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The DNA of the 2021 Missouri Football Tigers

The demographics of the 2021 team. Because I find that interesting.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

We are 18 days away from YOUR Missouri Football Tigers kicking off the 2021 season against Central Michigan. Do you feel that? No, not the indigestion. Next to that. Yes! That! It’s excitement!

Because I am absolutely insane and keep track of fairly useless amounts of data about Missouri’s roster, I figured now would be a good time to let you all take a look and the makeup of this 2021 team. There’s lots of excitement about what the on-the-field product can be, yes, but aren’t you more excited about where they come from, the massive class imbalance, and the blue-chip ratios? I know I am!

Let’s start with the roster breakdown. Here’s the overview:

Roster Demographics

Let me break it down into the four subcategories here:

Blue-Chip Ratio

Per 247’s Bud Elliott, the blue-chip ratio tracks how well an individual team recruits over a four-year period. Teams who are able to consistently reel in recruiting classes of 4- and 5-star kids are able to field a team with enough athleticism to compete for national championships. It doesn’t mean the team is any good, mind you (think TEXAS), it just simply means their ceiling is high enough that they could hold their own against elite teams. The cutoff point is 50%, meaning 41 of a team’s 82 scholarship players are 4/5 star guys coming out of high school.

At this time last year the Tiger’s blue-chip ratio was 5% which, as my University of Missouri education has helped me realize, is much less than 50%. However, heading into the 2021 season, Mizzou’s blue-chip ratio has more than doubled, currently sitting at 11%. Naturally that means that next year it will be 24% and then hit 53% in 2023 because recruiting improvement is always the same!

...but seriously, Drinkwitz and his staff have been aces on the recruiting trail and should definitely help elevate Mizzou’s recruiting prestige to at least the 30% level for the coming years.

Class Balance

Look at this. Look at this f***ing mess of class balance:

2021 Roster by Class

The first number is scholarship players, the number in parenthesis is when you add walk-ons.

This is the visual representation of the thing BK and I have been complaining about in multiple podcasts: the NCAA allowed EVERYONE to not have their 2020 season count on the eligibility clock has created an absolute logjam at the underclassman level. Compare this balance to the roster heading into the 2020 season:

Ahh that’s better

This is why the Tigers can only take 15 commitments on Early Signing Day because there’s only for sure 9 guys leaving a roster with 74 guys on scholarship. 74-9=65, 65+15=80, and you want to keep a few scholarships available for Luther Burden and Kevin Coleman the elite, February-Singing-Day dudes and the off-season transfer portal market.

Stars and Positions

Positions by star-ratings

Outside of running back, offensive lineman, defensive tackle, and specialists, the Tigers have at least one 4-star guy at every position. And, if current recruiting efforts hold, then the Tigers should have at least one 4-star guy at EVERY position - excluding tight end and specialists - on next year’s roster. That’s a good start for the SEC, and it is a good idea to get multiple 4-stars at every position going forward. That would increase the blue-chip ratio and continue to protect Mizzou from any busts that could potentially happen.

I don’t want to sound like I’m totally discounting the 2- and 3-star guys, by the way: I’m a lifelong Missouri fan and I know what our wheelhouse is. I’m just simply stating it’s better for 2/3-star kids to get developed over time and play above their high school rating while also recruiting a good crop of elite athleticism that can hit the field and be awesome from Game 1.

What states are we drawing talent from?

2021 Players by State

24 different states in the union and another whole-ass country/continent have contributed players to the 2021 cause. The state of Missouri, to no one’s surprise, leads the way in total players on the roster, both scholarship only (17) and with walk-ons added (38). Texas is second (14/19) followed by Florida’s 7 scholarship players and Georgia (5/7). It’s a pretty heavy SEC footprint which is a good thing: the most talented high school football players hail from the American south - specifically Texas, Georgia, and Florida - and Mizzou has typically found success by recruiting overlooked players in talent-stocked areas to supplement the best athletes from Missouri they can sign. The Indiana pipeline has been busy as of late with the signing of Ky Montgomery and Daylan Carnell while the Michigan pipeline got a little smaller with the early drafting of Larry Borom and transfer of Aidan Harrison. It’ll be interesting to see if Drinkwitz’s staff does anything to further develop the Colorado pipeline (one scholarship player) or the Chicago pipeline (zero scholarship players) or if they decide that the Carolina pipeline is more valuable (two scholarship players, one on the way, plus Larry Threesticks was a Carolina kid).

Here’s a visual representation of the areas that Missouri has drawn talent from to craft the 2021 roster:

Map of 2021 player’s hometowns

This map does count walk-ons but you can see the big pockets that Missouri pulls from - St. Louis, Kansas City, DFW, Houston, central Florida. And, of course, 9,429 miles to the west is the recruiting hotbed of Melbourne, Australia (hi, Ben Key!).

So what’s the point of all this?

Mostly just to act as a depository for my weird data hoarding, frankly. But also to give you a better idea of where the roster currently stands and provide a benchmark in order to watch as to how it evolves over time. I last did this exercise in June of 2020 and it’s already changed a ton: how the recruiting efforts and roster management work out over the years and the impact on what the team looks like in that timespan will be very interesting to track.

The next question to answer - and one we won’t realistically get a chance at answering until Game Week - is which players see the field. Missouri’s most elite teams relied heavily on contributions from experienced upperclassman and young, high-level impact athletes. Missouri’s last recruiting class was the best ever but the four that came before that were middle of the pack nationally and near the bottom in the SEC. Playing a lot of upperclassmen helps from an experience and development standpoint while possibly limiting a team’s ceiling while playing a bunch of young guys probably equates to more immediate losses in hope for the potential of more wins down the road. Rest assured, I’ll analyze the hell out of the roster once we get more information.