Will Matt Hoch get the help he needs up front? - Bill Carter
Missouri's 2013 recruiting class will not rank near the top, or even the middle, of the SEC hierarchy. But if it addresses Mizzou's key needs, it could still play a positive role in Mizzou's future.
Earlier today, we covered the general layout of Missouri's 2013 recruiting class. Even if all four of the remaining (known) names on the board sign with Mizzou, this probably isn't going to be a Top 30 class. Considering where we thought this class might go over the summer (before the 5-7 season), that is disappointing.
That said, there are two ways to look at a recruiting class. Obviously point totals and star ratings give us a generally accurate view of the talent at hand, but how is that talent distributed? And how will it mesh with the current roster? For example, if you're loaded at linebacker and terribly thin at defensive tackle, it doesn't do you a lot of good if the four best-rated players in your class are all linebackers.
With that in mind, let's take a look at how Missouri has, or hasn't, addressed its current and future needs with the known members of the Class of 2013.
For each unit below, I'll define it as, in my own interpretation, a need or a luxury for the 2013 class.
Trent Hosick (*** 5.7)
Eddie Printz (*** 5.7)
You always need quarterbacks, of course. We know this. We especially know this after a 2012 season that saw Missouri terribly unsettled at the position for the first time since 2001. James Franklin is the presumptive starter for 2013, though that is certainly far from a guarantee. But in Hosick and Printz, new offensive coordinator Josh Henson has a wealth of diverse options at his disposal heading into what might be an entertaining competition in 2014 (unless, you know, Maty Mauk or Corbin Berkstresser runs away with job this year). Mauk is a Chase Daniel-esque* spread guy with running ability. Berkstresser and Printz are big-armed quarterbacks with decent mobility. Hosick is a Tebow* type, strong as an ox with decent fundamentals.
Need Addressed? Absolutely.
* I'm comparing these two to Daniel and Tebow in type only, not in quality. We obviously have no idea about their skill level just yet.
Running Back: Luxury
Chase Abbington (**** 5.8)
Potential Commits (1):
Ezekiel Elliott (**** 6.0)
With juniors Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy, sophomore Russell Hansbrough and redshirt freshman Morgan Steward in the mix, along with junior Greg White, Mizzou is good at running back in 2013 no matter who they do or do not add to the mix with this recruiting class. Chase Abbington has professed a desire to play this position -- and with his size, that is certainly a tantalizing thought -- but could just as easily end up at safety or, depending on how much weight he adds, any number of other positions. Abbington's draw is his athleticism, and it could go here or elsewhere.
In this sense, Ezekiel Elliott's decision will not make or break this class. It would add a Top 100-caliber athlete to the mix, one who could technically line up either at running back or in the slot. But Missouri will be just fine here regardless of his decision.
(That's not to say we don't want him, of course. MIZ-EZE.)
Wide Receiver: Luxury
J'Mon Moore (*** 5.7)
Donovahn Jones (*** 5.5)
In 2013, Missouri returns seniors Marcus Lucas, L'Damian Washington, juniors Jimmie Hunt, Bud Sasser and Texas transfer Darius White, and of course sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham. The Tigers are probably good here in 2013 and 2014 no matter what this class brings to the table. That said, J'Mon Moore's name has risen in the recruiting ranks following a solid 2012 season, and Donovahn Jones, another "athlete" who could end up here or in the defensive backfield, is a really intriguing threat. To the extent that there was a need here (and there really wasn't), it has certainly been addressed.
Tight End: Need
Jason Reese (*** 5.5)
Potential Commits (1):
Travis Johnson (*** 5.7)
One of the things we were pretty quickly able to deduce about the changes Henson might make in replacing David Yost was that the tight end might be more of an emphasis in the Henson offense. When you look at the roster and see just two scholarship players at the position -- senior Eric Waters and intriguing redshirt freshman Sean Culkin -- you might then assume that tight end would be a late position of emphasis in recruiting. It was, but Mizzou hasn't knocked it out of the park in this regard. Liberty (MO) tight end Kolton Shindelar committed to Tulsa instead (last week, PowerMizzou's Pete Scantlebury suggested that Tulsa was promising Shindelar that he would be a tight end, while Missouri was suggesting that they liked him at any number of positions, which ... whatever), and as I mentioned this morning, Mizzou is not the favorite to land three-star Tampa tight end Travis Johnson when he announces tonight. They did, however, land Reese, who chose Missouri over late interest from Oklahoma. So there will be at least three scholarship tight ends on the roster. Three is better than two.
Need Addressed? I guess. If Johnson commits, then this is a rousing yes.
Offensive Line: NEED NEED NEED
Clay Rhodes (*** 5.6)
Harneet Gill (*** 5.6)
Alec Abeln (*** 5.5)
Potential Commits (1):
Joshua Outlaw (*** 5.7)
Two things about the offensive line: 1) We learned in 2012 that Missouri needs more depth than it had. 2) Any incoming freshman is probably not going to do much about that depth. The 2013 line is going to consist mostly of players we already knew about in 2012, and if players are actually able to stay healthy this time around, that's fine. But with two potential starters (Justin Britt and Max Copeland) entering their senior seasons and only one redshirt freshman (Jordan Williams) entering the battle this spring, Mizzou still needed to plump up the number of OLs on the roster. With three signees, and potentially a fourth in Outlaw, they have done that. It would have been fantastic to land Jake Campos, the four-star former Mizzou commit who decided to stay in-state and go to Iowa State, but that's life.
There are a few phenomenal local offensive linemen in the 2014 class -- Olathe's Braden Smith, St. Louis' Andy Bauer (once a Mizzou commit who has sure been showing up in Columbia a lot lately) and Florissant's Roderick Johnson are all on the early Rivals Top 250 for next year, and both Smith and Bauer are expected to rank awfully high. If Mizzou were to somehow land all three of these players (an enormous 'if'), people won't worry too much about OL depth in the near future.
Need Addressed? Reasonably well.
Defensive End: Luxury
Marcus Loud (*** 5.7)
Nate Crawford (*** 5.5)
Really, this was bordering on "need," but I'm being optimistic here. Between senior Michael Sam, junior Kony Ealy, sophomore Shane Ray, redshirt freshman Rickey Hatley and potentially converted linebacker Markus Golden (if he has indeed converted to DE as rumored), Missouri already has a load of potential at end for 2013, and with only Sam and Brayden Burnett departing after 2013, future depth is also solid. Marcus Loud's recruiting rating rose considerably from the time he first committed to Missouri over the summer as an unknown (he decommitted from Mizzou, committed to Colorado, then recommitted to Mizzou; recruiting is just so much fun), which is certainly encouraging. Meanwhile, at 260 pounds, Crawford could either stay at end or end up at tackle. We'll see.
Defensive Tackle: NEED NEED NEED
Josh Augusta (*** 5.7)
Antar Thompson (*** 5.7)
A.J. Logan (*** 5.5)
This is far and away the biggest question mark for Missouri heading into 2013; Sheldon Richardson's absence leaves an enormous hole that will need filling, especially considering how much Mizzou's front line fell apart when he was suspended against Syracuse. In this regard, Mizzou had a serious opportunity when they brought junior college teammates (and four-star tackles) Ben Bradley and Toby Johnson to town in December. Mizzou was perhaps at one point the favorite to land Bradley (and Johnson had professed interest in going wherever Bradley went), but he decided to give the SEC schools with new coaches (Kentucky and Auburn) a shot and ended up at Auburn. Johnson is no longer considering Missouri.
So without a JUCO-based blood transfusion, we're looking mostly at the current lineup of tackles -- juniors Matt Hoch and Lucas Vincent, senior Marvin Foster and redshirt freshmen Harold Brantley and Evan Winston -- and perhaps one of the above three cracking into the rotation. Okay, one of the above two: Thompson is probably not going to qualify and will likely be placed at a junior college and slated to come to Columbia in two years. Augusta is well-regarded, and Logan is a late-bloomer with a ton of potential, but I'm going to go out on a limb (ahem) and suggest that neither will be ready to replace Richardson's production in 2013. So the pressure falls on players like Vincent and Brantley, about whom we have heard all sorts of raves through the years, to raise their respective games. Tackle won't be a strength in 2013, but it is up to Hoch, Vincent, Brantley, etc., to make sure it isn't a terrible weakness.
Need Addressed? No.
Eric Beisel (*** 5.6)
Joe Burkett (*** 5.6)
Early in this recruiting cycle, we heard a lot about how Mizzou loves its linebackers but aimed to land three in this class anyway, simply because there were three really exciting in-state linebackers: Beisel, Burkett and four-star Lee's Summit product Nick Ramirez. Ramirez got shaky on his commitment back in the fall, and allegedly Andy Hill visited his high school and told him the following in December: They wanted him because they thought he was awesome, but they had strong linebackers already, and if he wasn't going to commit at that point, the staff would have no choice but to move on to fill other needs. Believe it if you want to, but that's the story that has gone around.
Regardless, that's a pretty good sign that this is a position of luxury. And with seniors Andrew Wilson and Donovan Bonner, junior Darvin Ruise, sophomores Kentrell Brothers and Clarence Green, redshirt freshmen Michael Scherer, Donavin Newsom and Torey Boozer, and potentially Markus Golden (if he hasn't moved to end), one can see why the staff wasn't worried about LB numbers in this class.
Defensive Back: Need
Anthony Sherrils (*** 5.6)
Aarion Penton (*** 5.5)
Shaun Rupert (*** 5.5)
Potential Commits (1):
Duron Singleton (JUCO)
Heading into 2013, the defensive backfield is full of both experience and opportunity. In E.J. Gaines, you've got one of the better No. 1 corners in the SEC. In safeties Braylon Webb, Ian Simon and Matt White, you've got three players with a solid amount of experience, players who certainly didn't embarrass themselves in 2012. In Randy Ponder, you've got a career nickel back with solid hitting ability and, yes, limited athleticism. In players like Xavier Smith, Ernest Payton, Daniel Easterly, and Cortland Browning, you've got a lot of candidates for breakthroughs in 2013. And in redshirt freshmen John Gibson and Chaston Ward, you've got a couple of high-ceiling guys who might become spring stars. Gibson especially was turning heads in August.
Still ... beyond Gaines, there are no proven stars here. If a junior college transfer like Duron Singleton indeed signs with Missouri, he might immediately find a path to the starting lineup. And if the freshmen listed above, or even Chase Abbington or Donovahn Jones, were to prove themselves in August, they could pretty quickly find their way onto the two-deep. (It bears mentioning that Sherrils could end up at receiver, too.) There are a ton of candidates here, and this recruiting class provides even more.
Need Addressed? Yes. No stars, but plenty of potential.
When you look at the class in this way, you can see that, while the overall class ranking might not be that great, Mizzou has at least done the bare minimum in address current and future depth needs. Defensive tackle is still an enormous concern, sadly made worse by the "almost" aspect of Bradley and Johnson. If Mizzou had landed Bradley, I'd be quite pleased with this class as a whole despite the losses. This wasn't the semi-elite class we once hoped for, but it is one that can contribute a decent amount to solid teams in the 2014-16 range. And as I've said before, most of the 2013 two-deep was going to come from those already on the roster to begin with. The pressure will be on to address needs in the trenches with the 2014 class, of course, but let's just put it this way: for a "disaster," this class still has a chance to fare pretty well, especially if a couple of the late commitment candidates come aboard.