Mizzou and Recruiting the SEC States

[Bumped to the front page. It deserves some above-the-fold time.]

Dave Matter's Monday (Nov. 28th) column notes that Pinkel is currently tweaking staff area recruiting responsibilities. He highlights that the Tigers will look to build relationships in Georgia and deepen them in Florida.

A few thoughts on a potential re-emphasis in Mizzou's recruiting efforts in the South:

1. Talent doesn't get missed in SEC country. I have made this point elsewhere on RMN. A good friend, who had a small scouting service based in Arizona, was the first to lay it out for me. The demographics of the South (especially the Southeast)--think population density, not ethnic makeup--are different than the West. Small southern towns are less physically isolated than comparable towns out West. As a result, Southern-based scouts see virtually all the good players because the travel is not diabolical. By contrast, in Texas, Cali, Utah, or Arizona scouts simply cannot see all the good kids play. That's how a guy like Spooooon! slips through as a two-star. It's one of the main reasons you rarely find quality mid-major programs in SEC states who can maintain across multiple recruiting classes. (Georgia Southern is a powerhouse in the FCS, and a notable exception. I'll return to Georgia in point #5.)

2. I hope Pinkel sticks with QBs from elsewhere. You simply do not see the kind of QB development at the high school level in the South that you see in other regions. The number of QBs who played prep ball in the South, attended an SEC school, and went on to a legit pro career are so few in the last decade or so you can practically name them all--Peyton and Eli Manning (LA), and who else? Tim Couch? Jamarcus Russell? I'll throw in first year starters Cam Newton (MS), and Tim Tebow (FL) to be charitable. Did I miss anyone else? This is not so much a raw talent issue, as it is an issue of reps in an offense. Chase Daniel walked onto campus knowing the offense cold, and probably had hundreds (maybe thousands) more reps in it than did Brad Smith. That's not really how it goes down South.

3. Tennessee is the historical model for recruiting the SEC in a smallish state that does not produce lots of prep talent. I have always had a soft spot for Tennessee because of its historical willingness--particularly throughout the Fulmer regime--to play tough non-conference opponents in home-and-home series. As part of that Tennessee has been quite progressive in its recruiting, with a willingness to find players out West in CA, HA, and OR, especially at the skill positions.

4. You see less junior college and more "Hargrave Military Academy" in the South. I did not see this nearly so much when I lived in other regions. (In the far West I'd say the emphasis is exactly reversed. Sometimes players that don't need to go to JUCOs get steered to them.) If Pinkel and staff do not currently have a policy they'll need to develop one. No shortage of SEC players have come through Hargrave and similar prep schools. Players don't lose eligibility by attending these schools, if I am not mistaken. It's a practice that is not without some controversy, as it's closely associated with overstacking recruits (or so-called greyshirting).

5. Florida and Georgia are the right states to start. Florida is an obvious one because the state is so population dense and football mad. Add to that the traditional powers are down, though FSU may be back on the upswing. I would think of recruiting Florida as less about a head-to-head battle with UF, FSU, and Miami. Those traditional powerhouse programs have such a head start. It's more about recruiting against the directional Florida schools and the traditional Big East poachers (especially West Virginia). Georgia makes a lot of sense as well, because I would say that on the whole it produces the most polished prep players in the region (if not always the best athletic specimens). If anything, my impression is that the state is under-recruited by rivals. As a newcomer Mizzou might not win many head-to-head battles with UGa, but I think we could compete with Georgia Tech on just about every dimension.

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