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

In Part One, we talked about the 10-3 season that could have been in 2006 had #9 not injured his knee in July.  Now let''s look at what might have happened after 2006.

--

It could have happened, you know.

As a whole, Gary Pinkel has done very well in recruiting against Mark Mangino.  A quick scouring of the Rivals database shows the following (and yes, this is highly inexact):

Class KU signees with MU offer MU signees with KU offer
2003 3 - Lyonel Anderson, Brandon McAnderson, John Randle 6 - Marcus Woods, Jason Ray, Josh Barbo, Tyler Luellen, Emmanuel Phillips, Lorenzo Williams
2004 1 - Mike Rivera 1 - Aaron Saunders
2005 1 - Justin Thornton 6 - Chase Coffman, James Stigall, Tarell Corby, Jaron Baston, Chad Washington, Kurtis Gregory
2006 1 - Phil Strozier 1 - Jared Perry
2007 1 - Dezmon Briscoe 4 - Derrick Washington, Jayson Palmgren, Michael Keck, Chris Earnhardt
2008 0 7 - Blaine Gabbert, Andrew Jones, Dan Hoch, Aldon Smith, Kip Edwards, Zaviar Gooden, Jimmy Burge
2009* 0 5 - Alex Sanders, Jack Meiners, Brayden Burnett, Joshua Tatum, TJ Moe

* To date

And yes, take these numbers with a large grain of salt.  They represent only the data that Rivals collected--there could be tons of other recruits who either a) never reported an offer from one school or the other, or b) never reported much (if any) interested in one school or the other.  This is only a list of recruits who reported offers from and interest in each school, then chose one or the other.

Like I said, Gary Pinkel has a pretty darn good track record against Mark Mangino.  In the last 6.5 recruiting classes (counting 2009 as .5 so far), Mizzou has inked 30 kids with Kansas offers/interest, while Kansas has signed just 7 with Mizzou offers/interest.  That's about an 81% success rate for Pinkel there.

And while McAnderson or Rivera or Thornton might have been valuable pieces to the Mizzou puzzle, one name on the KU side of the ledger stands out.

Two years ago, Dezmon Briscoe was a 3-star WR from Cedar Hill, TX, who was playing second fiddle to teammates William Cole and Romie Blaylock.  Missouri was recruiting Cole and Briscoe, and as their recruitment picked up in January 2007, they both had a late-January visit scheduled to Columbia.  But after an early-January visit to Lawrence, Briscoe committed to KU.  He still planned on making said visit to Columbia, but it didn't end up coming to fruition for whatever reason (KU talking him out of taking other visits, Cole committing to OSU and Mizzou losing interest in Briscoe, whatever).

At the time, Cole seemed to be the big prize.  He was a 4-star kid, Rivals' #14 player from Texas.  For a while, it seemed that Mizzou was pursuing Cole and Briscoe as a package deal.  Cole did indeed commit to OSU, where he's done next to nothing in two years, and I'll be honest--as a follower of recruitment and Rivals subscriber, I'd have been a hair disappointed if we'd missed out on Cole but ended up with Briscoe anyway.  I'd have considered him something of an afterthought.  But that tells you everything you know about people who follow recruiting rankings too closely.

So for fun, let's say this happened:

  1. Spurred on by the extra interest generated from Missouri's 10-3 season, Cole and Briscoe do indeed visit in late-January.
  2. After the visit, they end up committing to Mizzou, in part to become "the next Jeremy Maclin."
  3. They take the scholarships that ended up going to Donte Neal and Jason Townson (who didn't qualify anyway) a week(ish) later.

How does this seemingly minor recruiting development change the trajectory of both Missouri and Kansas in 2007, 2008, and beyond?

2007 Season

Here's a look at what the WR Depth Chart might have looked at at the beginning of 2007:

Real Week 1 Depth Chart With Briscoe & Cole

Will Franklin (Sr)
Jeremy Maclin (RSFr)
Tommy Saunders (Jr)
Jared Perry (So)
Danario Alexander (So)
Jason Ray (Sr)
Greg Bracey (Sr)

Jeremy Maclin (So)
Will Franklin (Sr)
Tommy Saunders (Jr)
Jared Perry (So)
Danario Alexander (RSFr)
Dezmon Briscoe (Fr)
Jason Ray (Sr)
William Cole (Fr)
Greg Bracey (Sr)

Remember, Cole was the big prize of the two new recruits, and great things would have been expected of him.  He technically "played" at OSU his freshman year (if you can call it that), rushing one time for three yards and catching two passes for seven yards, and we'll say he looked just impressive and athletic enough in August to play as a true freshman.

Meanwhile, you know Briscoe would have played.  His season trajectory at Kansas followed that of a lot of impact freshmen--he didn't necessarily thrive early on (though he was certainly solid), but he got better and better as the season progressed.  His season peaked against Nebraska and Missouri.  Against the Huskers in KU's epic 76-39 route, he caught three touchdown passes; against Mizzou, he caught seven for 94 yards, including his "here I am, world" moment, a sprawled out, diving 34-yard catch in the second quarter.

At Mizzou, he'd have been fifth in line behind four established guys (including two future pros at least) and a second-year Danario instead of third or fourth in line behind Marcus Henry, Dexton Fields and Kerry Meier.  He'd have likely had the same type of "steady performance, with a couple big late-season moments" season, eventually passing Alexander (maybe) and Perry (definitely) on the depth chart.

But in the end, Briscoe's presence at Mizzou likely doesn't change much of anything in 2007, for either Kansas or Mizzou.

Kansas

In their 11-0 start, Kansas won three games by one possession or less--a 30-24 win over K-State in Manhattan, a 19-14 win over Colorado in Boulder, and a 19-11 win over Texas A&M in College Station.  In only one other game (Oklahoma State) did they win by less than 30. 

In the wins over Colorado and ATM, Briscoe managed just 49 yards receiving--a very replaceable figure. 

Really, the only KU win that might have been questionable without Briscoe was against K-State.  In Manhattan, Briscoe caught a 28-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to put KU up 21-14.  In a 30-24 win, that touchdown was clearly very important, but KU likely would have still won for three reasons.  First, they were already creeping into field goal range, and if the rest of the game had played out the same, a field goal from that possession would have sufficed.  Second, the touchdown was a perfectly-executed bubble screen (seen at about 1:52 of this video) that anybody else, Dexton Fields or whoever, likely would have scored on.  Third, even if the play doesn't work without Briscoe, it was first down, and KU had plenty more options to move down and score.  So we'll say that a Briscoe-less KU team is still undefeated when they head to Arrowhead on November 24, 2007.

Mizzou

Meanwhile, heading into Arrowhead, Mizzou would have still been 10-1.  In their one loss--in Norman--Chase Daniel threw for 361 yards.  Danario Alexander had six catches for 54 yards in the game, and there's only one play where Briscoe might have made a difference: in the fourth quarter, after OU had gone up 35-24, Alexander caught a 34-yard pass over the middle, cut back, and almost went the distance, but was shoelace tackled.  Mizzou had to punt three plays later.  While Alexander may be faster in terms of straight-line speed, Briscoe's more agile and could have made the cutback faster.  But...even if that would have happened, the result would have been the same.

Honestly, the Mizzou or Kansas result that might have changed is the game at Arrowhead, and only in the sense that Mizzou might have won more easily.  It was already 21-0 Mizzou when Briscoe made his presence felt with the 34-yard, diving catch.  Without Briscoe, that play doesn't happen.  Of course, Kansas could have scored again anyway, but they'd have taken more time, and the game would have played out differently down the stretch.  We'll say that instead of 36-28 Mizzou victory, it's more like 34-21.

Either way, Mizzou moves to #1 in the BCS rankings, loses to OU, stomps Arkansas, and finishes #4 in the country at 12-2.  Briscoe didn't have a huge Orange Bowl, so KU probably would have beaten Virginia Tech anyway.  In other words, nothing changes.

Would back-to-back 10-win seasons and a Top 5 finish have changed anything in recruiting?

2008 Recruiting Class

Again, the answer is probably not.  Mizzou's 2008 recruiting class was almost a best-case scenario the way things played out.  Mizzou landed seven of the Top 10 kids in the state, eight of the Top 12.  While the season didn't start out well--Blaine Gabbert committed to Nebraska, Wes Kemp to Wisconsin--it finished up just fine.  If anything, maybe these guys just commit earlier.  Maybe they don't flirt with other schools as much.  (And maybe Dan Hoch doesn't end up at Mizzou because Gabbert hadn't befriended him first as a Nebraska commit.)  It's possible that sustained success and the promise of a big-time 2008 season could have landed some bigger Texas recruits, but Mizzou wasn't really in on any of the really big ones, so we're not going to jump to that conclusion.

2008 Season

So now we move on to the 2008 season.  Expectations probably wouldn't have been higher with Briscoe and an underachieving Cole in the mix at WR, but let's just say they wouldn't have been any lower.  Plus, with Briscoe and an underachieving Cole in the mix, the odds are that neither Michael Egnew nor Wes Kemp would have seen their redshirts come off in '08.

Real Week 1 Depth Chart The new, pretty alt. reality

Jeremy Maclin (So)
Tommy Saunders (Sr)
Danario Alexander (Jr - Inj.)
Jared Perry (Jr)
Jerrell Jackson (Fr)
Earl Goldsmith (Sr)
Michael Egnew (Fr)
Wes Kemp (Fr)

Jeremy Maclin (Jr)
Tommy Saunders (Sr)
Dezmon Briscoe (So)
Danario Alexander (So - Inj.)
Jared Perry (Jr)
William Cole (So)*
Jerrell Jackson (Fr)
Earl Goldsmith (Sr)
Michael Egnew (Fr) - redshirting
Wes Kemp (Fr) - redshirting

* There's a chance that Cole would have moved to DB by now.

Being that Missouri only lost four games in '08, let's look at those four games and see which, if any, would have seen different results with the emergence of Briscoe as a big-time threat.

Oklahoma State

To judge what kind of an impact Briscoe could have had on this game, we should look at the contributions made by the guys who would have been below Briscoe on the depth chart.  Against OSU, Alexander, Perry and Goldsmith combined for 7 catches, 44 yards, and 1 TD.  Alexander was also the one who stumbled on a crossing route and had the ball bounce off his helmet and into the waiting arms of Ricky Price.  It was such a fluky play that you almost have to think that fate would have made that dumb luck happen no matter what, but if you're not a believer in fate and dumb luck, then you'll probably assume that if Briscoe is running that route, the ball is not only not intercepted, but it's completed for a first down inside OSU's red zone.  The team overall seemed to lose its mojo in this game, and maybe this game was destined to be a loss, but...Dez Briscoe is really, really good.  If he's on the field, and Mizzou has more than two reliable weapons (Coffman and Maclin had 19 catches for 224 yards, and the rest of the team offered little to nothing)...I'm sorry, but Mizzou wins this game.  They just do.  We'll say they win 31-28, setting up a #1 vs #2 matchup versus Texas the next week (remember how close we were to that?).

(I just hope you don't remember this post.  Before The Beef was quadruple jinxing the wrestling team, I was jinxing the football team.)

Texas

Obviously the way Texas played that night against Missouri, there's nothing Dez Briscoe was going to be able to do to change the result.  But I'll say one thing: Briscoe's big game this year came that weekend against a hungover OU team.  Like, 12 catches for 269 yards and 2 TDs...that big.  There's no way Mizzou comes close to winning this game, it would have been closer.  We'll say Mizzou falls something like 49-38 or 56-38 instead of 56-31.  That's a little more respectable, right?  Either way, Mizzou once again stays one week at #1 then falters...though the way Texas played that night, an all-star team of Mizzou greats probably wouldn't have taken them out.

Kansas

So Mizzou is now 6-1 instead of 5-2 after the Texas loss.  They still proceed to win their next four games--CU, @BU, KSU, @ISU--before heading to Arrowhead at 10-1 and still technically harboring national title hopes if they can beat Kansas and Oklahoma and get a lot of help from other teams losing.

And here are my two questions for you:

1) Would Missouri have been held to 7 points in 29 minutes if Dez Briscoe were dressed in gold and black instead of blue and white?  Answer: maybe.

2) Would Kansas have scored 40 points without Briscoe's 9 catches, 115 yards, and 1 TD?  Answer: hell no.  Dexton Fields is a good WR, but without Briscoe, Kerry Meier is given the #1 WR treatment and Todd Reesing just doesn't have enough weapons to pull this off.  So in this game, Briscoe actually hurts KU more than he helps MU, but either way...this is a win.  Mizzou moves to 11-1 and a ranking somewhere between #6 and #9...maybe higher, depending, I guess, on how badly they had actually ended up losing to Texas.

Oklahoma

And Mizzou still gets smoked by OU.  Instead of 62-21, we'll say it's something like 62-24 or 62-28, but...smoked is smoked.  Mizzou finishes 11-2.

Bowl Game

A win over Oklahoma State and a 11-2 record pretty much assures Missouri of a Holiday Bowl date against Oregon.  Texas Tech still would have ended up in the Cotton Bowl no matter what, but Mizzou definitely would have been next in line.  I want to think Mizzou would have won that game, as Oregon's offense (run run run) plays to Mizzou's strengths (stop the run), but the way an apparently injured Chase Daniel played in the Alamo Bowl, I don't know.  We'll say Mizzou loses and finishes 11-3, wrapping up a 3-year run that included a 33-8 record, two bowl wins, two North titles, maybe one more week at #1...and possibly Dez Briscoe in black and gold.

Wrap-up

In the end, three years of Jeremy Maclin would have meant more wins, as you see here, but really not that much of a boost in recruiting.  I don't think this year's recruiting effort would have been any more or less successful, and the only potential positive impact Maclin's extra year would have had long-term would have been a younger, more talented and athletic receiver corps after his departure (the '09 WR corps would have had Briscoe, perpetually underachieving Cole, a junior Danario Alexander, and redshirt freshmen Wes Kemp and Michael Egnew).  While the three (or so) extra wins would have been nice, in the end what we were gypped out of the most when we lost Jeremy Maclin for the 2006 season was...more Maclin moments.

Maybe we end up with Briscoe and/or Cole...maybe we land somebody else, and maybe that leads to more success in the future...but clearly all of that is uncertain.  Hell, maybe we wouldn't have landed Dan Hoch...maybe Will Franklin would have declared for the draft a year earlier because he wasn't the clear #1 heading into 2007.  We have no idea.  We do know that we wouldn't have won any more North titles than we did, and our program overall would still be looking at a rebuild/reload situation in 2009.

But we were deprived of a couple more big returns, probably 50-80 more catches, a handful of ridiculously amazing runs after catch, a handful of broken receiver records (career yards, career TDs, all-purpose yards)...and probably a 3-time All-American.  Whether the on-field success would have been much better than it actually was, who knows...but it sure would have been worth it to watch him in black and gold for one more year.

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