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Can Missouri pull a Clemson? Part 2: On the Trail

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ABC: Always Be ‘Cruitin’

Missouri v LSU
Clemson gets Terry Beckner-caliber recruits on a far more frequent basis than Missouri. And that’s an issue.
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In the first part of this series, we looked at whether Missouri could follow the Clemson blueprint in all the off-the-field peripherals (revenue streams, fan support — both in-seat and monetarily — buildings things and keeping coaches, etc.) to mirror the South Carolina Tigers’ eight-year rise to national champion.

Today, we’re looking at the recruiting picture. And right up front I’m going to say that it’s about as bleak as the financial picture. For many of the same reasons.

Below, you see Clemson and Missouri’s recruiting success from 2009 through 2017, according to Rivals.com rating, stars and offers. The 2017 numbers are through Tuesday, which was eight days before signing day.

Over the past eight years, Clemson has been well above the ACC average when it comes to national recruiting class rank (15 versus 39.4) and quality of players it signs (3.43 stars versus 3.00 stars).

So, even in years in which the Tigers can not sign many players (12 in 2009, 13 commits this year), the quality of those players makes it so that their recruiting ranking does not dip too low.

This goes back to, as we discussed in part 1, Clemson maintaining an advantageous position within its league when it comes to recruiting. Were Clemson in the SEC, it would be hovering around the middle of the league standings in years in which its recruiting class only tops out in the teens. In the ACC, though, it’s basically only got Florida State (and some years Miami) competing for top of the heap.

So, much like the revenue picture, Clemson gives itself a better chance to win within the conference and, in turn, nationally.

Contrast that with Missouri.

In the three Big 12 years of this study, the Tigers had a better average national ranking than the league in all but one. 2010 was outstanding.

Starting in 2012, though, and competing with the SEC...the numbers drop off a cliff. Missouri’s average recruiting ranking actually improves from the Big 12 years (37.7) to the SEC ones (36.0). But that number is now 97 percent worse than the league average as opposed to 2 percent better than the Big 12 average.

Take 2015, for example. A banner year in which the Tigers pulled in the 27th-best recruiting class in the nation. Only it was 53 percent worse than the league average (17.7) and ranked 12th in the conference, ahead of only Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

To compete nationally, Missouri needs to be able to consistently compete in the SEC. If the Tigers’ general talent level is falling further behind the league average as the years progress, how is that possible?

Clemson’s relative position within its Power-5 league (come here and compete for a conference title — and perhaps the natty -- right away!) allows it to get into the running with more elite recruits and hit on them more often.

Here’s a breakdown of all the four- and five-star (6.1-5.8 Rivals Rating), three-star (5.7-5.5) and below (5.4 down) prospects that Missouri and Clemson have offered since 2009, according to Rivals, and how often they hit on them.

Blue chippers make up 61 percent of Clemson’s offers in that period, as opposed to 36 percent for Missouri. Clemson hit on 11.6 percent of those recruits during that timeframe, as opposed to 4.9 percent for Missouri.

You can see the difference in the last two cycles especially, when it seems as if Missouri has gone on a bit of an offer bonanza.

The SEC Tigers have offered 232 four- or five-star prospects over the past two years and nabbed four, or 1.72 percent. The ACC ones have offered 185 and gotten 23, or 12.4 percent.

Part of that is on-field success. Part of that is also Clemson’s more fertile recruiting territory.

Coaches always talk about locking down the state’s borders in recruiting but, really, they all want to extend those proverbial borders a bit further. Especially for programs like Missouri and Clemson that don’t exactly have the most talent-rich states from which to mine.

So Missouri sneaks a few hundred miles into Kansas and Illinois. Clemson sneaks a few hundred miles into Georgia and North Carolina.

Clemson’s natural recruiting map extension is far more lucrative than Missouri’s. Here’s an accounting of all the high three-star (5.7) and up prospects since 2009 from South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia on Clemson’s end, and Missouri, Illinois and Kansas on Missouri’s.

As you can see, Missouri is actually better at defending its key three-state swath than Clemson (11.1 percent to 9.4 percent). But that swath is far less fertile than Clemson’s, producing only 42 percent of the top-flight recruits that South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia do.

Missouri does enjoy an advantage in that its natural territorial nemeses (Illinois, Arkansas, Kansas...kind of, Kansas State) pale in both number and quality to Clemson’s (South Carolina, North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest, Duke, Georgia, Georgia Tech).

But with fewer elite athletes in the immediate environs, Missouri has to make more of an effort to expand its energies into places such as Texas, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. And, once there, it runs into, like, every other Power-5 program. Clemson does as well, but it has a more attractive home region to mine before stretching its legs.

Why does all this recruiting gobbledygook matter anyway? We don’t look at stars, right?

Well, one: yes. Yes you do.

And two: there is good reason for looking at stars. While every now and then a Charles Harris (two-star) will have a far more successful career than a Chase Abbington (four-star), the most highly recruited and rated players generally end up playing the best in college.

Here’s a rundown of Missouri and Clemson’s rosters from last year. I tried to make a 53-man roster out of each (as if this were the NFL) to fit in as many rotational players as I could in addition to starters.

For Missouri, I used my snap counts. For Clemson, I used the depth chart and supplemented it with some defensive snap count data that the coaches keep and furnish on the team’s athletic stats page.

Coaches releasing more information than necessary and the team still winning a national championship? Fancy that!

Missouri

Offense

QB: Drew Lock -- 4-star, 5.8 (Lee’s Summit, MO)
Marvin Zanders -- 3-star, 5.5 (Jacksonville, FL)

RB: Ish Witter -- 3-star, 5.5 (Tampa, FL)
Damarea Crockett -- 4-star, 5.8 (Little Rock, AR)
Alex Ross -- 4-star, 5.8 (Jenks, OK)

WR: J’Mon Moore -- 3-star, 5.7 (Missouri City, TX)

WR: Dimetrios Mason -- 2-star, 5.4 (Loganville, GA)
Emanuel Hall -- 3-star, 5.5 (Franklin, TN)

WR: Johnathon Johnson -- 3-star, 5.5 (Memphis, TN)
Chris Black -- 4-star, 6.0 (Jacksonville, FL)
Richaud Floyd -- 3-star, 5.5 (Gulfport, MS)
Ray Wingo -- 3-star, 5.7 (St. Louis, MO)

TE: Sean Culkin -- 3-star, 5.7 (Largo, FL)
Kendall Blanton -- 2-star, 5.4 (Blue Springs, MO)
Jason Reese -- 3-star, 5.5 (Euless, TX)
Tyler Hanneke -- Walk-on (St. Charles, MO)

LT: Tyler Howell -- 3-star, 5.6 (El Dorado, KS)
Tre’Vour Simms -- 3-star, 5.5 (East St. Louis, IL)

LG: Kevin Pendleton -- 3-star, 5.5 (Lee’s Summit, MO)
A.J. Harris -- 4-star, 5.8 (Stilwell, KS)

C: Samson Bailey -- 2-star, 5.4 (Lamar, MO)
Jonah Dubinski -- Walk-on (Columbia, MO)

RG: Adam Ploudre -- Walk-on (Ballwin, MO)
Alec Abeln -- 3-star, 5.5 (St. Louis, MO)

RT: Paul Adams -- 3-star, 5.6 (Nashville, TN)
Kyle Mitchell -- 3-star, 5.5 (Sacramento, CA)

Offense Totals

Avg. Starter: 2.73 stars, 5.51
Avg. Backup: 2.93 stars, 5.53
Avg. Player: 2.85 stars, 5.52
6.1-5.8: 5 (19.2%)
5.7-5.5: 15 (57.7%)
5.4 & Under: 6 (23.1%)

Defense

DE: Charles Harris -- 2-star, 5.2 (Kansas City, MO)
Jordan Harold -- Walk-on (St. Louis, MO)

DT: Rickey Hatley -- 3-star, 5.6 (Atlanta, TX)
Terry Beckner -- 4-star, 6.0 (East St. Louis, IL)
Markell Utsey -- 2-star, 5.3 (Little Rock, AR)

DT: A.J. Logan -- 3-star, 5.5 (Columbia, MO)
Josh Augusta -- 3-star, 5.7 (Peoria, IL)

DE: Marcell Frazier -- 3-star, 5.6 (Weed, CA)
Spencer Williams -- 3-star, 5.5 (Jacksonville, FL)

LB: Joey Burkett -- 3-star, 5.6 (Jefferson City, MO)
Cale Garrett -- 3-star, 5.6 (Kearney, MO)
Terez Hall -- 3-star, 5.7 (Lithonia, GA)

LB: Michael Scherer -- 3-star, 5.6 (St. Louis, MO)
Eric Beisel -- 3-star, 5.6 (Fenton, MO)

LB: Donavin Newsom -- 3-star, 5.7 (St. Louis, MO)
Brandon Lee -- 3-star, 5.7 (Indianapolis, IN)

NB: T.J. Warren -- 3-star, 5.5 (Conyers, GA)

CB: Aarion Maxey-Penton -- 3-star, 5.5 (St. Louis, MO)
DeMarkus Acy -- 3-star, 5.5 (Dallas, TX)

CB: John Gibson -- 3-star, 5.5 (Missouri City, TX)
Logan Cheadle -- 3-star, 5.6 (Lee’s Summit, MO)

S: Thomas Wilson -- 3-star, 5.7 (Buford, GA)
Ronnell Perkins -- 3-star, 5.6 (University City, MO)

S: Anthony Sherrils -- 3-star, 5.6 (Kansas City, MO)
Cam Hilton -- 3-star, 5.6 (St. Louis, MO)

Defense Totals

Avg. Starter: 2.91 stars, 5.55
Avg. Backup: 2.86 stars, 5.56
Avg. Player: 2.88 stars, 5.56
6.1-5.8: 1 (4.00%)
5.7-5.5: 21 (84.0%)
5.4 & Under: 3 (12.0%)

K: Tucker McCann -- 3-star, 5.5 (O’Fallon, IL)
P: Corey Fatony -- 3-star, 5.5 (Franklin, TN)

Team Totals

Avg. Starter: 2.83 stars, 5.53
Avg. Backup: 2.90 stars, 5.54
Avg. Player: 2.87 stars, 5.54
6.1-5.8: 6 (11.3%)
5.7-5.5: 38 (71.7%)
5.4 & Under: 9 (17.0%)
From MO: 22 (41.5%)
From MO, IL, KS: 28 (52.8%)

—————

Clemson

Offense

LT Mitch Hyatt -- 4-star, 6.0 (Suwanee, GA)
Tremayne Anchrum -- 3-star, 5.6 (Powder Springs, GA)

LG Taylor Hearn -- 3-star, 5.6 (Williston, SC)
John Simpson -- 4-star, 5.8 (North Charleston, SC)

C Jay Guillermo -- 3-star, 5.6 (Maryville, TN)
Justin Falcinellli -- 3-star, 5.7 (Middletown, MD)

RG Tyrone Crowder -- 4-star, 5.8 (Rockingham, NC)
Maverick Morris -- 3-star, 5.6 (Douglas, GA)

RT Sean Pollard -- 4-star, 5.8 (Southern Pines, NC)

TE Jordan Leggett -- 3-star, 5.7 (Navarre, FL)
Garrett Williams -- 4-star, 5.9 (Orlando, FL)
Milan Richard -- 4-star, 5.8 (Savannah, GA)
Cannon Smith -- 3-star, 5.7 (Columbia, SC)

WR Mike WIlliams -- 4-star, 5.8 (Santee, SC)
Deon Cain -- 5-star, 6.1 (Tampa, FL)

QB Deshaun Watson -- 5-star, 6.1 (Gainesville, GA)
Nick Schuessler -- 2-star, 5.4 (Loganville, GA)
Kelly Bryant -- 4-star, 5.8 (Piedmont, SC)

RB Wayne Gallman -- 3-star, 5.7 (Loganville, GA)
C.J. Fuller -- 3-star, 5.5 (Easley, SC)
Adam Choice -- 4-star, 5.9 (Thomasville, GA)
Tavien Feaster -- 4-star, 5.9 (Spartanburg, SC)
Tyshon Dye -- 4-star, 5.8 (Elberton, GA)

WR Hunter Renfrow -- 2-star, 5.3 (Myrtle Beach, SC)
Ray-Ray McCloud -- 5-star, 6.1 (Tampa, FL)

WR Artavis Scott -- 4-star, 6.0 (Tarpon Springs, FL)
Cornell Powell -- 4-star, 6.0 (Greenville, NC)

Offense Totals

Avg. Starter: 3.55 stars, 5.76
Avg. Backup: 3.69 stars, 5.79
Avg. Player: 3.63 stars, 5.78
6.1-5.8: 16 (59.3%)
5.7-5.5: 9 (33.3%)
5.4 & Under: 2 (7.41%)

Defense

DE Christian Wilkins -- 5-star, 6.1 (Suffield, CT)
Richard Yeargin -- 3-star, 5.7 (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

DT Carlos Watkins -- 4-star, 5.9 (Forest City, NC)
Albert Huggins -- 4-star, 5.9 (Orangeburg, SC)

DT Dexter Lawrence -- 5-star, 6.1 (Wake Forest, NC)
Scott Pagano -- 4-star, 5.8 (Honolulu, HI)

DE Clelin Ferrell -- 4-star, 5.9 (Richmond, VA)
Austin Bryant -- 4-star, 5.9 (Thomasville, GA)
Chris Register -- 3-star, 5.7 (Greensboro, NC)

SLB Dorian O’Daniel -- 4-star, 5.9 (Olney, MD)
Jalen Williams -- 3-star, 5.5 (Blythewood, SC)

MLB Kendall Joseph -- 3-star, 5.5 (Belton, SC)
Tre Lamar -- 5-star, 6.1 (Roswell, GA)

WLB Ben Boulware -- 4-star, 5.8 (Anderson, SC)
J.D. Davis -- 2-star, 5.2 (Central, SC)

CB Ryan Carter -- 2-star, 5.4 (Loganville, GA)
Marcus Edmond -- 3-star, 5.6 (Hopkins, SC)

SS Jadar Johnson -- 3-star, 5.7 (Orangeburg, SC)
Denzel Johnson -- 2-star, 5.4 (Columbia, SC)
Korrin Wiggins -- 3-star, 5.7 (Durham, NC)

FS Van Smith -- 3-star, 5.7 (Charlotte, NC)
K'Von Wallace -- 3-star, 5.5 (Highland Springs, VA)

CB Cordrea Tankersley -- 3-star, 5.7 (Chatham, VA)
Mark Fields -- 4-star, 5.9 (Charlotte, NC)

Defense Totals

Avg. Starter: 3.64 stars, 5.79
Avg. Backup: 3.31 stars, 5.68
Avg. Player: 3.46 stars, 5.73
6.1-5.8: 11 (45.8%)
5.7-5.5: 10 (41.7%)
5.4 & Under: 3 (12.5%)

PK Greg Huegel -- Walk-on (Blythewood, SC)
P Andy Teasdall -- Walk-on (Winston-Salem, NC)

Team Totals

Avg. Starter: 3.38 stars, 5.70
Avg. Backup: 3.52 stars, 5.74
Avg. Player: 3.45 stars, 5.72
6.1-5.8: 27 (50.9%)
5.7-5.5: 19 (35.8%)
5.4 & Under: 7 (13.2%)
From SC: 17 (32.1%)
From SC, GA, NC: 39 (73.6%)

—————

I counted walk-ons as 1-star and 4.9s, since the Rivals two-star scale goes down to 5.0. It seemed more logical than just counting them as 0-star and 0.0.

The average player in Clemson’s rotation is more than a half-star more highly rated than in Missouri’s rotation. The average starter is 0.47 stars higher, and that’s with the rating taking a dive because of a walk-on kicker and punter.

Here’s the important part to all this talk: depth. Clemson’s got multiple four- and five-star players littering its bench. So, if the four- or five-star guy that’s starting happens to go down, guess who’s got his back? A four- or five-star guy.

Clemson has 51 percent of the players in its rotation that used to be four- and five-star recruits. Missouri has 11 percent. That, put a bit too simply, is the difference between national champion and 4-8.

I also added some geographical markers in there to show you how much more Clemson is able to lean on its home base (73.6%) than Missouri (52.8%).

So we’ve basically concluded that Missouri doesn’t have the financial or geographical advantages to keep up in an arms and talent race with its SEC counterparts on any sort of consistent basis, the way Clemson can with the ACC.

But what about on the field? What can Missouri do to make up the gulf on gameday?