When they were in the Big XII, Missouri’s football program was able to succeed over the last seven or eight years while consistently having non Top-25 recruiting classes. In looking at class ratings by ESPN.com’s Tom Lugenbill, the Tigers have had not had a Top-25 class going all the way back to 2006.
Clearly, Gary Pinkel and his staff do as good a job as anyone in recruiting to their system, and of coaching up players to be successful and play for the Tigers at a high level. The success is undeniable, from going to a bowl game every year to having as many first round picks as anyone in the NFL draft for a five year period ending last year.
Blaine Gabbert, Sean Weatherspoon, Ziggy Hood, Jeremy Maclin and Aldon Smith all shine on Sundays as Mizzou alums, as do William Moore, Brad Smith, Justin Smith and Danario Alexander here in St. Louis. But as great as those players were heading out the door at Missouri, Mizzou needs to do a better job of getting high profile players in the door now that they’re in the SEC.
Not that the Big XII was a pushover, but Pinkel’s program could compete in that conference because there were lesser teams or teams doing the same thing as Mizzou. Oklahoma State, Baylor, Kansas State and Texas Tech have recruited in the same style as the Tigers, while Kansas and Iowa State have generally been non-factors in terms of winning in that conference.
Sure, Texas and Oklahoma and, before they left Nebraska, recruited at a higher level than the Tigers, but Mizzou could compete against that.
Looking at Lugenbill’s 2013 rankings, even the lower level teams in the Southeastern Conference are participating in big time recruiting. As you would expect, Florida has the second ranked class at the moment, with Alabama number three, Georgia fourth, Texas A&M fifth, Auburn ninth and LSU thirteenth.
But the teams that Mizzou will have to compete with are kicking butt, too. South Carolina is ranked sixteenth, Mississippi is twentieth, Mississippi State is 22nd, and Vanderbilt 23rd. That’s ten SEC teams in the top 25, with Mizzou on the outside looking in with Kentucky, Tennessee and the troubled Arkansas program.
As a comparison, the Big XII has Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor in the top 25, and nobody else.
The signing of Dorial Green-Beckham was a huge coup for Missouri’s program, but the trick when you sign a player like that is to get other great players to want to attend your school. DGB should be a draw for the Tigers, but to this point his commitment hasn’t led to more great recruiting success in Columbia. Mizzou has had great players arrive in the past, most notably Tony Van Zant, Maclin and Dan Hoch … but hasn’t been able to convert their arrival into one great haul, let alone multiple great recruiting classes.
Ultimately, great coaching of good talent will take you only so far. Great coaching of great talent will be what it takes to win in Missouri’s new environs. The lesser lights of this conference are comparable to the upper middle of their old conference. Pinkel and his staff better pick up their recruiting, and they know they have to.
If they don’t, the Tigers will be slapped around in the SEC. They way to avoid that is to keep multiple players like DGB coming in the door, and getting into those Top-25 recruiting rankings.