Thursday, August 07, 2008

Back to the Future | by Michael

Say, how do the freshmen look?

Now there's a question you'll hear repeatedly at every fall camp. And more naturally follow, especially if the incoming recruit was a highly-rated prospect.

Is he as good as advertised? Do you think he'll play this year? Can he beat out [insert scapegoat]? Doesn't he remind you of [insert former gridiron hero]?

Meanwhile, the 5-star recruits from the previous year who haven't lived up to the hype, regardless of the situation, are often pushed aside in favor of the newer, shinier toys -- and they're even sometimes labeled as outright busts. It's an exercise that has been exacerbated by the increased spotlight given to high school all star games, the gradual transformation of top 100 lists into top 250 lists, and the proliferation of highlight videos on the internet. As a result, many fans (and especially recruiting analysts) take only a superficial look at a team's recruiting efforts, focusing on the number of 5-stars and top 50 recruits, while glossing over how the recruited players fits needs and address weaknesses.

Since the summer of 2005, we've been doing an annual study of the top 50 consensus players coming out of high school as they enter their senior year of college. We wanted to see who became a bona fide star, who flamed out, who disappeared, and above all, if the "Top 50" emblem actually predicted anything. Here are our 2005, 2006, and 2007 studies.

Let's review the scoring system at work here, and how we came up with the consensus top 50:

• Final top 100 lists were gathered from and
• The rankings were converted into points by giving a recruit (101-x) points, where x represented his ranking. The #1 recruit would therefore receive 100 points, and the #100 recruit would receive 1 point.
• Players who were not ranked on a list were automatically assigned a 125th place ranking, which converted to negative points.
• The total points for each recruit were compared, and ties were broken by the highest ranking on any individual list.
• In the parentheses following each player's name are his individual list rankings (Rivals, Scout).
We also added a color code to the list to classify the booms and the busts. Blue means the guy at the minimum is an all-conference level multi-year contributor, bordering on being one of the better players in college. Yellow (or as yellow as easy reading dictates) means the jury's still out; for whatever reason -- maybe because of an injury, a talented veteran player ahead of him, an academic issue, or time spent at a JUCO -- the guy hasn't made the expected impact yet, but still has some eligibility left to redeem his ranking. Red means the player had his chance, but simply hasn't panned out. Lastly, the higher the ranking, the greater the expectations: two players may have similar statistics, but the higher ranked player may be yellow while the lower ranked one is blue.

Herewith, the top 50 players coming out of high school in 2005...

#1 Patrick Turner, WR - Southern Cal (2,4)

The 6’5, 220 lb receiver had his best season in ’07, but he has failed to live up to the expectations left behind by previous Trojan receivers like Mike Williams, Steve Smith, and Dwayne Jarrett. Turner had 48 catches for 569 yards and three touchdowns last year; prior to that he had 41 receptions and 442 yards in his first two seasons in Los Angeles. These may be good numbers, but they're below what is expected of such a premiere talent, especially when you consider that last year's top two consisted of Adrian Peterson and Ted Ginn, Jr.

#2 Eugene Monroe, OL - Virginia (3,3)

Monroe backed up and learned behind D’Brickashaw Ferguson during his freshman year, and then moved into the starting line-up in ’06. Last year he did not give up a single sack in 12 games, but was only an honorable mention All-ACC performer. He heads into his senior season as a likely first day draft pick, although other tackles may have moved ahead of him on draft boards.

#3 Mark Sanchez, QB - Southern Cal (7,1)

Many Trojan fans have clamored for Sanchez to supplant John David Booty in the starting line-up over the last two years, but it never happened. Sanchez has eight career games under his belt, and he started three games last year against Arizona, Notre Dame, and Oregon. In those games, Sanchez threw seven touchdowns versus four interceptions. He completed 66 of 110 passes for 642 yards in those starts. He enters 2008 as the starter, having beaten out Mitch Mustain in the spring.

#4 Derrick Williams, WR - Penn State (1,8)

Williams started his Nittany Lion career with a bang, but he needs a strong 2008 season to ensure it doesn’t end with a whimper. Although his yards and reception totals have increased each year he’s played, he averaged a paltry 9.6 yards per catch last year on 55 receptions. That’s hardly the explosiveness that many expected based upon his high school numbers and the first seven games of his career, when Williams scored four touchdowns. Since that game, Williams has only found the endzone six more times in two years on offense. He also owns two punt scores, including a 78-yarder against the Irish last year. The bottom line on Williams is that, thus far, his career has been successful rather than spectacular. Perhaps the departure of quarterback Anthony Morelli and the return of a spread offense will help him. Speaking of the spread, Urban Meyer pushed hard to land Williams when he took over at Florida; personally, I think his career arc would look a lot different now if he had followed Meyer to Gainesville.

#5 Fred Rouse, WR - Florida State to UTEP to ? (6,6)

Rouse was kicked out of Florida State after his involvement with AJ Nicholson in stealing electronic equipment from teammate Lorenzo Booker. In his only year there, he caught six passes for 114 yards in eleven games as a back-up. He then transferred to UTEP, where he caught 25 balls for 379 yards and two touchdowns in ’07. However, he decided not to return to El Paso for the upcoming season, and rumors have circulated that he will return to his homestate of Florida, possibly to join Florida A&M.

#6 Ryan Perrilloux, QB - LSU to Jacksonsville State (16,2)

The SEC Championship MVP is no longer a Tiger. Numerous suspensions and off the field issues finally earned him a dismissal from the team, and he has since transferred to Jacksonville State. Last year he completed 51 of 75 passes for 694 yards, with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran 52 times for 207 yards and two more scores. Prior to that, he only saw a few snaps in mop-up duty backing up Jamarcus Russell.

#7 DeMarcus Granger, DT - Oklahoma (11,9)

After redshirting his freshman year, Granger moved into the defensive linemen rotation in ’06 and became a starter last year. In making the 2nd team All Big 12, he posted 35 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. His year didn’t end well, however, as head coach Bob Stoops sent him home before the bowl game because of shoplifting charges. If Granger can curb his kleptomania, he could find his name on some All-American lists after this year.

#8 Reginald Youngblood, OT - Miami (9,13)

The big left tackle earned playing time as a freshman, backing up Eric Winston. He then stepped into a starting position as a sophomore, although separate knee and ankle injuries limited his playing time. Last year Youngblood got too many holding penalties and was in the doghouse among fans, although a strong senior campaign could easily make him an early round NFL draft pick.

#9 Kenny Phillips, DB - Miami (12,10)

Phillips came in as a freshman and immediately won the starting free safety spot. Three years and 33 starts later – at both strong and free safety – the New York Giants selected him with their first round draft pick. Phillips was a first team All ACC and second team All American player for both his sophomore and junior seasons. He finished his career with an impressive 269 tackles and 15 interceptions.

#10 Rey Maualuga, LB - Southern Cal (5,18)

Maualuga won immediate playing time as a back-up middle linebacker during his freshman year, and made the most of it with 37 tackles. He followed that up by moving into the starting line-up and earning two consecutive first team All Pac Ten selections. Over the last two years he has made 157 tackles, with 15.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions and nine sacks. He capped his ’07 season with a dominating three sack performance that garnered him the Rose Bowl Defensive MVP award. He is a leading candidate for this year’s Butkus Award, given to the most outstanding linebacker, although one of biggest competitors will be teammate Brian Cushing.

#11 Tray Blackmon, LB - Auburn (17,7)

Blackmon redshirted his freshman year, and then found himself suspended for the first six games of the ’06 season. He returned and played well through the last six games of the season, picking up 18 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries. However, he picked up another suspension and missed the Cotton Bowl. Last year Blackmon missed some time due to injury; he played In nine games he tallied just 45 tackles. Furthermore, only one of them occurred behind the line of scrimmage. Blackmon has shown flashes of stardom, but he has failed to put it all together.

#12 Jonathan Stewart, RB - Oregon (10,16)

The 13th pick in the NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers, Stewart first came to prominence as a returner for the Ducks before he moved into the starting line-up last year. As a freshman, Stewart returned two kick-offs for touchdowns, and in doing so, he became the first Oregon player to ever register more than one in a career. During his sophomore year he ran for nearly 1,000 yards, a mark he easily topped in ’07. Last year he gained 1,722 yards at a clip of 6.2 yards per carry and found the endzone ten times.

#13 Demetrice Morley, SS - Tennessee (21,5)

Morley first caught notoriety for being involved in a “diploma mill” coming out of high school that enabled him to meet NCAA academic standards. He played as a back-up that year, and then earned a starting spot his sophomore year. After making 51 tackles and intercepting two passes, Morley was dismissed from Tennessee because of low grades. He spent what would have been his junior year living in his car and then working part time to pay for classes at a community college. His hard work has paid off, as he has earned a second chance in Knoxville this fall.

#14 Marlon Lucky, RB - Nebraska (13,14)

Lucky finally took over the starting spot last year after being 1/4th of Nebraska’s tailback by committee approach in ’06. He finished 2nd on the team in rushing with 728 yards, with 259 of those coming against cream puffs Nicholls State and Troy. Last year, Lucky was a bigger threat catching the ball than running it. He caught a school record 75 passes from the backfield for 705 yards. Meanwhile, he rushed 206 times for 1,019 yards. Again, though, one huge game against Nevada (233 yards) padded his stats. The glimpses of why he was ranked so high (111 yards against Texas) need to become the norm.

#15 Justin King, CB - Penn State (19,12)

The top-rated cornerback on the list actually spent his first year with Derrick Williams as a wide receiver. He made five starts and played in every game, but he was moved to the defense during the off-season and never looked back. Over two years as the Nittany Lions’ best cover corner, King made 79 tackles but intercepted only three passes. Then again, teams were too busy throwing to the other side of the field. The St. Louis Rams selected him in the 4th round of last year’s NFL draft.

#16 Martellus Bennett, TE - Texas A&M (8,26)

Bennett played football and basketball for the Aggies, but eventually dropped the latter to focus on the gridiron. He went from a freshman All-American (18 catches, 162 yards, three scores) to a second team All Big 12 performer (38, 497, 3) to a first team All Big 12 and NFL early entrant (49, 587, 4). The Dallas Cowboys selected him in the second round.

#17 Alex Boone, OT - Ohio State (20,15)

The second team All Big Ten performer decided to return to the Buckeyes despite being projected as a second round draft pick in last year’s NFL. As a freshman, he earned valuable playing time as a back-up, and he even started three games down the stretch. He moved into the starting line-up his sophomore season, and solidified himself as one of the nation’s best tackles in ’07. A strong senior campaign will likely result in a first round draft pick.

#18 Callahan Bright, DT - Florida State to Shaw University (14,22)

Bright never qualified, went to Hargrave Military School, and eventually became a garbage man. Then he was arrested on marijuana possession last year. This fall he has enrolled at Shaw University, a Division II program, where he is expected to start as a 21-year old freshman.

#19 Antone Smith, RB - Florida State (25,11)

Last year was Smith’s first as a starter, although he earned valuable back-up playing time behind Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington during his first two years in Tallahassee. He ran the ball 192 times for 819 yards and caught 22 passes for another 203 yards. He would have likely crossed the 1,000 plateau had he not missed some time late in the season due to an injury.

#20 Melvin Alaeze, DE - Maryland to Illinois to Prison (4,40)

Alaeze originally failed to qualify, and by June of ‘06, Ralph Friedgen told Alaeze to take a hike because of some concerns he had. Ron Zook then took a flyer on him, but after playing in one game and missing several classes, he left the Illini program on his own volition. He hadn’t hit bottom yet. In early January ’07, Alaeze was charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault, armed robbery, car theft and use of a hand gun in the commission of a violent crime. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

#21 Kevin Grady, RB - Michigan (22,23)

Playing behind Mike Hart and a torn ACL will make carries hard to come by, but Grady hasn’t helped his cause in limited playing time or because of off-the-field incidents, including his recent DUI. His best season came as a freshman replacing the injured Hart; he carried 121 times for 483 yards. Unfortunately, his numbers since then don’t even add up to those rushing stats. How he will fit into the spread offense remains to be seen.

#22 DeSean Jackson, WR - Cal (18,29)

This All-American receiver and punt returner was drafted in the second round by the Philadelphia Eagles. He led the Bears in receiving his freshman year, then went on to be one of the elite performers in the Pac Ten. Over his three year career, he caught 162 passes for 2,423 yards and 22 touchdowns. He added another six punt returns for scores, and averaged a whopping 16.7 yards per return over his career.

#23 Jamario O'Neal, DB - Ohio State (31,17)

O’Neal earned playing time as a freshman, took over the starting strong safety position halfway through his sophomore year, and just when it appeared he had entrenched himself in the starting line-up, he lost the starting spot to Kurt Coleman. Entering his senior year, the thought is that, at best, O’Neal will win the starting nickel position, though nothing is written in stone.

#24 Jerrell Powe, DT - Ole Miss (24,33)

Powe may finally step on the field this fall after various academic issues prevented him from qualifying. He even filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, but he eventually dropped it. Now the only thing left to discover is what weight Powe will come in as…the 380+ behemoth of last fall, or the leaner, meaner 340 lb version that head coach Houston Nutt is counting on to help him turn things around. Powe is the one player who could likely go from bust to boom in the span of a season; it's only his backstory and not his talent that has him pegged as a bust.

#25 Jason Gwaltney, RB - West Virginia (15,43)

Gwaltney didn’t last too long as a back-up in Morgantown before transferring as a freshman to a JUCO in New York. He is supposedly trying to win a roster spot with the Mountaineers this fall.

#26 Toney Baker, RB - NC State (39,21)

After rushing for 546 yards as a freshman, Baker started nine games in ’06 and led the Wolfpack in rushing with 688 yards. As a result of these accomplishments, expectations soared entering last season. However, Baker suffered a season ending knee injury in last year’s opener against Central Florida. That injury kept him out of spring drills.

#27 Luther Brown, LB - Southern Cal (32,31)

The Trojans have been loaded at linebacker, and while teammates Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga have earned starting spots over older players, Brown has had a more difficult climb to the top of the depth chart. For the last two years while battling some injuries he has played a back-up role; he has amassed 30 tackles in 24 career games. This spring he dueled more productive back-up Kaluka Maiava for the starting weakside linebacker position. Heading into fall practice, the position is still up for grabs.

#28 Kade Weston, DT - Georgia (33,30)

Despite a massive 6’5, 315 lb frame, Weston appears to be relegated to back-up duty again this year. In his place, the Bulldogs will start two sub-300 lb DTs. Weston has had his fair share of playing time over the last two years. After a redshirt season in ’05, Weston has played in 26 games while starting in eleven of those contests. For his career, he has 32 tackles with two sacks. Some are still touting that he has NFL potential, but it appears that his weight has been an issue for him in Athens.

#29 Roy Miller, DT - Texas (34,34)

Miller came in as a freshman and immediately began contributing as a stout run defender in the middle. Miller has played in 36 games, though he has only started six because of some of the older, equally talented players Mack Brown had brought in. Last year he earned All Big 12 Honorable Mention honors despite a back-up role, and this year he will slide into the starting line-up. For his career he has 89 tackles, 14 TFL, and 4.5 sacks.

#30 Anthony Moeaki, TE - Iowa (52,20)

After two years of backing up future pro Scott Chandler, Moeaki was primed for a big ’07 campaign. As the starter, he caught 14 balls for 170 yards and three touchdowns in just three games before an injury against Wisconsin ended his season. He redshirted the rest of the year, and is listed as the co-starter heading into the fall.

#31 Brian Cushing, LB - Southern Cal (53,19)

Remarkably, the Trojans landed three of the top four linebackers in the country, and Cushing has lived up to the hype. Over three years at defensive end and outside linebacker, Cushing has amassed 105 tackles; a whopping 16.5 of those have been for negative yardage. He also has scored one touchdown, when he returned an onside kick for a score against the Irish. He enters the ’08 season on many preseason All-American and award watch lists.

#32 Darren McFadden, RB - Arkansas (23,51)

The first sophomore to win the Doak Walker Award for best running back was also only the second player (besides Ricky Williams) to win the award twice. Unlike Williams, however, he was unable to win the Heisman Trophy, as he finished second two years running. The second-leading rusher in SEC history, McFadden rushed for 4590 yards on 785 carries for a gaudy 5.8 average. The Oakland Raiders picked McFadden with the fourth overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft.

#33 Dan Doering, OG - Iowa (27,48)

Originally projected as an offensive tackle, Doering has since moved inside. Although he only played in one game as a back-up OT in ’06, last year he played in ten games, and started the last five games. Heading into the ‘08 season, he’s only listed as a co-starter.

#34 Marques Slocum, DT - Michigan (37,38)

Didn’t qualify in ’05. Didn’t qualify in ’06. Finally qualified last year and managed a few tackles in back-up duty. Became more well-known for his Facebook profile than his football abilities. Now he’s not even on Michigan’s roster.

#35 Derek Pegues, DB - Mississippi St (35,41)

Over his three year career, which has seen him move from cornerback to free safety, Pegues has ten interceptions, including three that he’s returned for touchdowns. He’s not only a great free safety, but he’s also a terrific returner; this year he should break the current SEC record for most kick return yards in a career. Last year’s All SEC first team free safety is also one of the leading candidates to win the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s best defensive back.

#36 Dace Richardson, OT - Iowa (54,25)

Only his health has prevented Richardson from becoming a national commodity. Richardson came in right away and contributed as a back-up left tackle for the Hawkeyes in ‘05. The following year he was a preseason All Big Ten selection, but an injury hampered him for much of the second half of the season, causing him to miss key contests down the stretch. Last year wasn’t much better, as a knee injury has sidelined him since October, and he wasn’t able to participate in spring practice.

#37 Dajileon Farr, TE - Miami to Memphis (55,28)

The highly sought after tight end was stuck behind Gregg Olsen for two years, and during that time, he played in 18 games, catching four balls for 30 yards. Olsen’s departure for the NFL didn’t improve his statistics, however. Last year he caught just six passes for 104 yards, numbers that put him behind blocking tight end Chris Zellner. As a result, Farr transferred to Memphis during the off-season.

#38 Michael Oher, OT - Ole Miss (48,37)

The subject of Michael Lewis’s book The Blind Side surprised many when he chose to return to Ole Miss for his senior season despite the fact that he was projected as a first round draft pick. Oher will be a four-year starter for the Rebels, and only during his freshman year did he not protect the quarterback’s blind side. Last year he was an All SEC first teamer, and this year he finds himself on many preseason All American lists.

#39 Victor "Macho" Harris, CB - Virginia Tech (28,60)

The first team All ACC cornerback was all set to leave after three productive seasons and enter the NFL draft, but he had a change of heart and will return for his senior season. “Macho” has nine interceptions in his career.

#40 Averell Spicer, DT - Southern Cal (43,45)(11,9)

Despite his lofty ranking, Spicer has had trouble breaking into the Trojans’ star-studded defense, but this fall is his best chance. Relegated to mop-up duty over the last two years, he has amassed just 12 tackles and four tackles for loss. An injury prevented Spicer from nailing down the starting job in the spring; time is running out, and every recruiting class that Pete Carroll has signed includes similarly talented nose tackles.

#41 Travis Beckum, TE - Wisconsin (56,32)

Beckum began his career as a reserve defensive end, but moved over to the other side of the ball in ’06. Last year he emerged as one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the country after reeling in 75 passes for 982 yards and six TDs. If there’s an area of improvement that’s needed before he moves on to the NFL, it’s his blocking skills. At 6’4 and 235 lbs, he’s sometimes overpowered at the point of attack.

#42 Derek Nicholson, LB - Florida St (30,59)

An injury cut Nicholson’s sophomore season short after an impressive freshman year where he played in all 13 Seminole contests. He bounced back in ’07 and made 86 tackles. Now he’s left to anchor the defense since Geno Hayes left for the NFL. Most importantly, he hasn’t possessed any of the same baggage that cut his brother A.J.’s time short at FSU.

#43 Geno Hayes, LB - Florida St (36,54)

One of only two freshmen to play all thirteen games his first year, this two-year starter jumped to the NFL and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 6th round. Made All ACC first team with 80 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, and five sacks. That followed a sophomore season where he contributed 59 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and three sacks.

#44 Reggie Smith, DB - Oklahoma (64,27)

Three-year starter at Oklahoma at both strong safety and cornerback, and a first team All Big 12 performer in ’06 and ‘07. Made 166 tackles and intercepted eight passes during his stay in Norman. Also made some electrifying kick and punt returns. Drafted in the third round by the San Francisco 49ers.

#45 Rico McCoy, LB - Tennessee (38,57)

After being stuck behind first round draft pick Jerod Mayo in ’06, the dynamic McCoy played beside him in ’07 and enjoyed a productive campaign with 108 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. Viewed as one of the leaders of the Vols’ defense, McCoy is primed for an even bigger ’08, although he has lost four of his six teammates in Tennessee’s front seven.

#46 Ryan Reynolds, LB - Oklahoma (26,77)

Reynolds has suffered some ups and downs but appears on the upswing heading into this season. He played as a freshman on special teams, but was redshirted the following year due to an injury. By the end of last season, he had earned a starting spot at weakside LB and totaled 60 tackles with eight for loss and two sacks while in the shadow of All-American Curtis Lofton. Now that Lofton and former Irish recruit Lewis Baker have moved on, Reynolds is expected to be the leader of the Sooners’ linebacker corps.

#47 Ndamukong Suh, DT - Nebraska (51,52)

An early season injury forced him to redshirt his freshman season, but since then it’s been hard to keep Suh off the field. Two years ago he was a valuable back-up for the Cornhuskers, and last year he started eleven games and racked up 34 tackles, including six for negative yardage.

#48 LaMarcus Coker, RB - Tennessee (71,35)

Head coach Philip Fulmer kicked Coker off the Vols after his third suspension of the year. Scuttlebutt suggested it was a drug problem. Coker had led the team in rushing in ’06 with 694 yards and a 6.4 yards per carry average. His numbers were down in ’07 prior to his dismissal, but with his explosive speed, he was still a threat to score from anywhere on the field.

#49 Selwyn Lymon, WR - Purdue (72,36)

Kicked off the Boilermakers after drunk driving and resisting arrest. Signed as a free agent by the Miami Dolphins. Set a record for ND opponents with a historic 8 catch, 238 yard, 2 TD performance against the Irish in ’06. Otherwise, his numbers were rather pedestrian, though he had to share the football with Dorien Bryant and Dustin Keller. Caught 33 balls for 580 yards in ’06, and 40 balls for 450 yards last year before Tiller dropped him.

#50 Mario Manningham, WR - Michigan (45,64)

First team AP All-American last year caught 72 passes for 1,174 yards and 12 scores. Was on a similar pace during the first six games of ’06 before a knee injury limited him. Destroyed ND in ’06 with a four catch, 137-yard, three TD performance. That said, alleged marijuana use dampened his NFL draft stock, and the New York Giants selected him in the 3rd round.


For the second straight year, there are no Irish recruits in the top 50. On the bright side, the next three classes enjoyed their share of top 100 recruits, some of whom belong to their respective top 50.

Taking a look at this year's list and the three previous years, there are some generalized points that can be made with a certain amount of confidence:

1. The consensus Top 50 has a pretty high success rate.

Nine players (18%) made the jump to the NFL after three years. That number would have been higher if several players, like Michael Oher and Macho Harris, didn't choose to return for their senior season. Overall, there were 21 players in the top tier.

It will be interesting to see how many players move up from the second tier. There are plenty of worthy candidates from the group of 14 who could find themselves among college football's elite by the end of the season. It's also worth noting that half of the "jury is still out players" come from the top 14 on the list. What that might suggest is that in this class there is less difference between the players in the top 50 than some might expect.

Likewise, of the 15 players with a red label, only six (12%) have avoided major injuries or off-the-field issues, but still didn't pan out. The remaining nine could have panned out if they had had the grades or stayed out of trouble

Overall, the top 50 is a solid indicator of future success. However, breaking it down into the top 25 is entirely a different story. The top 25 would have eight busts (32%) and eight (32%) borderline players. That means just 36% of the top 25 have become college football's elite after three years.

2. Get good grades, stay out of trouble, and make the big bucks.

Players continue to make poor decisions that affect their long-term future. Of the busts, players like Coker, Rouse, Lymon, and Perrilloux all showed the potential that deservedly placed them in the top 50. The players who have never qualified, well, the public may never know. Given the growing list of players who fall under this umbrella, we may need to create a separate color code for them next year. They are busts in one way, but in another, some of them could easily elevate themselves to all conference or better status with a stellar senior year.

3. The hardest position to evaluate is...wide receiver?

Over the past three years, it appeared that offensive line and cornerback were the hardest positions to evaluate. That certainly wasn't the case this year. Only Dan Doering has failed to pan out; every other offensive lineman on the list is a starting left tackle for his team. Meanwhile, every cornerback is a multiple-year starter or in the NFL. In fact, safety Jamario O'Neal is the only defensive back who failed to pan out.

Looking at this incarnation of the top 50, one can't help but notice the misses at wide receiver. Only Mario Manningham and Desean Jackson were bona fide stars; meanwhile Fred Rouse, Patrick Turner, Derrick Williams, and Selwyn Lymon have failed to break out. Considering that Rouse, Turner, and Williams were top five players, this is even more disappointing.

This actually leads to a bigger question...are recruiting analysts overrating offensive skill talent because their highlight reels tend to be flashier than others? There are fifteen running backs and wide receivers on the list with only four elite players. This might be worth another, more expansive look down the road.

4. If you're Purdue and you land a Top 50 recruit, don't be surprised if he can't finish his career there.

The Boilermakers have gone 0 for 3 with top 50 talent. Selwyn Lymon is no longer a member of the Purdue football program, like his top 50 predecessors Doug van Dyke and Kyle Williams. Recruits must have picked up on this trend since Purdue hasn't landed anyone in the top 50 since Lymon.

5. The middle class is being squeezed out.

Yellow 21
Red 12
At first glance, it appears that the recruiting analysts are getting more right...and more wrong. However, this year there were far more off-the-field issues for players than in years past. If those players had kept their noses clean, it's quite conceivable that the analysts would have celebrated a banner season of prognostication.

Over the last two years, the number of borderline players has decreased dramatically as busts have increased and bona fide stars peaked this year. It makes sense that given the increased exposure to recruits that analysts have been given over the last few years, their predictions would become more accurate. Now, if only they could figure out who the troublemakers will be...