it was much easier to get 3 stars from Rivals in 2002, so a lot of these guys would now have gotten 2 stars, but we'll go with what we've got.

2003

1 star - Gartrell Cooper (***), M.J. Norman (***), Emmanuel Cooper (***), Marty Raab (***), Zane Tomlin (***), Lareno Seymour (**), Phinney Troy (**), Alex Woodley (**)

2 stars - Josh Barbo (****), Greg Bracey (***), Jason Ray (***), Marcus Woods (***...was torn about which rating to give him)

3 stars - Tyler Luellen (****), Damien Nash (****), Darnell Terrell (****), Brad Ekwerekwu (***), Xzavie Jackson (***), Victor Sesay (***), Nino Williams (***), Monte Wyrick (**)

4 stars - Adam Spieker (***), Lorenzo Williams (***)

5 stars - Martin Rucker (***...All-American, right?)

Wow, what a class.  This was the class that broke Mizzou through.  In all, there were 8 re-ranked 1-star recruits (34.8%), 4 2-star recruits (17.4%), 8 3-star recruits (34.8%), 2 4-star recruits (8.7%), and a 5-star recruit (4.3%).  Re-ranked average: 2.30.

Looking at Rivals rankings...

** recruits: 1.50 're-ranked' stars
*** recruits: 2.33 're-ranked' stars
**** recruits: 2.75 're-ranked' stars (counting Darnell Terrell, who actually went JUCO for two years)

Again, it was easier to get 3 stars here, but the 2003 class showed that the Rivals rankings were at least somewhat accurate, as the 4-star guys were the most consistently successful, and the 2-star guys were the least.

2004

No Rating - Kyle Riggs (****...career derailed quickly due to injuries/illness), Aaron O'Neal (**...no explanation needed)

1 star - Jerrill Humphrey (****), Darrell Jackson (***), George Lane (***), Aaron Saunders (**), Brian Barmann (**), Chris Wade (**), Julius Denzmore (**), Alvin Newhouse (**), Trenile Washington (**), Calcius Williams (**), John Dirk (**)

2 stars - Chase Patton (****), Earl Goldsmith (**), Steve Redmond (**), Mack Breed (**), Domonique Johnson (**...he contributed something before transferring)

3 stars - Tony Temple (****), Van Alexander (****), Jimmy Jackson (**), Ryan Madison (**)

4 stars - Will Franklin (***), Stryker Sulak (**)

5 stars - William Moore (***...pre-season All-American, anyway)

In the rankings, this was seen as a great class, and while there were some seriously breakthrough contributors here, there were a ton of busts.  So in the re-rankings (subtracting the two 'no rating' guys), there were 11 1-star guys, 5 2-star guys, 4 3-star guys, 2 4-star guys, and 1 5-star guy.  Re-ranked average: 2.30.  Again.

Looking at Rivals rankings...

** recruits: 1.73 're-ranked' stars
*** recruits: 2.75 're-ranked' stars
**** recruits: 2.25 're-ranked' stars

Rivals tweaked their rating system, and this class was mostly 2-star guys.  The 3-star guys fared better than the 4-star guys in this class, but that has "SMALL SAMPLE SIZE!!" written all over it.  The failure of Jerrill Humphrey more or less doomed the 4-star average.

2005

As we go along here, there will obviously be a lot of conjecture and speculation about which category these guys fall into...but it won't stop me!!!

1 star - Tarell Corby (***), James Stigall (***), Chad Washington (***), Chad Marshall (***), Matt Russell (***), Matt Casaday (**), Herman King (**), Chris Hudgins (**)

2 stars - Connell Davis (***), DeMarcus Scott (***), Jason Townson (**), Jon Gissinger (**)

3 stars - Darnell Terrell (****), Dain Wise (***), Jaron Baston (***), Brock Christopher (***), Ziggy Hood (***), Hardy Ricks (***...starting experience before injury), Louis Pintola (***), Jamar Smith (***)

4 stars - Chase Coffman (***), Kurtis Gregory (***...speculation here, but I think either he or Hood will end up an all-conference)

5 stars - Chase Daniel (***)

Chase Daniel getting 3 stars is still one of the biggest jokes in the history of Rivals ratings, and we all knew it at the time.  That said, this ended up being a relatively strong class despite the on-field failures of 2004.  It's looking like we'll end up with 8 1-star guys, 4 2-star guys, 8 3-star guys, 2 4-star guys, and a 5-star.  That makes for a 2.30 average.  Again.  See a pattern here?

Looking at Rivals rankings...

** recruits: 1.40 average
*** recruits: 2.65 average
**** recruits: 3.00 average
...because it was just Terrell.  And yes, I've counted Terrell twice (just like I'll end up doing with Jason Townson), but...sue me.

2006

Same 'speculation' disclaimer as above.

1 star - Dominic Grooms (***), J.P. Tillman (***), Justin Brown (***), Jesse Hernandez (**), Brant Scott (**), Marquis Booker (**), Quran Barge (**), Aaron Cawlfield (***)

2 stars - Bart Coslet (***), Kevin Rutland (***...with potential for a 3rd star), John Stull (***...he was a 2nd-stringer for a year), Tremane Vaughns (***), Mike Prince (**), La-Roderick Thomas (**), Paul Simpson (**), Charles Gaines (no stars...we'll say **)

3 stars - Tim Barnes (***...with potential for a 4th star), Del Howard (***), Jared Perry (***), Castine Bridges (***), Danario Alexander (**...with potential for another star as well, if he's healthy), Tommy Chavis (**)

4 stars - Pig Brown (***...he gets the 4th star out of principle), Sean Weatherspoon (**)

5 stars - Jeremy Maclin (****)

Lots of room for maneuvering here.  Alexander and Barnes could move to 4 stars, Rutland and maybe Thomas could move to 3.  But we'll go with this for now.  That's 8 1-star guys (though Stull really could have been the 9th), 8 2-star guys, 6 3-star guys, 2 4-star guys, and another 5-star.  That makes for a 2.20 average.  Slightly below the typical 2.30, but there's plenty of upgrade potential there.

Looking at Rivals rankings...

** recruits: 2.00 average
*** recruits: 2.25 average
**** recruits: 5.00 average
...it was just Maclin

2007

SERIOUS speculation here.  Obviously.

1 star - Kendall Irving (**), Donte Neal (**)

2 stars - Andy Maples (****...I expect nothing from him), Chris Earnhardt (***...pure speculation), George White (***...I expect nothing), J.T. Beasley (***), Jaysen Corbett (***), Tremane Vaughns (***), Austin Wuebbels (***), Andrew Gachkar (**), Jake Harry (**), Jason Townson (**), Bryan Webb (**), Tyler Crane (**)

3 stars - Michael Keck (****...looks like he'll end up a starter), Gilbert Moye (****...though he hasn't proven much), Derrick Washington (****...SERIOUS potential for a 4th star), Jayson Palmgren (***...he's in the mix), Dominique Hamilton (***), Luke Lambert (***), Terrell Resonno (***), Rolandis Woodland (***...high expectations early on), Elvis Fisher (***), Justin Garrett (***), Trey Hobson (***), De'vion Moore (***)

4 stars - Carl Gettis (***)

5 stars - none

Yeah, there will obviously be a lot of movement here.  Somebody else will quit and move down to 1 star, while at least one, maybe two or three from the Washington-Hamilton-Resonno-Fisher-Hobson pool will end up moving to 4 stars.  But for now, that's 2 1-star guys, 12 2-star guys, 12 3-star guys, and a 4-star.  That's a temporary 2.44 average.  Nice.  Maybe that's too high, we'll see.  Either way, it's performing at at least the level of a typical Mizzou class.

Looking at Rivals rankings...

** recruits: 1.71 average
*** recruits: 2.69 average
**** recruits: 2.75 average

Adding it all up...

So to summarize...first of all, it's safe to rule 2002 as a major outlier.  Either that was a class that was impossible to judge, or Rivals' ranking systems have just become more accurate since then (which is possible, considering it's a lot easier to get film on a recruit now than 6 years ago).  So for the summary info below, let's just take 2002 out...along with 2007, since it's simply too recent.  We'll focus on 2003-2006 below.

** Rivals recruits: 1.74 average
*** Rivals recruits: 2.41 average
**** Rivals recruits: 2.78 average

After 2002 the odds of success could be reasonably correlated to the number of stars.  But while there's a 2-star difference in initial ranking between a 2-star recruit and a 4-star recruit, there's really only about a 1-star difference in performance...if that makes any sense.

Now let's look at it this way: for each tier of Rivals rankings, what were the odds of the player being an actual success (i.e. a 3-star performer)?  2002 and 2007 were removed once again.

** Rivals recruits: 18 1-star performances, 10 2-star performances, 5 3-star performances, 2 4-star performances, 0 5-stars.  So a 20.6% chance of becoming a part-time starter or better.

*** Rivals recruits: 16 1-star performances, 9 2-star performances, 15 3-star performances, 6 4-star performances, 3 5-stars.  A 49.0% chance of becoming a part-time starter or better.

**** Rivals recruits: 1 1-star performance, 2 2-star performances, 6 3-star performances, 0 4-star performances (???), 1 5-star.  A 77.8% chance of becoming a part-time starter or better.

Over at PowerMizzou, Rage Dave made a decent point yesterday--he noted that a lot of Mizzou's 3-star signees started out as 2-star guys because they were complete unknowns until Mizzou found them.  A lot of them--Carl Gettis, De'Vion Moore, Ziggy Hood, Hardy Ricks, Brad Ekwerekwu, Xzavie Jackson (I think)--moved to three stars after Mizzou got its hands on them and they got on Rivals' radar screen.  Some--Sean Weatherspoon, Danario Alexander, Stryker Sulak, Mike Cook, Ryan Madison--stayed at two stars. 

So far in this 2009 class, Mizzou's gotten commits from three relative sleepers--Ashton Glaser, Justin Britt, Marvin Foster, and Alex Sanders.  Sanders has already moved to 3 stars, and I would be willing to bet a large sum of money that Glaser ends up at 3 as well.  Britt will probably end up at 2 stars, and Foster's a tossup.  So with that speculation in mind, here's the commitment list so far:

**** recruits: Sheldon Richardson
*** recruits: Brayden Burnett, Blaine Dalton, Darris Ford, Jack Meiners, T.J. Moe, Kerwin Stricker, Adam Burton, Sanders, Andrew Wilson, Glaser
** recruits: Britt, Foster (for now)

So Richardson is quite likely to become a contributor of some sort (78% chance).  Of the 10 3-star guys, about 5 will become major contributors (my totally uneducated guess: Ford, Meiners, Moe, Wilson, and either Dalton or Glaser).  Of Britt and Foster, there's basically a 40% chance that one might become a contributor.  Certainly not great odds on that one.

One more important note before the conclusion: I would be willing to wager a large sum of money that the 2-star and 3-star success rates for Mizzou are higher than the overall 2-star and 3-star success rates.  Mizzou's biggest coaching strength has been its player development, and before we talk about what kind of class we need to succeed, we need to realize that.  Goes back to the Culture vs Caliber thing.  Okay, moving on...

CONCLUSION

So what was the point of all this?  Well, it's easy to use the 2002 class as a reference point for why you should never ever ever ever trust recruiting rankings.  It's also easy for Mizzou fans to point to Weatherspoon, Sulak, and Alexander (along with Jerrill Humphrey and, if you're feeling mean, Kyle Riggs) as a reference point for why you should never ever ever ever trust recruiting rankings.  I more-or-less did just that in Culture vs Caliber. However...while culture matters, and while 2-star recruits can very easily become big-time contributors, the ratings show that odds of success are in favor of those with higher rankings.

There's something else at work here, though.  From 2003 to 2007, here are the following rankings for Mizzou's recruiting classes (via Rivals, of course): #28, #29, #39, #47, #33.  Not a huge range, but a range.  But whether the classes were on the cusp of the Top 25 or almost falling out of the Top 50, the performance of the class remained startlingly similar.  That speaks to either good talent evaluation, strong player development, or both.  The 2007 season was blessed with five full recruiting classes that performed at or very near the 2.30-star level, and 2008 will see the same depth.  Mizzou's 2008 class actually crept into the Top 25, and we'll see if there's better performance here, or more of the same.

So I'm thinking the bottom line here (and thank god I'm finally reaching the bottom line, right?) is that a) you can go right on ahead hoping Mizzou signs the likes of Ronnie Wingo, Nathan Scheelhaase, Brandon Wegher, Stepfan Taylor, Marlon Brown, Jheranie Boyd, Chris Williams, etc.  If we land any of them, chances are they'll end up being stellar contributors, plus it's a lot more enjoyable following recruiting when you're competing with the big boys for some of these players.  But b) if we don't land any of them and end up taking a handful of 2- and 3-star Texans, chances are a lot of them will work out too.  GREY AREA, BABY.  I'm all about the grey area.

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