As if recruiting top-level high school football players isn't hard enough, switching from one conference to another, especially one as elite as the SEC, can complicate things. The University of Missouri Tigers made the jump from the Big12 to the SEC where they now have to compete with Florida, Georgia, LSU and Alabama as well as a handful of other great programs. In order to make that jump successfully, Missouri needs to change the way they recruit players. They can't sit back and grab players from their own state and the surrounding area. If they want to be legitimate in college football's most elite conference, they need to recruit players from SEC country.
Former Arkansas head coach Jack Crowe made the jump to the SEC when Arkansas did in 1992 and he knows what Missouri has to do.
"From a coaching standpoint, you've just got to eliminate the mystery of it, and you've got to say you're going to get right in the middle of them," said Crowe, who resigned one game into the 1992 season and is now the coach at Jacksonville State. "People who don't and think they're going to go down there and compete with players from other parts of the country, good luck. ... You better get some Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina players.
"Football is football. Don't spend your time proving you can match what they have in the SEC. If you're going to be in the SEC, you better be in the SEC. You better join the brotherhood. Don't be trying to sit on the fringe and equal it, because - good luck - you won't. That's no insult to anybody, but that's just the truth. It's the best there is."
Scout.com recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman says that Missouri has done a good job at recruiting from SEC states but not a great job. He says that compared to states like Alabama, Florida and Georgia, Missouri lacks depth and they'll have to force their way into those states if they want to be competitive.
"If they want to compete at an elite SEC level, they're going to have to recruit those states hard. Right now, Missouri still is somewhat of a foreigner."
The change could eventually help Missouri's recruiting as well. Former South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Sparky Woods was with the team when they made the jump to the SEC in 1992 and he says that belonging to the conference gave the school more "clout" with recruits.
Either way, to compete in the SEC, Missouri will need to bring in talented recruits and some of those recruits will need to come from SEC Country. Right now, Missouri's recruiting class is ranked by Rivals.com at No. 37, which is pretty far behind other SEC schools like Alabama (No. 2), Florida (No. 5), LSU (No. 7) and others, including Kentucky (No. 35). That doesn't discourage some, though.
Former long-time Missouri Tigers coach John Kadlec, still known as "Mr. Mizzou," knows that "recruiting is recruiting" and he has faith that the Tigers will be just fine in the SEC.
"Recruiting is recruiting," said Kadlec, who was inducted into Missouri's Hall of Fame in 1996. "It's not very easy wherever you do it or wherever you go. Although they had a good foothold in Texas and giving that up is kind of tough.
"I don't think (the SEC transition) will be a big hurdle for Missouri. I think they will do a good job. ... They know how to do it. I think they'll do well."