It’s been nine years since Missouri signed its highest-rated class in the recruiting-service era, The 2010 class contained stars on both sides of the ball and provided the backbone of the best two-year stretch in Missouri football history, going 23-5 in 2013-2014 and winning two SEC East championships.
The Tigers haven’t been able to ascend back to those heights, either on the recruiting trail or on the field, since, but the 2010 class is a great example of why, on a macro level, recruiting rankings do matter and why, on a micro level, recruiting rankings don’t matter.
- 4-star OL Nick Demien (Wentzville, Mo.) — left program following 2013 season
- 4-star WR Marcus Lucas (Liberty, Mo.)
- 4-star WR Jimmie Hunt (Cahokia, Ill.)
- 4-star QB Tyler Gabbert (Ballwin, Mo.) — transferred prior to 2011 season
- 4-star DB Tristen Holt (Gilmer, Texas) — dismissed prior to 2011 season
- 4-star DE Kony Ealy (New Madrid, Mo.)
- 4-star QB James Franklin (Corinth, Texas)
- 3-star DE Matt Hoch (Harlan, Iowa)
- 3-star DT Lucas Vincent (Olathe, Kan.)
- 3-star ATH Henry Josey (Angleton, Texas)
- 3-star WR Bud Sasser (Denton, Texas)
- 3-star OL Mitch Morse (Austin, Texas)
- 3-star OL Anthony Gatti (St. Louis, Mo.)
- 3-star DB Xavier Smith (Edmond, Okla.) — left program following 2013 season
- 3-star DB Kenronte Walker (San Francisco, Calif.) — JUCO, eligibility expired following 2012 season
- 3-star RB Marcus Murphy (DeSoto, Texas)
- 3-star DB EJ Gaines (Independence, Mo.)
- 3-star LB Jared Parham (Coppell, Texas)
- 3-star DB Braylon Webb (Gilmer, Texas)
- 3-star ATH Daniel Easterly (Detroit, Mich.) — left program following 2013 season
- 3-star TE Eric Waters (Masnfield, Texas)
- 3-star ATH Darvin Ruise (Glen St. Mary, Fla.)
- 3-star ATH Greg White (De Queen, Ark.) — left program following 2013 season
What can we learn from this class that could apply to Missouri even now? A few things.
1. It’s a volume game with the three-star recruits.
Four of the seven four-star recruits Missouri signed in the 2010 class went on to become key contributors; the other three effectively had zero impact on Missouri’s on-the-field results. Even of those four that became key contributors, probably only one had a without-a-doubt four-star career (James Franklin), although Ealy, Lucas and Hunt all had their one stand-out season each.
But what Missouri did in this class was hit on just about every three-star recruit. Including Kenronte Walker — a multi-year starter — Missouri hit on 11 of the 16 three-star recruits, and even some that weren’t starters became solid contributors (like Darvin Ruise, for instance). More importantly, five of those three-stars ended up having four-star careers: EJ Gaines, Marcus Murphy, Mitch Morse, Bud Sasser and Henry Josey.
2. It needs players that won’t transfer too soon.
This class was a bit of a rarity in that it saw only two defections prior the signees’ second year on campus. Tyler Gabbert (transferred) and Tristen Holt (dismissed) were both gone following spring football 2011, prior to their second season at Missouri. All the other transfers/defections happened following the 2013 season.
I think this is a key part in Missouri’s success in 2013 and 2014. Beyond the fact that this class was loaded with talent, it also consisted of players that stayed in the system for at least three years, giving the team depth and stability while also not forcing them to plug holes with younger, inexperienced players. Missouri was deep with veteran contributors in 2013 and 2014; a bit reason for that was because the hit rate in this class in terms of talent and depth was so high.
3. Missouri recruiting is cyclical, but a boon year needs to be bouyed by difference makers at key positions in the surrounding classes.
The 2009 and 2011 recruiting classes don’t get much attention in terms of national ranking, but successes with a few “projects” complimented the 2010 class extremely well. In 2009, three of the biggest projects were L’Damian Washington, Michael Sam and Justin Britt — all two-star recruits. In 2011, one of the biggest “projects” was Connor McGovern. But Missouri hit big on all four of those players. and those filled in the gaps of the talented 2010 class to give Missouri three eventual NFL offensive linemen (four, of course, when you throw in 2012 signee Evan Boehm) and a receiver and defensive lineman that, after developing, made Misosuri among the nation’s deepest at those position groups.
With all that being said, Missouri may have just accomplished something similar with the 2019 class. It’s still too early to know for sure, but early returns on the 2018 class are that Missouri hit on a big volume of three-star recruits (Tyler Badie, Jalen Knox, Dominic Gicinto, Kam Scott, and even players we haven’t seen on the field yet like Messiah Swinson). When you throw in the projected immediate-impact players in the 2019 class, they all come at positions that were among Missouri’s biggest question marks: Quarterback (Kelly Bryant now, Shawn Robinson and Connor Bazelak later), safety (Jalani Williams) and defensive end (Sci Martin).
Now, throw in the fact that Missouri’s 2019 recruiting class as a whole — which saw an improved national ranking, without factoring in the transfers — and Missouri could see a similar uptick in wins over the next two to three seasons. This isn’t to say the Tigers will win the SEC East, as that is dependent on external factors as much as it is on Missouri itself.
But, on paper, it looks like the building blocks are there to take a big step forward on the field.