What Happened To the 5-Star College Prospects? … Worth The Hype

Recruiting is an inexact science, to say the least, but some actually hit the mark and play up to the hype, like USC QB Mark Sanchez, ranked No. 1 in 2005. Richard Cirminiello takes a look back on the 2005 recruiting class to see which players boomed and which busted.
– Recruiting Busts … the 2005 Class

The five-star recruit. The Holy Grail for any coaching staff, university, and fan base. There are talented high school players, and then there are the five-star athletes, the top 1% of available candidates, and the caliber of players that programs and recruiting classes are built around. However, the glow of landing one of these rare gems can sometimes fade before the following February’s signing day.

The stark reality each year is that even the highest-rated recruits can be hit-or-miss, an inexact science that’s part exhilarating and part unbelievably maddening. To illustrate this point, all you’ve got to do is take a revisionist look at the 51 blue-chippers from four years ago to see who lived up to expectations and who was living a lie. Only a fraction, about 40%, went on to perform like the best of the best, which ought to somewhat temper your enthusiasm for next week’s signing day. Below are the players who went boom … they were worth the hype.

*Historical rankings from 2005 are courtesy of Scout.com. The number next to each player was where Scout.com had the player ranked overall in 2005.

51. DT Roy Miller, Texas – One of the unsung heroes of the Longhorn defense, Miller capped a very solid career by being named first team All-Big 12 and Defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl. A part of the line rotation since his freshman year, he’s an explosive and tenacious run stopper, who’ll get a chance to impress scouts at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis next month.

49. DT Vince Oghobaase, Duke – Oghobaase has been as good as advertised four years ago, when the Blue Devils shocked the nation by signing him over much more prominent programs. He’s putting off the NFL for one more year, remaining in Durham for a fourth season as a starter and the disruptive anchor of the defensive line.

48. OT Jared Gaither, Maryland – The Terps’ loss has been the Baltimore Ravens’ gain. The mountain-sized Gaither only played two seasons in College Park, starting both years, before taking the supplemental draft route to M&T Bank Stadium. While still raw, he showed a lot of potential in his first season as the Ravens’ starting left tackle, protecting QB Joe Flacco’s blindside.

44. WR Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma – A big, physical playmaker, Kelly was often too much for opposing Big 12 defensive backs to handle. In just three years in Norman, he finished fifth in Sooner history in receptions and second in receiving yards and touchdown receptions. A second-round pick of the Washington Redskins, he was limited by a left knee injury and appeared in just a handful of games.

43. RB Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois – Yeah, the Illini only got one big year out of Mendenhall, but it was a special season that wouldn’t have happened without his heroics. After showing hints of stardom in 2005 and 2006, he erupted as a junior for 1,999 total yards and 19 touchdowns, helping lead Illinois to an improbable Rose Bowl berth. After skipping his senior year, he was chosen 23rd overall in the 2008 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

42. DB Derek Pegues, Mississippi State – A three-year starter with a slew of postseason awards, Pegues has been one of the SEC’s premier defensive backs since 2006. Despite being undersized, he hits like a safety and covers like a corner, a combination that could have him off the boards in the first few rounds of April’s draft.

39. OT Michael Oher, Ole Miss – The most uplifting story from the Class of 2005, Oher overcame an inadequate upbringing to turn his life around and become one of the nation’s premier offensive linemen. A starter since his first season in Oxford, he was named All-SEC three straight years, and is a likely first-round draft choice three months from now.

32. WR DeSean Jackson, Cal – For three seasons, Jackson was one of the most electrifying players in the entire country. Whether he was catching a pass or returning a punt, he was a constant threat to blow through the last line of defense with his blazing 4.3 speed. A two-time All-American, he left early for the NFL, catching 62 passes in his debut with the Philadelphia Eagles.

28. LB Brian Cushing, USC – Overshadowed at times by Rey Maualuga, Cushing was every bit as dominant in his four seasons with the Trojans. The Defensive MVP of the 2007 Rose Bowl, he’s picked up various postseason honors at the end of each year. A tremendous all-around athlete with a hot motor, he’ll be off the board long before the end of the first round in April.

23. WR Derrick Williams, Penn State – Underutilized in the early parts of his career, Williams showed what he can do in 2008 with more touches. As a senior, he scored nine touchdowns in three different ways, ending his Lion career as an All-Big Ten selection. Still, for such a ballyhooed recruit, his overall production was more consistent with a three- or four-star performer.

22. RB Jonathan Stewart, Oregon – Hampered at times by injuries, Stewart was a spectacular runner in Eugene when he was healthy. A two-time All-Pac-10 selection, he capped his Duck career with a 253-yard outburst in the 2007 Sun Bowl. Now a member of the Carolina Panthers, he rushed for 836 yards and 10 scores in his first year in the pros.

20. CB Justin King, Penn State – While not unbeatable in Happy Valley, King did develop into one of the Big Ten’s top cover corners before leaving a year early for the NFL Draft. Chosen in the fourth round by the St. Louis Rams a year ago, he missed all of his first season with a torn tendon in his big toe.

19. CB Reggie Smith, Oklahoma – After three successful years in Norman, Smith left school early with an eye on the NFL Draft. A starter in each season, he was a playmaker out of the secondary, who earned first team All-Big 12 recognition as a sophomore and a junior. A third-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, he saw action in three games, and figures to have a more prominent role next year.

18. LB Rey Maualuga, USC – After four seasons of excellence and punishing hits, Maualuga added his name to the lengthy list of great linebackers to matriculate at USC. Named All-American following this past season, and All-Pac-10 three times, he was the prototypical college inside linebacker. His career will continue in the NFL as a likely first-round pick.

15. OT Alex Boone, Ohio State – With his size, reach, and feet, Boone was supposed to be the next great left tackle in Columbus. While certainly talented, starting four years and earning All-Big Ten honors, he was exposed, at times, by pass rushers, who can get around the edge in a hurry. Hopes of playing beyond Ohio State might require a shift inside.

14. TE Martellus Bennett, Texas A&M – Despite matching a school-record for tight ends with 105 career catches, there was still a consensus that Bennett was underutilized in the passing game. A game-breaking athlete at 6-6 and 265 pounds, he created mismatches for opposing linebackers with his size and speed. A second-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys, he caught 20 balls for 283 yards and four touchdowns in a No. 2 role.

9. S Kenny Phillips, Miami – During his three seasons in Miami, Phillips was one of the nation’s top safeties, combining corner speed with the pop of a linebacker. After back-to-back All-ACC seasons, he opted for the NFL Draft, where he was selected at the end of the first round by the New York Giants. Despite starting only three games, he impressed with the defending champs and has a bright future.

7. TE Travis Beckum, Wisconsin – Recruited by the Badgers as a defensive end, he’d make the switch to offense in 2006 look like a stroke of genius. Too quick and long for most defenders to handle, he’d go on to catch 159 passes and 11 touchdowns in a little more than two seasons of work. A broken leg last October prematurely ended a career that’s expected to continue in the NFL.

5. OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia – Monroe did not disappoint in his four years with the Cavaliers, gradually ramping up to one of the country’s top left tackles and pass blockers. After earning honorable mention honors as a junior, he mushroomed into an All-American last fall, while really grabbing the attention of pro scouts. He could be the first lineman chosen in April, and isn’t likely to fall past the first ten picks.

1. QB Mark Sanchez, USC – You can evaluate Sanchez in two different ways. Although he clearly emerged as the five-star talented he was projected to be, the Trojans only enjoyed his services for 16 complete games. So, was he worth all of those recruiting visits in 2004 and 2005? He sure was in 2008, throwing 34 touchdown passes in another Rose Bowl season before jetting to the ranks of the early NFL entries.

– Recruiting Busts … the 2005 Class