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December 18, 2013
Realignment and Recruiting
Over the last two years, Missouri's recruiting has migrated to the Southeast, along with its football team. In its final two years as a Big 12 team (2011 and 2012), Mizzou signed a combined 15 players from the state of Texas. In the two years since moving to the SEC, the Tigers have either signed, or have commitments from, just six players from the Lone Star State.
Missouri returns to Texas for a game for just the second time in two years when the Tigers face Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl on January 3rd. The Tigers currently have 35 players on their roster from Texas. Those players say the draw of playing games in their home state was a big reason they chose to play at Mizzou.
"Yes it was," all-American Michael Sam said. "I think that's a lot of the reason I came to Missouri because you got to go play Baylor, Texas A&M, Texas, Texas Tech, all those schools down there."
Gary Pinkel said his staff definitely wants to maintain a presence in the Lone Star State moving forward.
"No question. No question. I think, other than the state of Missouri, as far as alumni area, I think it's the second largest," Pinkel said. "We won't have as many from Texas, but I would like to think we have a real good reputation there and we'll get our share of guys out of there."
Here is a look at Mizzou's recruiting in the last four cycles. The Class of 2014 is not yet complete, so the numbers there could change a little bit. For the numbers under "Southeastern States" we included players from the Southeastern Conference's footprint (Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi).
The numbers are easy to see. Over the last four years, the number of players Missouri has signed from SEC states has increased with each class. In fact, the Tigers have commitments from more than twice as many Southeastern prospects in the Class of 2014 as they had in the previous three years combined. At the same time, the number of players from Texas has decreased with every class.
But beyond Mizzou, we wondered if there had been a movement in recruiting in the state of Texas. Texas A&M moved at the same time as the Tigers. The Aggies are a bit of a different case study. Because they are located in the state of Texas, one would not expect to see a major difference in the numbers. And we did not. Here are the same numbers we ran for Mizzou for the Aggies.
The Aggies have actually signed more Texas players, and fewer from SEC states, since moving conferences. Perhaps the biggest difference for A&M is the quality of player it has signed from the Lone Star State. In 2011 and 2012, the Aggies' classes ranked 27th and 15th nationally, according to Rivals.com. In the last two seasons, A&M has ranked 11th and 6th. The Aggies may not be signing any more players from Texas, but, at least according to the rankings, they are signing better players.
To really get an idea whether there is a conference impact in recruiting the state since Missouri and A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC, we have to look at the rest of both of those leagues. We did that. Again, we took the last four years. Numbers for Missouri and A&M are not included in these figures for either conference.
Here is a look at the number of Texas prospects signed by teams from each league over the last four recruiting classes.
There are two major takeaways here: First of all, the SEC has not really made more inroads into Texas since the league expanded there by adding A&M (and Missouri). Second, Big 12 schools are not signing fewer Texas players. In fact, they've signed more. The numbers are virtually identical, but if the Aggies and Tigers were still in the Big 12, the conference would actually have signed more Texas players in the last two years than in the previous two.
In analyzing the Big 12 numbers, we included Nebraska and Colorado as Big 12 teams for the first two years and TCU and West Virginia for the last two years.
Some notes from each league: In the SEC, 24 of the 48 Texas players signed with either LSU or Arkansas, the two geographically closest states in the conference. Only one other league school (Ole Miss) has signed more than four Texas players over the last four years. Neither Georgia nor Auburn signed one. Florida and South Carolina had just one apiece. The biggest upticks in the league have come from Kentucky, which did not sign a Texas player in 2011 or 2012, but has signed four in the last two classes, and Ole MIss, which signed just one Texas prospect in the first two years, but has added four in the last two. In both cases, coaching changes are the biggest difference. Hugh Freeze came from Arkansas State and Mark Stoops seems to have put more emphasis on targeting Texas at Kentucky.
In the Big 12, every school other than West Virginia has signed at least 19 players from Texas over the last four years. Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State were all between 19 and 28. Oklahoma, which has a national recruiting profile, signed 37 players from the Lone Star State. The other schools in the league (all except Oklahoma State based in Texas) signed between 62 (Texas Tech) and 80 (Baylor) players from the state.
As with A&M, the sheer numbers have not been any different. However, the quality of the players seems to have changed somewhat. The Big 12 has commitments 22 players (not all from Texas) rated as four-stars in the Class of 2014 and not a single five star to this point. The Big 12's bellcows, Oklahoma and Texas, signed 53 players who were rated four stars or higher in 2011 and 2012. In the two years since, they have signed 28, and neither has landed a five-star prospect in that time period.
This is no scientific study. There are plenty of variables and four years, admittedly, is a small sample size when trying to analyze a state-wide trend. But the immediate conclusions are these: The sheer numbers from Texas high schools have not changed. The Big 12 still signs approximately ten Texas players for every one in the SEC. However, the league is getting less and less elite talent, while the SEC is widening its gap in recruiting. Each of the league's 14 teams ranks in the top 39 in the Rivals.com 2014 team rankings. Just five Big 12 teams are in the top 40, and just one is in the top 25 as of Wednesday afternoon.
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