What If...Jeremy Maclin Hadn't Injured His Knee in 2006? (Part One)

Even though we knew Jeremy Maclin's Friday announcement of his pro intentions was coming, it's still sparked a small wave of nostalgia.  It's a shame that the guy was quite likely the best wide receiver in Missouri history only played on Faurot Field for two years.  It's hard not to wish for at least a third year.  And while there was obviously little to no likelihood of his coming back for 2009, we were really gypped out of another year: 2006.

So let's put on our "What If..." cap for a bit.  In 2006, Missouri flew out of the gates at 6-0 and stumbled a bit down the stretch, but still ended up exceeding preseason expectations with an 8-5 campaign.  They were a pleasant surprise overall, but they struggled at times, especially against Iowa State, when pretty much every receiver on the team other than Tommy Saunders limped off the field at some point, and a last-second comeback attempt fell short.  What if Chase Daniel had had Maclin to throw to that day...or any other?  What would that have done for the 2006 squad?  And if it would have helped that squad (as we know it would have), would it have helped recruiting too?  Jeremy Maclin's legacy is already deep and well-defined, but what if Mizzou really had gotten three seasons out of him?  What if...Jeremy Maclin hadn't injured his knee on July 25, 2006?

2006

I didn't necessarily believe the reports at the time--that Jeremy Maclin was tearing up summer practices, and that there was no way Missouri would be able to keep him off the field in '06.  It seems the main goal of the practice reports you read are to pump you up for the fall.  Knowing what I know now, I'd say they were probably pretty damn accurate.  Knowing what I know now, the odds of his starting the season high on the depth chart were astronomical.

Week 1 Depth Chart With Maclin
Will Franklin (Jr)
Brad Ekwerekwu (Sr)
Tommy Saunders (So)
Jared Perry (Fr)
Danario Alexander (Fr)
Jason Ray (Jr)
Greg Bracey (Jr)
Will Franklin (Jr)
Jeremy Maclin (Fr)
Brad Ekwerekwu (Sr)
Tommy Saunders (So)
Jared Perry (Fr)
Danario Alexander (redshirting)
Jason Ray (Jr)
Greg Bracey (Jr)

If memory serves, Perry was too impressive to redshirt more-or-less from the get-go, but Alexander was a late decision.  With Maclin dominating, I think the staff would have decided not to play all three true freshmen, and Alexander would have donned the red.  Ekwerekwu had appendix surgery toward the end of August, and his status for starting in Week One was a bit uncertain for a while.  This uncertainty, plus the likelihood that Maclin really was that good as a true freshman, would have resulted in two St. Louis natives atop the WR list.

So here's the next question: how much would Maclin have contributed?  Let's do this: let's look at what percentage of overall Mizzou WR catches he nabbed in 2007 as a redshirt freshman and apply it to 2006.

(And if you couldn't care less about the data, just skip down to the "2006: Old vs New" table after the jump.)

Catches by 2007 Mizzou WRs
WR Catches % of all
Jeremy Maclin
80 34.6%
Will Franklin 49 21.2%
Tommy Saunders 41 17.7%
Danario Alexander 37 16.0%
Jared Perry 13 5.6%
Jason Ray 8 3.5%
Greg Bracey 3 1.3%

Let's look at how the distribution was in 2006 without Maclin:

Catches by 2006 Mizzou WRs
WR Catches % of all
Will Franklin 48 28.9%
Jared Perry 37 22.3%
Brad Ekwerekwu 32 19.3%
Tommy Saunders 25 15.1%
Danario Alexander 15 9.0%
Jason Ray 6 3.6%
Greg Bracey 3 1.8%

Now let's look at how Chase Daniel's tendencies changed from 2006 (without Maclin) to 2007 (with him).  This will actually be quite telling, as there was almost no personnel change in the WR/TE unit from '06 to '07--they just replaced Ek in '06 with Maclin in '07.

Completions by Position, 2006-07
2006 2007
Position Completions % of Comp. Completions % of Comp.
Wide Receivers 166 57.0% 231 58.6%
Tight Ends 111 38.1% 136 34.5%
Running Backs 14 4.9% 27 6.9%

Obviously not a lot changed as far as Daniel's pass distribution numbers are concerned.

One last thing we need to look at: Chase Daniel's overall numbers.

Season Comp Attempts Yards TD INT Comp % Yds Per Pass Yds Per Comp
2006 287 452 3527 28 10 63.5% 7.80 12.29
2007 384 563 4306 33 11 68.2% 7.65 11.21

The first thing to notice is, Daniel's per-pass and per-completion numbers actually went down in 2007 with Maclin in the rotation.  I wouldn't have guessed that. Looking at the numbers, you really can't say Daniel's yards-per numbers would have changed all that much with Maclin.  And while his INT rate improved (2.2% in 2006, 2.0% in 2007), Daniel's natural maturation process has to account for some of that. 

So basically the only thing that might have changed is completion percentage.  Daniel's completion % went up 4.7%, from 63.5 to 68.2, between 2006 and 2007.  Again, a lot of that has to be attributed to maturation.  But all?  If he's throwing to Maclin instead of Brad Ekwerekwu, Saunders instead of Perry, Perry instead of Alexander, wouldn't his % have gone up at least a smidge?  We're going to say yes.  A smidge.  We're going to say that with Maclin, Daniel's 2006 completion rate would have been 65.1%.  That assigns 1/3 of his rate improvement to better options, 2/3 to maturation.

So now let's work backwards.

  • 65.1% of 452 passes = 294 completions, an improvement of 7 balls.  Other passers (Brandon Coleman, Tommy Saunders, Brad Ekwerekwu, Chase Coffman) still account for a 4-for-13, 63 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT line.  So now there are 298 passes completed in the 2006 season.
  • 57.0% of those completions go to WRs = 170 WR receptions (along with 114 TE receptions and still 14 RB receptions).  With Alexander out of the mix and Maclin now in, here is the pass distribution for 2006, using unadjusted per-catch averages:
Player Catches Yards Est. TDs
Jeremy Maclin 59 779 6.6
Will Franklin 35 605 4.4
Jared Perry 27 313 2.2
Brad Ekwerekwu 24 323 1.5
Tommy Saunders 18 195 1.4
Jason Ray 4 33 0.0
Greg Bracey 3 79 1.0
TOTAL WR
170 2,327 17.1
All Tight Ends 114 1,180 14.4
All Running Backs 14 102 0.0
TOTAL 298 3,609 31.5

Or, for means of comparison...

Season Comp Attempts Yards TD INT Comp % Yds Per Pass Yds Per Comp
Old 2006 287 452 3527 28 10 63.5% 7.80 12.29
New 2006
298 452 3609 31.5 10 65.9% 7.98 12.11
Diff +11 +0 +82 +3.5 +0 +2.4% +0.18 -0.18

So having Maclin in the receiving corps resulted in the following:

  • An extra 6.3 yards per game passing
  • An extra 1.9 points per game from the passing game (3.5 TDs).  We'll apply those points randomly, basically letting them accumulate and cashing them in.  Meaning, we'll say Missouri scored an extra touchdown in the fourth game of the season, the 8th, and the 11th game, and an extra field goal in the 13th.  I'm not going to automatically say "We'd have scored these TDs in the games we lost," or anything like that.  Let's apply the points in random fashion.

So...what about the return game?  Well, we can do this one of two ways.  We can either compare his return averages to the 2006 return averages (Goldsmith/Woods on KRs, Saunders on PRs) and add the difference to each return...or we can keep it random and say that the returns would have stayed basically the same, aside from the three return TDs he had (a punt return against Illinois in Game #1, a punt return against Illinois State in Game #4, a kickoff return against Kansas State in Game #11).  Because this post is already getting longer than I had intended, let's go with random again.  Let's apply an extra TD to those three games--#1, #4, #11.

So in the end, we are basically adding points to the following games.

  • Punt return TD in Game #1
  • Receiving TD, Punt return TD in Game #4
  • Receiving TD in Game #8
  • Receiving TD in Game #11, Kickoff return TD in Game #11
  • Field Goal in Game #13

Did you like how we mixed intricate data with total randomness?  Me too.

2006: Old vs New
Old 2006 New 2006
Opponent W/L MU Opp W/L MU Opp Record Conf. Rec.
Murray State W 47 7 W 54 7 1-0
Ole Miss W 34 7 W 34 7 2-0
@ New Mexico W 27 17 W 27 17 3-0
Ohio U. W 31 6 W 45 6 4-0
Colorado W 28 13 W 28 13 5-0 1-0
@ Texas Tech W 38 21 W 38 21 6-0 2-0
@ Texas A&M L 19 25 L 19 25 6-1 2-1
Kansas State W 41 21 W 48 21 7-1 3-1
Oklahoma L 10 26 L 10 26 7-2 3-2
@ Nebraska L 20 34 L 20 34 7-3 3-3
@ Iowa State L 16 21 W 30 21 8-3 4-3
Kansas W 42 17 W 42 17 9-3 5-3
Oregon State L 38 39 W 41 39 10-3

We all remember 2006.  There were three "coulda woulda shoulda" games for Missouri--@ATM, @ISU, and vs Oregon State.  We could easily say that the ball Will Franklin fumbled at the 1 against ATM would have gone to Maclin, and Maclin was faster and would have scored, and Mizzou would have won.  We could even say that the inside screen against Nebraska that was a bit too high and Franklin volleyed right to Adam Carriker...that coulda gone to Maclin too, and he would have just caught it, and that could have prevented Missouri from falling behind 17-0.  Hell, we could even say that a couple of the picks Chase Daniel threw against OU wouldn't have been going to lesser receivers, and that they might not have happened. 

But we're just not going to go there.  With all the injuries that took place against Iowa State (Franklin got hurt in Q1, and Coffman, Rucker and Ekwerekwu had all hobbled off the field by Q4), I'm confident in saying Mizzou would have won that game with Maclin running routes for four quarters, and in a Sun Bowl that Mizzou could have won had any of about seven different plays not gone against them, one extra Mizzou weapon could have made the difference there.  For grins, we'll say a 2006 team with Maclin still loses four of five in the middle of the season, but rights the ship down the stretch and goes 10-3, winning its second straight bowl game.

So what does that do to recruiting?

2007 Recruiting Class

The 2007 Recruiting Class was full of what if's.  Two Rock Bridge products--QB Logan Gray and TE Aron White--ended up signing with Georgia.  Hazelwood Central QB Marvin McNutt went to Iowa.  Blue Springs OT Donald Stephenson went to Oklahoma.  Four-star Hazelwood West ATH LaMark Brown went to K-State.  It wasn't Missouri's best job of sealing the borders.  Would Missouri's first 10-win season in decades have changed that?

Probably not.  Gray and White were both locked up by Georgia in September.  McNutt committed over the summer.  Stephenson would have likely gone to OU no matter what.  Brown supposedly wavered on his commitment for a little while in December, but it was all rumors for all we know.  So Missouri's strong performance probably would have come along too late in the recruiting game to affect much.  Really, only a couple of late prospects' minds might have been changed.

Their names?  William Cole...and Dezmon Briscoe.

But we'll get to that in Part Two.

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