COLUMBIA — Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel is pleased with his latest recruiting class — and perhaps with good reason.
The Tigers were able to snag recruits such as Tavon Ross from Southeastern Conference foes Alabama and Georgia. With two four-star recruits, 18 three-star recruits and eight two-star recruits, the 2014 class boasts 28 players with 78 total stars between them, according to Rivals.com. Five stars is the highest designation a player can have.
But it’s not all good news.
Though the Tigers are coming off a 12-win season and a Cotton Bowl victory, fans might want to wait to board the bandwagon.
For one, the Tigers play in the SEC, where all but two teams had better recruiting classes, according to Rivals.com, and recruiting powerhouse Alabama racked up more five-star recruits (six) this year than Pinkel has recruited in his entire time at Missouri.
Even Kentucky, whose only wins last season came against Miami (Ohio) and Alabama State, managed to lure in 10 four-star recruits to Missouri’s two.
Pinkel picked up 18 three-star recruits, which is tied for the most in that category during his tenure, and his two four-star pickups are the most since 2010. And at 28 players, this is Pinkel's largest recruiting class.
Missouri's recruiting will need to steadily improve if the Tigers hope to continue to find success in the SEC. Seven of the top 10 recruiting classes in the nation come from the conference.
If Missouri were still in the Big 12, it would have come in at No. 5, just a nose behind Baylor, whose coach proclaimed yesterday, “I don’t know what the rankings have said … but if there’s a better receiving class (than Baylor) in America, then somebody is speaking with a forked tongue because there’s not.”
Even when examined independent of the tough conference competition, Missouri's recruiting progress might not merit excitement. In the Pinkel era, there has not been a correlation between stars and wins. Changes in winning percentage have been marginal after the Tigers' best classes.
What’s more, the last time Missouri had a recruiting class this star-studded — it also had 78 total stars in the 2007 recruiting class — the recruits didn’t put up as high of a winning percentage as the team they joined in the first place.
The one positive might be that Missouri had an improved 2014 class despite going 5-7 in 2012. In theory, Missouri’s SEC East-winning 2013 could result in an even better class in 2015, especially considering all but three recruits in the 2014 class verbally committed before the 2013 Tigers ever played a conference game.
However, there has been almost no correlation during Pinkel's tenure between the team's winning percentage and the number of stars recruited two seasons later. Missouri's double-digit win seasons rarely resulted in five-star talent.
Pinkel might not care about the stars in his recruiting class, but based on the numbers, the Tigers' chances at success in the future are murky.
Unless the staff can continue to develop lower-tier recruits into SEC-caliber talent, or it found a bunch of late bloomers in 2014, there's reason to believe recruiting — and getting wins — will continue to be an uphill battle.
Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.
Interactive map: Tigers' recruiting class
Click on our interactive map to see the name, hometown and high school of each of Missouri's new players.