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STL, KC and everything in between: Does Missouri own Missouri?

In any given year, Missouri signs about a third of the top prospects from its state and the surrounding areas

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Missouri
Barry Odom and Drew Lock, just the sort of top-flight, in-state prospect Missouri has had a bit of trouble attracting over the past couple of years.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote a thought-provoking column the day after signing day last week.

In the wake of Missouri whiffing on all but one of the “Tiger 10,” Frederickson brought us a range of thoughts from coaches regarding that fact. Barry Odom was pretty nonchalant. Gotta get the players from somewhere, basically. Doesn’t matter if it’s Missouri, Texas or Timbuktu.

Assistants Derek Dooley, Cornell Ford and Andy Hill, though, said it’s vitally important for Missouri to do well in Missouri and succeed with players from the state and its environs.

I can kind of see both sides. Sure, you don’t want to go out and recruit bad fits just because they’re from the state. And Missouri ain’t Florida. You’re not going to get a class of 25 in-state players every year that are Power-5 caliber prospects.

And sure, as Bill Connelly elaborated upon in this space last week, if you do recruit a bunch of quality guys from out of state, it can make up for a lot of shoddy border locking.

But I don’t think many would argue that Missouri should be able to pull more than one highly rated in-state player (not counting guys like Harry Ballard and Antar Thompson, who they had already pulled previously) out of a talented recruiting class.

Which is what the Tigers have done each of the past two years now.

In the 2017-18 classes, out of the top 15 Rivals-ranked players in the state and the spillover suburbs in Illinois and Kansas, Missouri landed exactly one each year: Daniel Parker from Blue Springs this year and DaRon Davis from Hogan Prep last year.

That’s a 6.67 win percentage.

That, really, is unheard of in Missouri’s recruiting classes of the past decade. From 2009-2018, I took the top 15 players in the state and the St. Louis/Kansas City out of state suburbs and saw how many the Tigers landed.

I reconciled the Missouri/Illinois/Kansas recruits by using the Rivals Rating scale and, for ties around the 15th spot, I took the higher ranked prospects among the 247Sports composite ranking to fill out the list.

Overall, the Tigers signed 48 out of 150, or 32 percent.

Here’s the number of prospects Missouri signed per year:

  • 2018: 1
  • 2017: 1
  • 2016: 5
  • 2015: 9
  • 2014: 3
  • 2013: 8
  • 2012: 6
  • 2011: 2
  • 2010: 8
  • 2009: 5

Might some of that be because the prospects at the top were more highly rated, and thus drew more competition, than in years past?

Eh, not really. The 2018 top 15’s average stars (3.47) tied for third among the 10 classes, with 2017, 2015 and 2009. Behind, though, 2010 (3.67...when the Tigers signed 8) and 2014 (3.60, when they signed three).

The average Rivals rating, likewise, was third behind 2010 and 2014.

(Ayodele Adeoye, one of the “Tiger 10,” though, wasn’t included in 2018 in my study, as he spent his senior year in Florida and, thus, was ranked with Floridian prospects by the services.)

The 32-percent figure holds pretty true across talent levels and geographic areas. Missouri hit on 18 of 61 four- and five-star guys over the past decade, or 29.5 percent. The Tigers hit on 30 of 89 three-star guys, or 33.7 percent.

In St. Louis, Missouri hit on 25 of 75, or 33.3 percent. In Kansas City, 18 of 58 (31 percent). Elsewhere around the state, five of 17 (29.4 percent).

(But, in Columbia and Jefferson City, only two of nine, or 22.2 percent. Oddly enough. That’s OK, though. Alex Ofodile is coming back.)

These teams have been the biggest larcenists of talent in Missouri’s backyard over the past decade:

  • Kansas: 14
  • Nebraska: 11
  • Oklahoma: 8
  • Arkansas: 7
  • Illinois: 6
  • Iowa: 6
  • Kansas State: 5

Not all high-profile misses are created equal, of course. Bubba Starling and Monte Harrison were both local four-star “misses” for Missouri who never suited up in college so they could play baseball, for instance.

But some high-profile misses sting as time goes by. Like Braden Smith. Or two-time national champion Hale Hentges. Or Montee Ball. Or, I don’t know...Ezekiel Elliott?

Likewise, landing one of those top local talents isn’t a cure-all. For every Terry Beckner, there’s a Nate Howard. For every Drew Lock, a Marquise Doherty.

For every 2010 class, where basically all the local signees were eventual starterskey contributors or at least starters (Marcus Lucas, Kony Ealy, Jimmie Hunt, E.J. Gaines, Lucas Vincent, Anthony Gatti...not Nick Demien and Tyler Gabbert), there’s a 2013, with the same number of signees but not a whole lot of eventual star power (Anthony Sherrils, Eric Beisel and Joey Burkett were starters...Chase Abbington, Trent Hosick, Harneet Gill and Clay Rhodes were not. And Thompson took a minute to get here).

Still, when the local guys are hits, they’re very palpable ones. Just think of the names: Beckner, Lock, Evan Boehm, Ealy, Sheldon Richardson, Shane Ray, E.J. Gaines, T.J. Moe...and, even further back, Jeremy Maclin, Blaine Gabbert, Aldon Smith.

Take a little trip down memory lane with me, won’t you?