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Recruiting DNA of Missouri’s Best Teams

Recruiting is important, but Missouri has to do it in a different way. What classes made up some of the best seasons in recent Tiger football history?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Missouri at Georgia Photo by David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Now that National Signing Day, Part Deux is complete, it looks like the Drinkwitz regime’s first haul will come in ranked 56th (according to Rivals) or 48th (according to 247) in the country. A new coaching staff tends to underperform previous recruiting rankings since Early Signing Day was implemented, so ranking 22 spots lower than last year’s class is par for the course. Recruiting rankings absolutely matter: teams that win titles typically have a roster constructed of at least 50% blue chip recruits and those that don’t will always struggle to beat those types of teams and rely on superior talent development and luck. And in the SEC, where 9 teams rank in the Top 25 of the country, recruiting well is paramount to consistent success on the field.

Missouri has not, and probably will not, be consistently recruiting at a Top 25 level so it will have to rely on that superior development (or some more active bag men, ahem) to keep up with the rest of the conference. That approach has won two Big XII North titles and two SEC East titles, so it can definitely work as long as the staff and fan base have patience. Today, I wanted to look at those four division-winning teams to see what recruiting classes made up those championship teams and how many of each class the starters came from. Let’s start with 2007!

2007 - 12-2 (7-1) - Big XII North Champions

Recruiting Classes and Ranks

2003 - 28th - 4 starters

  • Martin Rucker - TE ***
  • Tyler Luellen - OT ****
  • Adam Spieker - C ***
  • Lorenzo Williams - DT ***

2004 - 46th - 9 starters

  • Tony Temple - RB ****
  • Tommy Saunders - WR (unranked)
  • Will Franklin - WR ***
  • Ryan Madison - OG **
  • Colin Brown - OT (unranked)
  • Stryker Sulak - DE **
  • Van Alexander - SLB ****
  • William Moore - FS ***
  • Adam Crossett - P (unranked)

2005 - 39th - 8 starters

  • Chase Daniel - QB ***
  • Kurtis Gregory - OG ***
  • Tommy Chavis - DT **
  • Evander “Ziggy” Hood - DT ***
  • Brock Christopher - MLB ***
  • Darnell Terrell - CB ****
  • William Moore - FS ***
  • Jeff Wolfert - K (unranked)

2006 - 47th - 4 starters

  • Jeremy Maclin - WR ****
  • Sean Weatherspoon - WLB **
  • Castine Bridges - CB ***
  • Cornelius “Pig” Brown - SS ***

2007 - 33rd - 0 starters

Average Recruiting Ranking: 39th

4-stars: 5

3-stars: 11

2-stars: 4

Unranked: 4

Keep in mind: being ranked a 2-star prospect means that Rivals/247 thinks a player will be a starter after a few years so it’s certainly not a disrespectful marker or some indicator that the player is terrible. 3-star means a player can be a starter on a Power 5 team, 4-star typically means an all-conference performer, and a 5-star is an NFL-ready talent that will be in contention for postseason accolades and probably be drafted in the 1st-round.

By those definitions, Martin Rucker, Adam Spieker, Lorenzo Williams certainly out-performed their 2003 rankings. Tommy Saunders, Will Franklin, Colin Brown, Stryker Sulak, and William Moore performed above their initial ranking as well. Obviously Chase Daniel was elite beyond his evaluation, while Kurtis Gregory and Ziggy Hood turned in all-conference performances. The 2006 starters featured the (anticipated) talent of Jeremy Maclin, but also featured the surprising Sean Weatherspoon and Pig Brown. That’s 12 starters performing much better than anticipated, giving the 2007 roster 17 “blue chip performers” (4-star recruits + those who performed at a 4-star level or higher). That means a full 54% of the starting roster performed better than prognosticated, giving the 2007 roster a blue-chip ratio of 77%, a percentage that absolutely puts them on par with the elites as far as winning championships.

2008 - 10-4 (5-3) - Big XII North Champions

Recruiting Classes and Ranks

2004 - 46th - 6 starters

  • Tommy Saunders - WR (unranked)
  • Ryan Madison - OG **
  • Colin Brown - OT (unranked)
  • Stryker Sulak - DE **
  • Van Alexander - SLB ****
  • William Moore - FS ***

2005 - 39th - 7 starters

  • Chase Daniel - QB ***
  • Chase Coffman - TE ***
  • Kurtis Gregory - OG ***
  • Evander “Ziggy” Hood - DT ***
  • Jaron Baston - DT ***
  • Brock Christopher - MLB ***
  • Jeff Wolfert - K (unranked)

2006 - 47th - 6 starters

  • Jeremy Maclin - WR ****
  • Jared Perry - WR ***
  • Tim Barnes - C ***
  • Sean Weatherspoon - WLB **
  • Tremane Vaughns - CB ***

2007 - 33rd - 5 starters

  • Derrick Washington - RB ****
  • Elvis Fisher - OT ***
  • Carl Gettis - CB ***
  • Justin Garrett - SS ***
  • Jake Harry IV - P **

2008 - 25th - 0 starters

Average Recruiting Ranking: 38th

4-stars: 3

3-stars: 13

2-stars: 5

Unranked: 3

With the 2008 roster, 2004’s class now has Saunders, Brown, and Moore as overachievers. The 2005 class has Daniel, Chase Coffman, Gregory, Hood, and Jaron Baston punching above their weight. 2006 only features Weatherspoon, while the 2007 class didn’t have anyone over-achieving their projected expectations. That means that only 36% of the starters performed above their expectations, giving 2008’s roster 11 “blue-chip performers”, or a 50% blue-chip ratio. That is literally the lowest number of blue-chip recruits you can have on your roster and expect to be competing for championships.

2013 - 12-2 (7-1) - SEC East Champions

Recruiting Classes and Ranks

2009 - 40th - 7 starters

  • L’Damian Washington - WR **
  • Max Copeland - OG (unranked)
  • Justin Britt - OT **
  • Michael Sam - DE **
  • Andrew Wilson - MLB ***
  • Donovan Bonner - SLB **
  • Matt White - SS **

2010 - 21st - 9 starters

  • James Franklin - QB ****
  • Henry Josey - RB ***
  • Marcus Lucas - WR ****
  • Eric Waters - TE ***
  • Mitch Morse - OT ***
  • Kony Ealy - DE ****
  • E.J. Gaines - CB ***
  • Randy Ponder - CB (unranked)
  • Braylon Webb - FS ***

2011 - 48th - 5 starters

  • Connor McGovern - OG ***
  • Matt Hoch - DT ***
  • Kentrell Brothers - WLB ***
  • Andrew Baggett - K (unranked)
  • Christian Brinser - P (unranked)

2012 - 31st - 3 starters

  • Dorial Green-Beckham - WR *****
  • Evan Boehm - C ****
  • Harold Brantley - DT **

2013 - 41st - 0 starters

Average Recruiting Ranking: 36th

5-stars: 1

4-stars: 4

3-stars: 9

2-stars: 5

Unranked: 4

2013 was a special run, simply because it felt like the stars were non-factors in the minds of the fans as they were being recruited. At the time, at least for me, it felt like every starter was punching above their weight. However, that were quite a few more 4- and 5-star recruits in the starting lineup as well. The 2009 class gave us “Mad” Max Copeland, yes, but also Andrew Wilson, Justin Britt, and Michael Sam all performing at all-conference levels. 2010 was stocked with 4-star talent, but still churned out gems like Henry Josey, E.J. Gaines, Mitch Morse, and Braylon Webb. 2011’s “over-achieving” contributors to the 2013 starting roster was the indomitable Kentrell Brothers and power-lifting champ Connor McGovern. Meanwhile, 2012 didn’t have a player exceeding expectations and the 2013 class didn’t have a starter on the roster. That’s 40% of the starting roster out-performing their recruiting ranks but you add that to the existing 5 blue chip recruits also starting and you have a “blue chip performer” ratio of nearly 64%, certainly good enough to challenge for the SEC and BCS titles (which they did).

2014 - 11-3 (7-1) - SEC East Champions

Recruiting Classes and Ranks

2010 - 21st - 6 starters

  • Bud Sasser - WR ***
  • Jimmie Hunt - WR ****
  • Darius White - WR ****
  • Mitch Morse - OT ***
  • Lucas Vincent - DT ***
  • Braylon Webb - FS ***

2011 - 48th - 8 starters

  • Connor McGovern - OG ***
  • Brad McNulty - OG ***
  • Taylor Chappell - OT ***
  • Shane Ray - DE ***
  • Kentrell Brothers - WLB ***
  • Ian Simon - FS ***
  • Andrew Baggett - K (unranked)
  • Christian Brinser - P (unranked)

2012 - 31st - 8 starters

  • Maty Mauk - QB ***
  • Russell Hansbrough - RB ***
  • Sean Culkin - TE ***
  • Evan Boehm - C ****
  • Markus Golden - DE ***
  • Harold Brantley - DT **
  • Michael Scherer - MLB ***
  • Donavin Newsom - SLB ***

2013 - 41st - 1 starter

  • Aarion Penton - CB ***

2014 - 34th - 1 starter

  • Kenya Dennis - CB ***

Average Recruiting Ranking: 35th

4-stars: 3

3-stars: 18

2-stars: 1

Unranked: 2

2014, to me, felt like a team that was scraping by on the skill and achievements of the 2013 squad. Part of that is due to the insane depth that the 2013 team had that was still around for 2014, but it’s also in part to the hit-and-miss nature of the offense. Regardless, this team had the most 3-star talents of any roster and was definitely relying on starter-level talent to over-achieve and play at all-conference levels or better. The old guard of the 2010 class contributed Bud Sasser, Morse, and Webb to the over-achieving ranks. 2011 featured Brothers, McGovern, and Shane Ray doing his best Michael Sam impression. 2012 had Markus Golden wrecking shop and proving his mettle, while the 2013 team only had Aarion Penton starting but certainly playing better than anticipated. That gives the 2014 roster 8 players performing better than their recruiting rankings, giving the 2014 squad 11 “blue-chip performers” and another 50% blue-chip ratio.

Conclusion

SP+ sees the 2008 team as the greatest Missouri team of the SP+ era (2005-on). The 2007 squad ranks 2nd, with the ‘13 and ‘14 teams ranking 5th and 6th, respectively. But the ‘07 and ‘13 squads had better records and better “blue-chip performer” ratios than the ‘08 and ‘14 teams did.

Regardless of record, each of these four teams did what it takes to win their division and get a shot at a conference championship (and more). They did it by having a 5-year recruiting ranking in the 30s and having at least half of the starters play at an all-conference level or better. That absolutely jives with the Missouri mentality of developing over-looked guys into better performers than the high school scouts see.

The 2020 season, by the way, will feature five recruiting classes that average out to a ranking of 45th and feature a super inexperienced group of starters. So... a breakthrough to double-digit wins is probably not on the docket for this year.