“Five-star” is a term in recruiting reserved for the nation’s elite. Roughly 30 players each year are awarded the coveted fifth star next to their name by the recruiting websites.
According to MaxPreps.com, there are roughly 15,000 high school football teams in this country. So if each team has on average 20 seniors, that is roughly 300,000 senior football players in the country who are looking for scholarships to play college football.
However, just over 3,000 of those — or less than one percent — will sign a Letter of Intent with an FBS program on National Signing Day next Wednesday (125 FBS schools X 25 scholarship offers per year = 3,125 signees per year).
So about one percent of one percent of high-school senior football players will be ranked a “five-star” prospect. And only one percent of anyone signing an LOI next week will have a five-star rating.
Does that mean every five-star athlete is a lock to be a superstar and future NFL first-round pick? Of course, not. But Hall of Fame college football names like Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Jameis Winston, Adrian Peterson, Aaron Murray, Matt Barkley, Manti Te’o, Jadeveon Clowney and dozens of others have been extremely deserving of their five-star ranking.
But who are the names that didn’t deserve it? Who are the biggest five-star busts of the last 10 years? Who are the forgotten names once ballyhooed on message boards across the Internet only to fall into college football obscurity forever?
Below is a year-by-year breakdown of the biggest five-star busts of the last 10 recruiting cycles (since 2005).
Note: For the sake of consistency, the composite 247Sports ranking was used for each class.
Class of 2005 (38)
Busts: Fred Rouse (No. 5), Ryan Perrilloux (No. 6), Callahan Bright (No. 18), Melvin Alaeze (No. 20), Jason Gwaltney (No. 25), Marques Slocum (No. 34)
There were plenty of names who didn’t live up to expectations in this group but were contributors (Michigan fans remember Kevin Grady, for example). However, this group also has a long list of talented youngsters with major off-the-field issues. Names like Alaeze, Perrilloux, Rouse and Bright all had major legal issues either shortly after arriving on campus or before even getting to school. Rouse was was kicked off Florida State when he robbed a teammate and Alaeze was sentenced to eight years in prison in December 2006. Injuries slowed names like Gwaltney while grades stopped players like Bright. In all, this is one of the worst five-star classes in the modern era of recruiting rankings.
Deserving: Michael Oher, Darren McFadden, Brian Cushing, DeSean Jackson, Jonathan Stewart, Kenny Phillips, Rey Maualuga, Eugene Monroe, Derrick Williams, Mark Sanchez
Class of 2006 (29)
Busts: Vidal Hazelton (No. 3), Mitch Mustain (No. 7), Antwine Perez (No. 21), Marcus Ball (No. 29)
There were a lot of elite players (see below) and plenty of solid contributors in this five-star class (See: Stafon Johnson, Allen Bradford, Carl Johnson), so the recruiting services did a pretty good job in 2006. Hazelton was a top-five recruit and a signing saga with his father got his career off track early. Mustain, Perez and Ball all transferred and none accomplished anything more than Mustain’s freshman run of eight straight wins as the starter. It was the peak of his career on a gridiron while Perez and Ball never made any sort of impact for USC or Florida State respectively. This was one of the best five-star classes ever evaluated.
Deserving: Andre Smith, Percy Harvin, Sergio Kindle, Myron Rolle, Matthew Stafford, Sam Young, Beanie Wells, Taylor Mays, Micah Johnson, Gerald McCoy, Brandon Graham, Tim Tebow, C.J. Spiller, DeMarco Murray, Ricky Sapp, LeSean McCoy, Maurice Evans
Class of 2007 (26)
Busts: Aaron Corp (No. 19), Eugene Clifford (No. 25), John Brantley (No. 26)
The ’07 five-star class didn’t have many elite superstars (Eric Berry, Noel Devine) nor did it have many total busts (Corp, Clifford). This group was loaded with middle-of-the-pack contributors who were solid players but never deserved five-star rankings: Jimmy Clausen, Joe McKnight, Ronald Johnson, Everson Griffin, Chris Galippo, Marc Tyler and Terrance Toliver just to name a few. Quarterbacks will always be judged harshly and John Brantley and Aaron Corp both had their shot at power programs to become “the guy” and both fell flat on their faces. Deonte Thompson, John Chiles, Torrey Davis, Ben Martin and Tray Allen weren’t complete busts but weren’t stars either.
Deserving: Eric Berry, Marvin Austin, Ryan Mallett, Noel Devine, Arrelious Benn, Carlos Dunlap, Josh Oglesby, Martez Wilson, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Miller
Class of 2008 (27)
Busts: Darrell Scott (No. 4), Jermie Calhoun (No. 9), Blake Ayles (No. 15), Dayne Crist (No. 19), Tyler Love (No. 21), B.J. Scott (No. 26)
This group has some elite superstars like Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Matt Kalil, Patrick Peterson and Da’Quan Bowers. But it also has a long list of true busts — all of which happened for different reasons. Scott was never committed to playing football, Calhoun wasn’t good enough while Ayles and Crist were hurt too much to make an impact. Tyler Love won a couple of titles with Alabama but never played and retired before his eligibility ran out while Scott transferred to South Alabama (where he was a solid player). This was a class with big hits (Jones, Green, etc) and big misses (Darrell Scott).
Deserving: Da’Quan Bowers, Terrelle Pryor, Julio Jones, Patrick Peterson, A.J. Green, Arthur Brown, Jonathan Baldwin, Michael Floyd, Michael Brewster, Matt Kalil, Mike Adams, Brandon Harris, EJ Manuel
Class of 2009 (30)
Busts: Bryce Brown (No. 2), Russell Shepard (No. 3), Gary Brown (No. 11), Andre Debose (No. 15), Dorian Bell (No. 20), Darius Winston (No. 24)
While the ’08 class seemed to be a group of busts and stars, the ’09 group features a large number of guys who weren’t either — and a bunch of guys who don’t really have a category. Jacobbi McDaniel, Xavier Nixon and Devon Kennard all were solid players but didn’t develop into special players. Meanwhile, Greg Reid was a special talent who couldn’t stay focused off the field for Florida State. Garrett Gilbert was a bust for Texas but was No. 2 in total offense nationally in 2013 for SMU. Andre Debose was supposed to be the second coming of Percy Harvin but could never stay healthy (or productive). Christine Michael was Big 12 Freshman of the Year and was a second-round pick but could never stay healthy. Rueben Randle and Craig Loston were excellent players for LSU but were they the No. 1 player in the nation at their position? Chris Davenport and Russell Shepard were just okay for the Tigers and Davenport was solid for Tulane last fall after transferring. Bryce Brown, Gary Brown and Dorian Bell are the truest “busts” in this group as all three failed to make any impact in college whatsoever. This group of five-stars is a hodgepodge of everything that makes recruiting impossible to evaluate. Mostly, this is a group of players that were just OK — names like Jamarkus McFarland, Jelani Jenkins, Marlon Brown, Nico Johnson, Donte Paige-Moss and Branden Smith.
Deserving: Matt Barkley, Manti Te’o, Trent Richardson, Vontaze Burfict, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mason Walters, Aaron Murray, D.J. Fluker, Sheldon Richardson
Class of 2010 (30)
Busts: Kyle Prater (No. 11), Jeff Luc (No. 26), Darius White (No. 27)
The evaluators did an amazing job with this class. Of the top 30, nearly 20 of them deserved a fifth star in the rankings as a long list of future NFL stars dot this group. Prater, Luc (right) and White all transferred without making any impact whatsoever at USC, Florida State or Texas respectively. And other names like Ronald Powell, Seantrel Henderson, Mike Davis, Xavier Grimble, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Reggie Wilson, Robert Crisp and Trovon Reed were solid contributors but are neither deserving of five-star nor bust status. What about Da’Rick Rogers and Michael Dyer? They were obviously extremely talented and productive while at Tennessee and Auburn but both were kicked off their teams only to land on their feet elsewhere. Where do they belong?
Deserving: Robert Woods, Dominique Easley, Jackson Jeffcoat, Sharrif Floyd, Jordan Hicks, Marcus Lattimore, Keenan Allen, Lamarcus Joyner, Dee Milliner, Matt Elam, William Gholston, Alec Ogletree, Christian Jones, Josh Shaw, George Uko, Ja’Wuan James, Lache Seastrunk
Class of 2011 (30)
Busts: Isaiah Crowell (No. 6), George Farmer (No. 8), Christian Westerman (No. 10), Trey Metoyer (No. 21)
There is still much left to be determined about this class. Names like Karlos Williams, Brandon Williams, Ray Drew, Curtis Grant and Malcolm Brown have a good chance to improve their legacies in 2014 while others like Christian Westerman, Jeff Driskel, Tony Steward and Ishaq Williams need to make big waves this fall to avoid being labeled a bust. Aaron Lynch is a unique case of obvious five-star talent but bouncing around from South Bend to Tampa will change his college legacy while not impacting his draft status much at all (he is highly regarded by scouts). To date, only Farmer and Metoyer have failed to make some sort of impact — be it good or bad (See: Crowell).
Deserving: Jadeveon Clowney, Cyrus Kouandjio, La’El Collins, Anthony Johnson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Timmy Jernigan, Jarvis Landry, De’Anthony Thomas, Stephone Anthony, Sammy Watkins, Anthony Chickillo, Steve Edmond, James Wilder
Class of 2012 (35)
Busts: Gunner Kiel (No. 27), Thomas Johnson (No. 33)
Even more so than the ’11 cycle, very little is known about this group as a whole. That said, many of these names have already made a huge impact on the positive side of the ledger and this five-star class looks like one of the best in recent memory. Jameis Winston is pretty good, right? What about DGB for Mizzou? What about Pac-12 offensive linemen Andrus Peat and Isaac Seumalo? How about Ohio State D-liners Noah Spence and Aldophus Washington? Or SEC running backs T.J. Yeldon and Keith Marshall? Or Duke Johnson and Tracy Howard at The U? Needless to say, it looks like the talent scouts pegged this class pretty accurately. There are loads of names who look poised to break out in ’14: Darius Hamilton, Eddie Williams, D.J. Humphries, Trey Williams or Arik Armstead. And if signing Winston wasn’t enough for Florida State, a trio of emerging five-stars look poised to defend their title in Mario Edwards, Eddie Goldman and Chris Casher. The closest to joining Kiel and Johnson in the bust category is Rushel Shell, who will need to be very good at West Virginia to avoid the moniker.
Deserving: Dorial Green-Beckham, Shaq Thompson, Noah Spence, Johnathan Gray, Landon Collins, Stefon Diggs, Keith Marshall, Jameis Winston, Duke Johnson, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Adolphus Washington, Tracy Howard, Ronald Darby, Isaac Seumalo, T.J. Yeldon, Andrus Peat, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Jenkins
The Class of 2013 is only a glimmer in the eye of college football fans right now but names like Robert Nkemdiche, Vernon Hargreaves, Su’a Cravens, Jalen Ramsey and Christian Hackenberg already looked poised to become superstars (if they aren’t already). And others like O.J. Howard, Derrick Henry, Laquon Treadwell, Kendall Fuller, Thomas Tyner, Chris Jones, Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams might not be too far behind.
Only time will tell if the upcoming group of five-stars, headlined by future LSU tailback Leonard Fournette, will continue the recent trend of spot-on evaluation.
Or if they will go the way of Aaron Corp and Gunner Kiel.