California, Texas, and Florida are the states that supply the most talent for college football. There are exceptions, of course, but California largely fills the Pac-12, Texas mostly supplies the Big 12, and Florida feeds into the SEC and ACC. The Big Ten cherry picks some from those three, Florida more than the other two, and the Ohio-Pennsylvania region functions as another talent hotspot for that league.
But what happens when a school changes conferences?
Missouri did that a few years ago, jumping from the Big 12 to the SEC. Although recruiting is very much a proximity-based enterprise, who a school plays regularly factors in quite a bit. We can see that with what happened with the Tigers' recruiting.
Mizzou did and still does get more of its players from its own state than any other. While it was in the Big 12, it got a lot of players from Texas. After moving over to the SEC East, it lost the ability to sell playing in the Lone Star State regularly to Texas recruits. Missouri continued playing Texas A&M annually, but thanks to the Tigers picking up Arkansas as their new cross-division rival, last year was the last time in a while that they'll play the Aggies.
Here is how realignment changed the way Missouri gets its talent:
|Class Year||Total Signings||TX Signings||FL Signings||GA Signings||TN Signings|
Numbers come from Rivals.com.
Missouri officially jumped to the SEC in the fall of 2011 and played its first season in the conference a year later. For the 2012 recruiting cycle, not a lot changed because there wasn't much time between the announcement and signing day.
Things really began to change with the 2013 class. The number of Texas recruits as a percentage of the whole dropped to 19%, a virtual tie with 2007 (18.5%) for the lowest in the past decade. Unlike in 2008, that percentage didn't recover in 2014. Mizzou also signed a record number of Florida players in '13 at seven. Missouri began signing Georgia and Tennessee players with regularity the following year, something it hadn't done before.
Finally this past spring, MU signed no players from Texas at all. Recruiting that state phased out as Gary Pinkel and his staff built up new relationships in the states where his new regular conference rivals are. Mizzou has yet to sign a player from Kentucky or South Carolina, but it's now mining Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee for talent.
It's striking how seamlessly the transition happened:
If you combine Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee, you see through the transition that the percentage of recruits from either Texas or the SEC East states remained in the same roughly 25-50% band that Texas alone had supplied in the Big 12 days: 52.9% in 2011, 42.1% in 2012, 28.6% in 2013, and 53.6% in 2014. Now with the transition complete, the SEC East states are providing the team with the same percentage of recruits that Texas used to. There was never a year where its secondary, non-Missouri recruiting just fell off the map compared to prior norms.
Pinkel has been getting more and more credit—and deservedly so—over the past half year for winning the SEC East for two years running. He should get just as much, if not more, for managing the recruiting changeover so expertly.