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Pourover: On Football Recruiting and a 2023 class that is settling in

Eli Drinkwitz and his 2023 class is not as flashy as either of the previous classes, so which is more indicative of our expectations?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 South Carolina at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Yesterday Mizzou Football landed it’s 10th commitment of the 2023 recruiting class with South Carolina Linebacker Brayshawn Littlejohn. Soon enough you’ll have a full scout from Brandon Kiley, who always does a great job breaking down each commitment, so this isn’t going to be anything about what you can expect from Littlejohn. He might be awesome and turn into an All American, he might never sniff the two-deep and transfer out.

It’s pretty hard to predict how any individual will play out even with the recruiting rankings getting better and better. As more and more scouts get more and more access to the far reaches of the country, they’re getting better at assigning grades. Without being too cliche, you can’t assign a grade to what’s inside a player. So sometimes that Rivals rated 5.4 level 2-star kid turns into an NFL Pro Bowler. More often than not they don't become that player, but the possibility exists. It’s up to each coaching staff to scout and get to know each player enough to try and determine that un-scoutable part.

Which is why I wanted to draw some attention to Dave Matter’s excellent column in STLtoday from yesterday, he made some points about Mizzou finding success as a developmental program under Pinkel:

From 2002-2015, Pinkel’s average class ranking was 33.7, peaking at No. 21 in 2010. The rankings stayed consistent once Mizzou joined the SEC 10 years ago: 33.3 from 2012-15. Under Pinkel, the Tigers punched above their weight class, turned unheralded recruits into local legends and experienced sustained success.

Former Head Coach Barry Odom took a similar approach to his recruiting as Pinkel but to more of an extreme. While Pinkel was typically in 30s range, Odom’s recruiting fell back into the 40s. And even in College Football having experience matters, so right now the majority of the Drinkwitz starters are still Odom guys. Nate walked through this with his “Barry’s Boys” pieces:

And Matter addressed it in his column:

Roughly half of the team’s projected starters played under former coach Barry Odom or verbally committed to play for Odom before he was fired following the 2019 season. That includes newly named starting quarterback Brady Cook, who stuck with his pledge after Drinkwitz arrived.

Other Odom recruits who developed into multiyear starters over time include receiver Tauskie Dove, offensive linemen Javon Foster, Xavier Delgado and Hyrin White, defensive linemen Isaiah McGuire, Trajan Jeffcoat and Darius Robinson, linebacker Chad Bailey and safety Martez Manuel.

Which brings me to Littlejohn, and the rest of the 2023 class. So far this class is looking like more developmental than the splashy 2022 or 2021 classes. Rivals seems to be a little more trustworthy in their recruiting rankings with football, so I’ll be using their rating scale. Being a 3-star means you’ll get rated either 5.5, 5.6 or 5.7. If you get to 5.8 that’s a 4-star, and 6.0 and up is a 5-star.

Luther Burden was a 6.1. Sam Horn was a 5.9. Curtis Pleager was a 5.5. Just for reference going forward.

Brayshawn Littlejohn represents the 3rd 5.5 3-star of the 2023 class. That is as many 5.5 3-stars as the entire 2022 class, and two of those were late additions to the class in Lew Hewitt and Demariyon Houston. The 2021 class had 7 such players (Realus George was a 5.4, the rest of were 5.5). Two of those players have already transferred.

Drinkwitz has had the top two highest ranked recruiting classes each of the last two years. He’s spoiled us. And while this class is still a long ways from being finished, it’s worth noting that most of the battles that went Mizzou’s way the last few years have tilted away from the Tigers. The in state recruiting, which has been terrific with the high level talent in the state has fallen short. It culminated this past week when East St. Louis lineman Miles McVay pledged to Alabama.

While it shouldn’t be any kind of surprise that Missouri loses recruiting battles to Alabama, Drink had also gotten the fan base used to winning those battles. But after landing a lot of the kinds of recruits who had gotten away in past years the 2023 class has been a little jarring. While Brett Norfleet, Jahkai Lang, and Joshua Manning have all stuck with the Tigers, they watched six other top Missouri prospects head to Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and Tennessee.

The importance of recruiting is about stacking classes. It does look like Mizzou is in good shape with Logan Reichert, a top 10 prospect in the state. And the class is probably only about half full. So the team ranking could and should improve. But is the 2023 class more of a settling in for Mizzou? Is this the product of the staff turnover, particularly on the defensive side of the ball? Or is this just a slow start to the class?

Recruiting is always a hot topic, and we’re excited for Brayshawn Littlejohn’s potential impact to the roster. But it’s worth exploring how the 2023 class is looking a little different than the previous two classes.