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Missouri’s recruiting timeline vs. the rest of the SEC

The Tigers are usually more prolific with commits in and after season than their SEC brethren, less successful before

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Missouri
While Terry Beckner-like signing day coups grab the headlines, the cores of the most successful SEC recruiting classes are built long before the first Wednesday in February.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Sitting here this morning, with June 7 come and gone, Missouri has four football commitments for the recruiting class of 2018.

That number lags behind the average SEC team — which has 7.6 at this point, according to -- and ties for 12th among league teams. Moreover, the Tigers’ national Rivals ranking (No. 63) is last in the SEC, one spot behind 13th-place team Alabama and its two commitments.

Those slackers...

But, while this slow of a recruiting start is rather out of the ordinary for Alabama, it’s not that far off the norm for Missouri.

Even if it is a little slow.

Mizzou’s Recruiting Tempo

Over the past 10 full recruiting classes (since 2008), Missouri has had an average of 26.5 percent of its final class committed by June 7. That ranges on a year-to-year basis from 13 percent (three of a final 23) in 2009-2010 to 47.6 percent (10 of a final 21) in 2012-2013.

Since its first signing class as a member of the SEC, the Tigers have averaged just a bit higher — 27.7 percent — of their final class committed by June 7, a year-to-year range of 15.4 percent (4 of a final 26) in 2016-17 to the aforementioned 2012-13 class.

So, if those numbers bore out for the rest of this class, that would put Missouri at about 14-15 final commits for 2018. Not ideal, probably not going to happen.

That 2008-17 number (26.5) is actually ahead of the curve when it comes to current SEC teams (24.5) during that stretch. But the 2012-17 number (27.7) is slightly behind the rest of the league.

In the SEC, it would seem, it behooves you to get as much of your signing class committed early as you possibly can.

The four teams that have averaged more than 30 percent of their final classes committed by June 7 over the past six full recruiting cycles are: Texas A&M (39.0), LSU (37.7), Kentucky (34.5) and Alabama (32.3).

Alabama (1.2 average national Rivals class ranking), LSU (7.8) and Texas A&M (11.5) are also all in the top six in the league when it comes to national recruiting success. Kentucky’s the only big, hairy outlier.

The four that get the most commits after January 1 are Ole Miss (37.0), Arkansas (35.2), Vanderbilt (34.6) and Auburn (34.0). Ole Miss (22.2), Arkansas (28.2) and Vanderbilt (48.3) are in the bottom six of the league when it comes to national recruiting success. Auburn’s the only big, hairy successful outlier.

Now let’s expand that early-commit deadline to the proportion of a team’s final class that it has committed by September 1, a tidy (if not always entirely accurate, given a late-August game here and there) deadline to denote the start of the season.

Here’s a rundown of the SEC teams with the highest proportion of their final classes committed by Sept. 1 since 2012, along with their ranking among SEC peers when it comes to final Rivals rankings in the same period (in parentheses after the figures).

Pct. Committed by Sept. 1

1. LSU -- 61.0 (2)
2. Kentucky -- 60.1 (12)
3. Texas A&M — 59.6 (6)
4. Mississippi State -- 57.8 (11)
5. South Carolina — 57.0 (8)
6. Georgia — 55.0 (3)
7. Alabama — 54.2 (1)

SEC Average — 52.6

8. Tennessee — 51.3 (7)
9. Arkansas — 49.0 (10)
10. Auburn — 48.9 (4)
11. Florida — 47.2 (5)
12. Missouri — 46.1 (13)
13. Vanderbilt — 44.6 (14)
14. Ole Miss — 42.0 (9)


Now let’s contrast that with the percent each team gets that commits after Jan. 1:

Pct. Committed after Jan.1

1. Ole Miss -- 37.0 (9)
2. Arkansas — 35.2 (10)
3. Vanderbilt — 34.6 (14)
4. Auburn -- 34.0 (4)
5. Florida -- 33.3 (5)
6. Missouri -- 31.9 (13)
7. LSU — 30.1 (2)

SEC Average — 29.3

8. Georgia — 28.2 (3)
9. Alabama — 27.7 (1)
10. Kentucky -- 27.0 (12)
11. South Carolina — 25.5 (8)
12. Mississippi State — 24.5 (11)
13. Tennessee -- 24.0 (7)
14. Texas A&M — 18.5 (6)

For the spreadsheet below, I split up the recruiting season into five time zones — by June 7, by Sept. 1, by Dec. 1, by Jan. 1, and after -- to see what proportion of each team’s final signing class comes on board at what point of the recruiting calendar.

I further broke that down into three “seasons:” Preseason (by Aug. 30), Season (Sept. 1 through Dec. 31) and Postseason (Jan. 1 and after).

For teams that have had coaching changes since 2012, I further broke those three seasons down into the teams’ proportions overall, during regular years and during coach change years. I didn’t count interims and fluke deals like John L. Smith and Robbie Caldwell as “coach change years.” Those individual seasons are denoted by bolded, italicized figures within each team’s spreadsheet.

Coaching Turnover Effects

I guess this is kind of self-evident, but I was struck by how wildly the timeline changes when staff changes occur. Like I said, it makes sense: new coaches come in, old commits shuffle out, new commits take their place. But the difference was just so stark.

For the 2012-17 classes, staffs that were in the midst of coaching changes gleaned 36.5 percent of their final signees before the season (vs. 55 percent for regular staffs), 12.8 percent during (vs. 19) and 50.8 after (versus 26).

The only ones to really buck that trend were Georgia on the changeover to Kirby Smart, Texas A&M on the changeover to Kevin Sumlin and LSU on the changeover to Ed a big way. Then again, Orgeron was kind of an out of the ordinary hire, since he came from the current coaching staff and, therefore, had a better chance of hanging onto some of those earlier commits.

In fact, the Jim McElwain/Gus Malzahn transition years actually go a long way toward explaining why Florida and Auburn are outliers in the highly ranked class/late committing class mold. Take those years out of the mix and Florida’s pre/post split is 51.2/26.8, while Auburn’s is 53.0/28.2. A little bit more in line with what the other most successful SEC recruiting teams show.

So if there is a conclusion to this post — besides it being a good way to get that Wyclef “Gone ‘Til November” song in your head, like, non-freaking-stop-please-kill-me-now — let it be this: teams that get the majority of their final signing class committed before Sept. 1 have a better chance of pulling in a more impressive class in the SEC.

This hasn’t really been Missouri’s style. And the Tigers have had success going both ways: in 2009-10 (all signees committed before the new year, class ranked 21st) and in 2014-15 (40 percent committed Jan. 1 or after, class ranked 27th).

So while the class of 2018 isn’t off to the fastest start, even by Missouri standards, it’s not necessarily cause for alarm.

How the rest of this list shakes out could be another story.

Just for fun, and since I’ve referenced data from it earlier, here’s the study reaching back to 2008 as well: