Be it around the water cooler or on a message board, there is nothing in sports quite like a recruiting debate.
There is technically no right or wrong answer and the truth isn’t revealed until, in most cases, many years later. Clearly, scouting high school football recruits is an inexact science and it leads grown adults — mostly men — to act much like the 17-year old football prospects they are tracking.
Some five-stars turn out to be super stars like Jadeveon Clowney while others never live up to the hype. There are simply too many unpredictable factors for recruiting rankings to be right all the time. Some years are better than others and some scouting websites are better than others.
A quick look at Athlon Sports' 2013 preseason college football All-American team shows you the mixed bag that is recruiting rankings.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (2011)
The Aggies superstar wasn’t considered a can’t-miss quarterback prospect back in 2011 when he signed with Texas A&M. Other than TAMU, only Oregon, Stanford, Baylor and Iowa State offered him scholarships to major conference programs. The Kerrville (Texas) Tivy product was a three-star quarterback who was ranked as the No. 14-best dual-threat signal caller in the nation and was the No. 45-rated player in the state of Texas. After a year of learning the college game as a redshirt, Manziel proved most everyone in the recruiting business wrong by winning the Heisman Trophy last fall.
Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona (2011) National Recruit
The Oro Valley (Ariz.) Canyon Del Oro sophomore was ranked by Athlon Sports as the No. 30 running back in the nation, the No. 5 player in the state of Arizona and the No. 212 overall recruit in the country. He held three Pac-12 offers to play college football from Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado. The coveted tailback was a four-star prospect by Rivals.
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia (2012) AC100
The workhorse back from Tarboro (N.C.) High was a late riser in the recruiting rankings, but when all was said and done, Gurley was a top 100 prospect nationally. He was ranked as the No. 11 running back in the nation and was the No. 83 player in the Athlon Consensus 100. It didn’t take long for this superstar tailback prospect to make his mark on the SEC.
Marqise Lee, WR, USC (2011) AC100
The superstar wide receiver hails from California prep powerhouse Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra. He was the No. 64-rated prospect in the nation, the No. 6-rated player in the state and the No. 10-rated wide receiver in the country. His offer sheet was a who’s who of college superpowers. Lee played on the same team as AC100 wide receivers George Farmer (2011), Robert Woods (2010) and four-star Paul Richardson (2010). How did anyone stop that passing attack?
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (2011) AC100
The electric wide receiver from South Fort Myers (Fla.) had one of the best freshman seasons of all-time. He was ranked as the No. 4 wide receiver in the nation behind only George Farmer (USC), Jarvis Landry (LSU) and Trey Metoyer (Oklahoma). He was a five-star prospect by Rivals and was the No. 24-rated player in the entire nation according to the Athlon Consensus 100.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington (2011) AC100
The Huskies' tight end is yet another feather in the cap for the recruiting gurus. He was the No. 3-rated tight end in the nation behind Nick O’Leary (Florida State) and Jay Rome (Georgia) back in the 2011 class. He was the No. 33-rated player nationally in the AC100 and barely missed getting a fifth star from Rivals or 247Sports.
Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma (2009)
The versatile pivot from Oklahoma City's Bishop McGuinness wasn’t a highly touted prospect coming out of high school nationally. In fact, he was the No. 15-rated tight end as a three-star recruit by Rivals. However, the Sooners All-American had a great offer sheet including scholarships from Notre Dame, Stanford, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State among others.
David Yankey, G, Stanford (2010)
The Cardinal have made a living under Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw on the East Coast recruiting and Yankey is another great example. The Roswell, Ga., native who played at Centennial was a three-star prospect coming out of high school and was considered the 47th-best offensive tackle in the nation. Much like Ikard, however, the mid-level recruit had a great offer sheet, including Clemson, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and UCLA.
Cyril Richardson, G, Baylor (2009)
If Yankey and Ikard were highly thought of three-star prospects, Richardson would have to be considered a lower tier three-star. Ranked as the No. 90 offensive tackle in the nation, his offer sheet was limited to just Baylor – partially because he committed early in the process and never wavered. Another factor that impacted his recruitment was the move from New Orleans to North Crowley in Fort Worth, Texas, after Hurricane Katrina during his prep career.
Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan (2009) National Recruit
Hailing all the way from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral, Lewan came to Michigan as a highly touted prospect with offers from all over the nation. He wasn’t a top 100 recruit, but was a four-star player who had his pick of schools. He was rated as the No. 194 overall player, the No. 16 offensive tackle and the No. 5 player in Arizona by Rivals.
Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M (2010) AC100
The son of Texas legend Bruce Matthews, the Missouri City (Texas) Elkins product was on everyone’s radar as one of the top recruits in the nation four years ago. He was the No. 3-rated offensive lineman in the nation and was No. 33 overall in the 2010 Athlon Consensus 100. He had offers from every major power in the nation and barely missed landing the coveted fifth star from Rivals.
De’Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon (2011) AC100
Few prospects were as can’t-miss as Thomas was coming out of Los Angeles Crenshaw. The explosive do-everything talent was the No. 1 “Athlete” in the nation and was the No. 5 overall player in the nation in the ’11 AC100. The Black Mamba could have played anywhere in the nation, but made the last-second switch from USC to Oregon. He was a five-star recruit by everyone in the scouting business.
Duke Johnson, KR, Miami (2012) AC100
Randy “Duke” Johnson signed with the Hurricanes out of Miami (Fla.) Norland last season before setting all sorts of freshman records in the ACC. His size was a point of contention among recruitniks but he finished the recruiting cycle as a top-40 player nationally (AC100 No. 36). Johnson was the No. 6 running back in the nation behind fellow big name freshmen Johnathan Gray, Keith Marshall, Trey Williams, Rushel Shell and T.J. Yeldon, and had offers from every major program in the nation. Rivals listed him as a five-star recruit as the No. 1 all-purpose back in the nation.
Venric Mark, PR, Northwestern (2010)
Johnson and Thomas were elite all-purpose recruits while the Houston (Texas) St. Puis X prospect has dramatically outperformed his recruiting stock. The three-star’s offer sheet wasn’t nearly as impressive as it should have been, as Arizona, Arizona State and Houston were the most high-profile programs to offer. Mark was completely unranked by Rivals when he signed with Northwestern.
All-American Defense As Recruits:
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (2011) AC100
The Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe defensive end was the unanimous No. 1-rated prospect in the nation in the Class of 2011. Obviously, this made him the top player in his state and the top player nationally at his position. He literally could have picked any of the 120 (at the time) programs in the FBS ranks to play his college ball. In two short seasons, he has established that he was ranked exactly where he should have been and appears poised for a Heisman Trophy run in 2013. He also has a good shot at being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame (2011) AC100
A few spots behind Clowney in the 2011 rankings was this Monroe (Ga.) Area defensive end. Tuitt was ranked as the No. 8 defensive lineman in the nation by Athlon Sports and was the No. 44 overall player in the Athlon Consensus 100. His offer sheet was a who’s who of college football blue bloods, including Florida, Georgia, LSU, Auburn and South Carolina.
Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame (2010) National Recruit
The massive nose tackle from Jacksonville (Fla.) Raines barely missed landing in the 2010 AC100. Nix was ranked as the No. 102 player in the nation and the No. 9-rated defensive tackle. Like most superstar defensive line recruits from the state of Florida, Nix had his pick of any college team in the nation.
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State (2009)
From Corona (Calif.) Centennial, Sutton came to Arizona State sporting only four BCS offers. They included Arizona, Nebraska and Boise State in addition to the Sun Devils. He was the No. 42-rated defensive tackle and the No. 40-rated player in the state of California in the ’09 class. He was a three-star prospect by Rivals.
C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama (2010) National Recruit
Mosley just missed landing in the AC100 as a linebacker from Theodore (Ala.) High. He was the No. 113-rated overall prospect in the nation. Mosley finished as the No. 9-rated linebacker in the nation and the No. 3-rated player in the state of Alabama. Every program in the Southeast as well as a few from the Big 12 (Oklahoma) and the West Coast (Stanford) wanted to ink the star tackler.
Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU (2009)UCLA, Boise State, Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Colorado and Stanford all wanted this four-star talent from Reno (Nev.) McQueen. He was listed as the No. 24-rated “athlete” in the nation as his projected position was up in the air. The number of Pac-12 schools that offered him prove the hype was legit for this talented Cougar.
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State (2011) National Recruit
The hard-hitting tackler from Ohio State came to Columbus by way of Plantation (Fla.) High School. He had a massive offer sheet with names like USC, Michigan, LSU, Alabama and many others competing with the Buckeyes. Shazier was ranked as the No. 12 linebacker in the nation and barely missed landing in the AC100 as the No. 111 overall prospect in the country back in 2011.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon (2011)
The cornerback from Chino Hills (Calif.) High was a four-star recruit by Rivals, but wasn’t a top 100 prospect. He had offers from more than half of the Pac-12 Conference as well as plenty of other smaller schools on the West Coast. He was not ranked by Athlon Sports but was the No. 17-rated cornerback in the nation by Rivals.
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (2010)
Hailing from Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge in the deep South, Roby flew under the recruiting radar nationally and regionally. He wasn’t rated highly by any of the scouting services, as he was a low three-star prospect who actually was ranked as a wide receiver. But his offer sheet should have been an indication as to his star potential, as programs like Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, South Carolina and West Virginia all wanted the unheralded coverman.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama (2011) AC100
Hasean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix was considered the No. 1 safety in the nation coming out of high school in 2011. He attended famed Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando and picked Alabama over offers from every other powerhouse in the nation. Clinton-Dix was the No. 10 overall prospect in the nation in the ’11 Athlon Consensus 100.
Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford (2010)
This Woodberry Forest (Va.) School prospect is yet another example of Stanford’s recruiting success on the East Coast. This three-star recruit wasn’t highly touted and had a limited, but solid offer sheet. This star safety picked the Cardinal over Duke, North Carolina and NC State.
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