Big DT Rashan Gary, the nation’s #1 recruit, chose to matriculate at the University of Michigan, thus setting off an amazing hypestorm in Ann Arbor. Michigan may have the best defensive line in America (woo preseason natty champs AGAIN), but no one knows how the first Year of Gary will go. Will his inescapable talent force Michigan to start him or will the Wolverines ease Gary into the college game? It’s an exciting concept to think about.
Tell us about a mega-recruit who came to your program. Was he handled properly by the staff? Did he live up to expectations or fail miserably? What was the excitement level when the big shot came to campus?
Candystripes: This is a bit difficult, as "Mega-recruit" and "Indiana football" don’t usually appear in the same paragraph, much less the same sentence. The two biggest recruits I can recall off-hand both played in the last 5 years, and neither one is still currently on the roster. Dominique Booth came to IU as a 4 star wide receiver, and was expected to be something like the next James Hardy/Tandon Doss/other good Indiana receivers of the past whose names escape me now. Instead, injury woes kept him from doing too much for the Hoosiers, and with the medical team not clearing him to play for IU any longer, he’ll be transferring sometime in the next year. Darius Latham, on the other hand, came in and at least partially lived up to expectations, right up until he decided to leave early for the NFL and then proceeded to go undrafted.
Suffice to say, I’m not sold on recruiting rankings meaning a whole lot anymore. Tevin Coleman? 3 stars. Nate Sudfeld? 3 stars. Devine Redding? 3. Tegray Scales? 3. Simmie Cobbs? Also 3. 2nd round NFL Draft pick Jason Spriggs? He’s a 3 too. Bobby Richardson, currently on the New Orleans Saints? He was actually a 2 star recruit. Antonio Allen, no longer with the team due to legal troubles? 4 stars.
MNW: Northwestern has never really had a 5*-recruit, so I'm afraid this question really just serves to make me sad.
In somewhat happier terms, the Wildcats' top five 4* recruits have been DL Ifeadi Odenigbo, QB Brett Basanez, DT Thomas Derricks, CB Parrker Westphal, and RB Justin Jackson (Clayton Thorson checks in at #6). Of those, only Derricks didn't work out — I don't know the circumstances surrounding his departure, but he apparently left the school and returned home to Dallas after one year.
The only 5* hype NU has seen was USC transfer WR Kyle Prater, who came to campus with the build and promise of being a game-changing receiver. He...was not, but he had a fine senior season, including decisive catches against Wisconsin and Notre Dame. That's as close as I can come to recalling a Northwestern player who was called a "bust," and that had more to do with the player than the coaches or system.
In terms of Jackson and Thorson, hell yeah there's buzz surrounding them, but Thorson still can go unrecognized on campus. Jackson is deservedly getting the hype, and other than that perhaps our older alumni can chip in their memories.
LPW: I think Ifeadi Odenigbo was a five star recruit who was downgraded to a four star. Prater’s an interesting story. He played foot in my conference, and his high school was historically the worst. IIRC, he single-handedly dragged Proviso West into the playoffs and was so damn good that he couldn’t be stopped with triple coverage! The Chicago Tribune had an ongoing series on his senior season. Zook tried his damndest to get him to Chambana, but he decided to take his talents to USC. And then, his body failed him. One freak injury after another. Our friends at InsideNU even filmed a documentary on it.
Loren Howard I believe was a four star defensive tackle, but he transferred to ASU. Also, I think Zach Strief should’ve been a four star, given that he’s been a productive member of the New Orleans Saints line for the past few years. We stole him from OSU from Milford, Ohio. Pat Fitzgerald, our greatest defensive player in history, was a zero star recruit and ended up winning the Nagurski and Bednarik award twice. We coach players up here.
Andrew Kraszewski: MSU has had a few; on the current team, Malik McDowell has been every bit worth the high drama that was his recruitment. Do not ask for details, that was a ridiculous timeline that I do not care to relive.
Before him, there was Lawrence Thomas, a 5* ILB who got to campus, put on like 60 pounds of muscle, and found himself injured and without a position for his first couple seasons. He had a diversionary season at fullback, then flipped back to defense and settled in as a quality lineman. Not the 3-and-out you hope for with 5-stars, but nothing to complain about.
The first big fish of the Dantonio era was William Gholston, the terrorbeast whom Dantonio had to fight off Nick Saban to land. He was quite good in his three years before leaving to become a mid-round pick, but it always seemed like Spartan fans weren't satisfied with him, perhaps because he never put up eye-popping sack numbers like you might expect from a 5-star DE. Never mind, of course, that he was nigh-unrunable-upon.
Looking further back, the time of Charles Rogers and Jeff Smoker is a dark epoch indeed. I'm already rambling a bit, so I'll leave that for another day.
GF3: There are probably too many to list in terms of mega-recruits. That’s a good place to be. I wouldn’t classify Maurice Clarett as a "mega recruit" because he wasn’t anywhere close to being the #1 player in his year group, but was a solid top 100 with offers from big programs like Miami and Notre Dame as well. We all know how his tenure ended, much of which falls on the athletic department staff. The next most obvious choice to me is Terrelle Pryor. He was the #4 QB prospect. Again, brilliant performance was followed by utter ignominy. Perhaps we should be more wary of mega-recruits’ ability to disappoint.
Stew: The last 5* guy at Iowa, I believe, was Dan Doering (OT), part of Iowa’s vaunted 2005 recruiting class. Doering, along with several other highly touted members of that class, ended up being a bust. If a 5* OT can’t make it at Iowa, under Ferentz, it’s not on coaching. However, the core of that class was also the core that made a significant impact in Iowa’s success from 2008-2010. In that vein, we’ll see how our next one goes, as Iowa, currently, has the commitment from A.J. Epenesa, a 5* DE, legacy recruit, being the foundation of what looks like the best recruiting class since that 2005 class.
Al NamiasIV: As Stew said, the last Iowa 5-star(s) I can remember were Doering and tight end Tony Moeaki, both from the 2005 class. Doering started one game in his career in which he was pretty lousy. Moeaki had a solid career but it was marred by injuries, much like his still-active NFL career. It's strictly conjecture based mostly on rumor, but I believe the failures and ego issues of a number of members of that class (as well as some legal problems) scared Ferentz off of highly recruited, out-of-state players, and this, in part led to many of the light-on-talent teams that followed.
That said, the excitement surrounding that highly touted 2005 class was almost equal to the excitement after the 10-2 2004 season. Many fans felt Iowa had arrived and the ‘‘next level’’ was right around the corner. Needless to say, that never materialized.
Brian: The first recruit I can really remember generating widespread excitement prior to arriving on campus (from a football perspective, least) was Drew Henson. At the time, recruiting wasn’t the industry it is today, but it was still hard to miss Henson. The nation's all-time high school home run king and national player of the year seemed to have even more potential at quarterback, and his arrival at Michigan was met with great anticipation. Sadly, Henson's career will be most remembered for his battles with Tom Brady than for any on-field legacy. Henson's football career ultimately didn't live up to the hype, but not because he couldn't play. In fact, far from it. Those who saw him play know this: Henson was the real deal - and was the closest thing Michigan ever had to an Elway-like talent at quarterback. His football career, however, was derailed by injury, coaching and ultimately baseball. I've often wondered what his football career would have been if not for constant distraction of baseball. Henson didn’t play spring football at Michigan and forfeited his final season of eligibility to pursue professional baseball full-time. Even his eventual NFL debut came only after being away from football for years. Of all the "could-have-beens," Henson tops the chart for me.
Aaron Yorke: Oh this reminds me of when Derrick Williams joined Penn State in 2005. The Lions had just gone through two of their worst seasons in history and needed someone to help turn the program around. That someone ended up being Michael Robinson, a do-it-all athletic guy who blossomed into a versatile quarterback in his senior year, but Williams’ arrival created a serious buzz around campus that the Lions were about to return to greatness, and he also helped spark the offense with his incredible speed and vision. One of my earliest PSU football memories is watching on a very low-resolution big screen TV as Williams caught the game-winning touchdown pass at Northwestern to cap a comeback victory. He next scored twice in a blowout win over Minnesota before he reached the end zone versus Ohio State to give PSU the lead in one of its most important wins of the decade. Williams broke his arm during the loss to Michigan that year, and he never turned into a dominant wide receiver, but he was a consistent contributor throughout his college career, especially on special teams where he returned three punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns during his final three seasons. My favorite two returns were versus Notre Dame in 2007 and at Wisconsin in 2008, because it was a lot of fun to embarrass those teams. I wouldn’t say Williams lived up to the hype as one of the top recruits in the country since he never became an outstanding offensive player, but he’ll always be remembered well for the big moments he had in two of Penn State’s most memorable seasons.
WSR: Did you guys know that Tim Brewster and Minnesota beat out Florida to land Hayo Carpenter? He was amazing! #1 JUCO player in the country in 2009. Ran a 4.3 40-yard dash. Sure, he was a little undersized, but Brewster assured us he was the 2nd coming of all the great fast amazing undersized receivers. If you’d like to know just how well it worked out...yeah. 3 catches in 2 seasons, and the most horrific thing ever: having a "4.3 40" guy get ran down by a DE from across the field. I hope all of your big-time recruits can reach the lofty heights of Hayo Carpenter’s performance, Michigan fans.