While teams like Ohio State, Florida, Alabama and even Michigan are ho-hum about yet another successful year of recruiting, there are teams like Ole Miss, UCLA and Texas A&M popping bottles as they celebrate perhaps the most successful recruiting seasons in a long time, if ever in the case of Ole Miss. But instead of focusing on the moment I decided to take a look back to the 2009 class to see how many of the guys who, just four years ago, were in the same place that Robert Nkemdiche, Derrick Green, and Max Browne are and how their college caeers have gone up until this point. As we see there were some success stories but there were many recruits that didn’t live up to the high rankings.
TOP 10 Players from the class of 2009 (according to www.scout.com)
1. Bryce Brown RB- Tennessee
While Brown had all the talent in the world, he just couldn’t put it together while in college. After a brief stint at Tennessee he transferred to home to Kansas State only to never suit up in a game for the Wildcats. He ended up quitting the team shortly after, but because the NFL has the ability to recognize talent, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Brown and he ended up having a good rookie season.
VERDICT: He is proof that its sometimes better to stay closer to home rather than buy into the national hype.
2. Matt Barkley QB- USC
Barkley was another in the long list of heralded QB recruits to become a USC Trojan and he after enrolling early and winning the job to become the first true freshman to ever start for the USC, many believe he would lead them to multiple national championships. But after injuring his shoulder in a victory over OSU and having to sit out the following week versus the Huskies not only were the Trojans national championship hopes dashed but it was an unfortunate harbinger of what was to come from the heralded QB. Barkley battled injuries for most of his career and even after having a successful 2011 campaign which saw him finish 6th in the Heisman and have many draft experts slate him to be one of the first QB’s taken he decided to return to SC to handle unfinished business. While having a good, but not spectacular season those high hopes never materialized and he finished his college career on a sour note losing to Georgia Tech in the Sun bowl.
VERDICT: Great stats couldn’t overshadow an injury riddled career with no major awards/wins for this top signal caller.
3. Jacobbi McDaniel DT- Florida State
McDaniel just cant seem to avoid the injury bug, after a productive freshman season that saw him play all 13 games and start two, he has struggled to complete a full season due to an elbow injury that derailed his 2010 season and ankle injury that prematurely ended his 2011 season and kept him on the shelf in 2012. He was granted a medical redshirt so many in Tallahassee are looking for one year where he can finally put it all together.
VERDICT: He has one final season to rewrite his Seminole career but up until this point his injuries have hurt his perception as a top 3 talent
4. Russell Sheppard QB- LSU
For someone who had so much potential coming out of high school as a dual threat QB it seems the fact that Sheppard couldn’t master one position was his ultimate undoing. In his 4 years in Baton Rouge he spent time at QB, WR and even running back and could easily be considered a jack of all trades master of none and because of that he never met his full potential.
VERDICT: Because he never spent much time at the position recruited for, you have to be disappointed how things turned out
5. Xavier Nixon OT- Florida
Nixon made it to Gainsville with the distinction of being the number 1 OL recruit in the nation and in his freshman season he lived up to the hype making the freshman All-American team and being a key part of the 13-1 Gator team that year. However injuries and line cohesion issues over the next two seasons began to frustrate the Fayetteville NC native. He went into the 2013 with a renewed vigor and 20lbs of muscle and had a solid senior season. He is the 12th rated left tackle in the 2013 draft according to www.drafttek.com
VERDICT: solid but not reflective of expectation
6. Manti Te’o LB- Notre Dame
Perhaps the most celebrated recruit of the class Te’o Lived up to the hype as the #1 LB who spurned top programs like USC to sign with the Irish. A steady player throughout his career, he really stepped up his senior year in which he led the Irish to the national championship game after winning numerous awards and placing 3rd in the Heisman. While the game against Alabama exposed some of his potential weaknesses on the next level and this awkward catfish controversy concerning an alleged dead girlfriend who all of a sudden never existed, no one can deny Te’o’s importance to the Fighting Irish nor in this class.
VERDICT: The Irish got what they expected and more now the question is can they overcome the scandal he left behind?
7. Jelani Jenkins LB- Florida
A speedy linebacker out of Maryland Jenkins came with the reputation of being a play-maker but as many of his fellow recruits, Jenkins struggled with staying on the field to show any of that talent. After having two promising seasons that saw him have over 75 tackles in each 10 tackles for loss a couple of sacks and interceptions, many in Gainesville felt that the 2012 season would be his breakout year, but after injuring himself in the 3rd game Jenkins only played in 9 of the Gators 13 games and surprisingly recently declared for the NFL draft even though he hasn’t fully recovered from the broken foot that caused him to miss the disappointing Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville.
VERDICT: If they can duct tape him together he may have a productive NFL career but never met the full expectations of the rankings.
8. Donte Paige-Moss DE- North Carolina
Touted as the next super pass rusher to pass through Chapel Hill, Paige Moss had a lot of pressure on him to succeed. But after the successful sophomore campaign which saw him have 77 tackles and 7 sacks, many NFL scouts felt he had what it took to be a successful NFL player. Unfortunately after scandal hit UNC and numerous coaches were fired, and in addition to tearing his ACL, Paige-Moss decided to badmouth the fans and the bowl game that his Tarheel teammates were playing in at the time which did not help answer questions that some were having about his character, after having been involved in 3 physical altercations while at UNC. After going undrafted in 2012, D-P-M signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL and is hoping to get a chance at the NFL.
VERDICT: Sometimes its whats in between your ears that keeps you from being a success and Paige-Moss is the poster-child for that in this class.
9. Gary Brown DT – Florida
Brown never made a significant contribution to the Gators after coming into camp as a freshman out of shape. He eventually was one of Urban Meyers 26 arrests during the current Buckeye head coach 5 year stint at Florida and was eventually dismissed from the team. He transferred to a Junior College in Mississippi and was never heard from again.
VERDICT: A Big swing and a miss
10. Craig Loston S- LSU
Being the #1 rated player at any position you would think that they would be a prime candidate to see early playing time, but because LSU was so deep in the defensive backfield the first couple of years the top safety was regulated to playing special teams. But after finally getting an opportunity to start in the 2012 campaign, the safety from Texas showed why he was highly regarded. He was 5th in tackles with 53 and second with 3 interceptions, and after tweeting that he would be returning for his senior campaign it looks like he will be the one the younger guys look up to for leadership.
VERDICT: While he started off in a role not typically fitting for a top recruit, he has a chance to end his career on a high note.
After looking at the top 10 in this class we can see that, while many of these guys had the physical talent to be all-world on the college level, there are many other factors even some luck that goes into fulfilling the expectation that these recruiting websites give out. But just with anything there is a flipside and there are plenty of guys who were recruiting unknowns or roster fillers, who turned out to be great players for the teams that saw enough in them to offer a scholarship when no one else did.
Travis Johnson was an undersized 2* DE whose only D-1 offer was to San Jose St, and all he did was become one of the best defensive players in the schools history and led them to an 11-2 season his senior year. He finished his career as the nations active sacks leader with 31 in his career and looks to be a mid round pick in the 2013 draft.
Jordan Poyer was a scrawny 2* athlete that teams didn’t know if he was a quarterback or a defensive back, but the Oregon State Beavers took a chance on him and Poyer paid major dividends for the Beaver program. After being named PAC-12 second team as a junior, Poyer had a successful senior season that saw him end up as a Thorpe finalist and is listed as one of the top cornerbacks going into the 2013 draft according to draft guru Mel Kiper.
So while you look over the 2013 college football recruiting class realize this: there will be just as many highly touted players that don’t pan out as there will be undervalued late bloomers who end up having great success, you better hope your team has more of the successes than the failures.