There’s been much discussion in the last several days about Mizzou’s last ranked in the SEC recruiting class. That is alarming, but Coach Gary Pinkel told the assembled media in Columbia on Wednesday that, “I’ve never ever looked at a ranking since I’ve been coaching. Our evaluation system has proven overall it works. We believe in it, and just leave it at that.”
That’s reasonable for two reasons. Number one, Mizzou isn’t EVER going to be an annual top-ten recruiting powerhouse. And secondly, they’ve shown they are capable of lifting lesser regarded recruits into top flight performers.
Since Rivals began ranking recruiting classes in 2002, Pinkel’s program has never had a top ten recruiting class. In that same time, USC has had TEN, Georgia and Florida State have had nine each, and Texas, LSU, Oklahoma and Florida have had seven apiece. Auburn, Miami and resurgent under Nick Saban Alabama have had six such years each.
Is Mizzou going to match those power programs and edge their way into becoming an annual recruiting power? No. The Tigers need to do what Wisconsin, Oregon, Michigan State and Oklahoma State do…and what they’ve done. Mizzou needs to get players that have talent and accept coaching, and turn them into five star players.
The Tigers like to talk about their NFL first round draft picks, and for good reason. In Pinkel’s era, Mizzou has had Jeremy Maclin and Ziggy Hood in 2009, Sean Weatherspoon in 2010, and Aldon Smith and Blaine Gabbert in 2011.
Of those first rounders, only Gabbert arrived at Missouri as a five star recruit. He should be joined by Sheldon Richardson this year. Otherwise, Maclin was a four star player, Hood was a three star, as was Aldon Smith, and amazingly Weatherspoon was rated as a two star prospect by Rivals.
Pinkel and his staff have done well with three or fewer star players. With the bigger guys, not necessarily; in 2003 Mizzou got four star tight end Josh Barbo out of Conway Springs, Kansas along with area four star players Damien Nash and Darnell Terrell. Barbo never did anything, while Nash and Terrell both got looks in the NFL. Before his untimely death, it appeared Nash was on his way to an NFL career, but at Mizzou he was a good, not great player.
While the four star guys weren’t stars, three star wide receiver Brad Ekwerekwu turned into a very good player, and three star tight end Martin Rucker made up for Barbo’s failure with a great Mizzou career. Rucker is still kicking around on NFL practice squads.
In 2004, Pinkel signed four star recruits LB Van Alexander out of Rock Bridge, WR Jerrill Humphrey, QB Chase Patton, OL Kyle Riggs, RB Tony Temple. Temple was the only one to become anything. Meanwhile, the Tigers got three star receivers William Franklin from Vashon and William Moore (who was moved to safety) out of Hayti. None of the four star players were drafted, while Franklin was a fourth rounder for Kansas City, and Moore was a second rounder and has become a star safety in Atlanta.
In ’05, Mizzou recruited three star tight end Chase Coffman out of Peculiar MO, quarterback Chase Daniel out of Southlake, TX and defensive end Evander Hood out of Amarillo. Coffman, Daniel and Hood are all in the NFL, all were stars on Mizzou’s 2007 team that ascended to number one, and all were overlooked by the recruiting powers.
It’s been that way throughout. In 2006 Jeremy Maclin arrived as a four star player out of Kirkwood. A pair of two star players came in that class, too; wide receiver Danario Alexander, who led the nation in receiving yards in his senior year, and two star linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who had a superb college career and has continued his excellent play in the NFL.
Tim Barnes of the Rams was a three star recruit, and tight end Michael Egnew-who would become a third rounder of Miami-was a two star.
Mizzou is never going to be among the recruiting elite. Their location and history will prevent them from joining traditional powers and Sun Belt dwellers. They have to succeed in other ways, by identifying talent they can develop and coaching that talent up. There’s pressure on Pinkel and his staff. It’ll be interesting to see if their coaching can lift the program in the SEC to the success they enjoyed in their last few years in the Big XII. Somehow, someone has to make it work, because reality tells us the Tigers aren’t going to get the five star players that the traditional powers get.