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What does a successful in-state recruiting class look like at Missouri?

It’s easy to say Missouri needs to “seal the borders” in recruiting. But what does that actually mean?

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve spent any time following recruiting, you’ve heard the phrase “seal the borders.” It’s a rally cry for coaches and fans alike. One of the first statements any new head football coach makes when he’s introduced is making the infamous claim that he’ll be the one to make sure all of the in-state recruits stay home to play at the in-state university.

That’s easier said than done. And, frankly, it’s not feasible even if the coach wanted to accomplish such a feat.

So, what does it mean to seal the borders, specifically at Missouri? Let’s take a peak back at history and hopefully it can shed some light on what Eli Drinkwitz should be targeting for the future.

Blue Chip In-State Recruits:

Missouri produces an average of 4.5 “blue chip” recruits per recruiting cycle, according to Rivals’ recruiting database. I loosely defined a “blue chip” as any recruit rated as a four or five star player. The Tigers have convinced an average of 1.5 blue chip recruits to commit to Missouri per cycle in the Rivals era.

Mizzou Blue Chip In-State Commits

Year: Total Blue Chip In-State Recruits: Mizzou In-State Blue Chip Commits Percentage of In-State Blue Chip Commits:
Year: Total Blue Chip In-State Recruits: Mizzou In-State Blue Chip Commits Percentage of In-State Blue Chip Commits:
2002 5 3 60.00%
2003 4 2 50.00%
2004 6 5 83.33%
2005 2 0 0.00%
2006 3 1 33.33%
2007 5 2 40.00%
2008 4 2 50.00%
2009 4 1 25.00%
2010 8 4 50.00%
2011 1 0 0.00%
2012 4 2 50.00%
2013 3 1 33.33%
2014 5 1 20.00%
2015 4 2 50.00%
2016 4 1 25.00%
2017 4 1 25.00%
2018 7 1 14.29%
2019 4 1 25.00%
2020 8 0 0.00%
2021 4 1 25.00%

Gary Pinkel... He was pretty good, huh?

Looking back, Pinkel is pretty clearly the standard when it comes to the Tigers’ in-state blue chip recruiting. There were 58 in-state blue chip recruits from 2002-2015. Pinkel’s staff convinced 26 of those 58 (45 percent) to commit to Mizzou.

Barry Odom wasn’t able to maintain that success rate. Missouri produced 19 blue chip recruits in the 2016-2019 recruiting cycles. The Tigers only convinced four (21%) of those 19 blue chip recruits to commit to Mizzou.

Missouri has produced 12 blue chip recruits over the past two recruiting cycles. Only one (8%) has committed to play in Columbia. It’s worth noting Eli Drinkwitz already has one in-state blue chip recruit committed for the 2022 class with a couple others trending in the right direction.

3-Star In-State Recruits:

As much as we talk about the blue chip talent, it’s the mid-tier players who are the lifeblood of a program like Missouri. The most sustainable way to identify under-the-radar recruits is right in your own backyard. Pinkel, in particular, had a ton of success with this philosophy.

Mizzou 3-Star In-State Commits

Year: Total 3-Star In-State Recruits Mizzou 3-Star In-State Commits Percentage of In-State 3-Star Commits:
Year: Total 3-Star In-State Recruits Mizzou 3-Star In-State Commits Percentage of In-State 3-Star Commits:
2002 10 3 30.00%
2003 14 4 28.57%
2004 7 3 42.86%
2005 12 7 58.33%
2006 15 4 26.67%
2007 15 7 46.67%
2008 12 6 50.00%
2009 13 7 53.85%
2010 12 2 16.67%
2011 16 3 18.75%
2012 14 3 21.43%
2013 19 9 47.37%
2014 15 4 26.67%
2015 12 4 33.33%
2016 18 5 27.78%
2017 7 0 0.00%
2018 12 0 0.00%
2019 29 5 17.24%
2020 20 5 25.00%
2021 18 5 27.78%

The state of Missouri has produced 290 3-star recruits over the last 20 recruiting cycles, according to Rivals’ database. A total of 86 (30%) of those 3-star in-state players decided to play for the Tigers. It should come as no surprise that a good portion of that success also came from Pinkel’s time at Mizzou.

From 2002-2015, 66 of the 186 (35%) 3-star in-state recruits decided to commit to Missouri. That number plummeted to 10 out of 66 (15%) in Odom’s four recruiting cycles. Drinkwitz has convinced 10 of 38 (26%) in-state 3-star recruits to play for the Tigers.

That’s a lot of numbers, I know. For anyone who went “TL;DR” let me sum this up for you:

Pinkel did an excellent job by convincing one of every three “solid” in-state recruits to commit to Mizzou. Odom basically ignored the “solid” in-state recruits in his time at Mizzou. Drinkwitz is back to making those players a priority again, and it’s paid off thus far in his tenure.

So what does it all mean?

When you hear a Missouri coach say “we need to seal the borders,” they’re probably referencing something similar to what Pinkel accomplished in his time at Missouri. That means convincing roughly half of the blue chip in-state recruits to stay home. It also means identifying a good portion (roughly 33%) of the in-state 3-star players who fit the program and can help maintain the foundation of what it means to be a Missouri Tiger.

Pinkel was a heck of a coach for a million different reasons. He knew the importance of always having a quality quarterback. He saw the value in attacking the under-the-radar talent in Texas. He knew how important it was to have athletes along the offensive and defensive line. All of those are principles we’ve seen implemented once again under Drinkwitz.

But, maybe more than anything, Pinkel saw the importance of developing and maintaining relationships with the in-state coaching staffs and players. It led to a good amount of success with his in-state recruiting. That’s the North Star for Mizzou’s current and future coaches.

Can Drinkwitz’s staff take what Pinkel accomplished to another level? It’s certainly possible. But when Missouri coaches say in the future that they want to “seal the borders,” remember that it doesn’t mean convincing 100 percent of the quality in-state players to stay home.

Keeping half of the best players in Missouri and about a third of the solid players in-state should be seen as quite the haul.