Receiving a recruiting ranking means something, but being considered a 5-star talent is a completely different level of excellence on the high school football gridiron. Whether being "the man" in a big market or in a smaller classification, most 5-star recruits have hit the camp circuit to prove their worth against the best of the best. When recruiting services break down the elite, what separates the cream of the crop from the rest? And how might a re-ranking look after just one season on the collegiate gridiron?
There is no surprise to see where the top five players from the 2020 recruiting class signed, given the current FBS landscape. The top-rated recruit, defensive tackle Bryan Bresee, went to Clemson; quarterback Bryce Young signed with Alabama; wide receiver Julian Fleming wound up at Ohio State; Arizona cornerback Kelee Ringo signed with Georgia; and tight end phenom Arik Gilbert joined defending national champion LSU.
Did the experts get it right? We’ll take a deeper look.
Note: Ranking is according to the 247Sports Composite.
DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson (No. 1)
As well as Clemson recruits, even a 5-star may have trouble seeing time on the field as a true freshman, especially at a position that requires more than just size. Bresee made it look easy, collecting the fourth-most snaps for the Tigers while starting 10 of 12 games for the ACC champs and College Football Playoff participant. Bresee tallied 33 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, and came up with four sacks on his way to being named ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and receiving freshman All-American recognition from several outlets.
QB Bryce Young, Alabama (No. 2)
Before Young left southern California enrolling at Alabama, dreams of starting during his freshman season hoisting an SEC championship and winning the national title surely filled his head. He got to hoist the trophies, but as a backup to Heisman Trophy finalist Mac Jones. Jones led the nation in passing yards (4,500), completion percentage (77.4), and QB rating (203.1) giving Young time to learn the system. As Jones' backup, mostly in mop-up duty, Young completed 13 of 22 passes for 156 yards with one touchdown.
WR Julian Fleming, Ohio State (No. 3)
The Buckeyes struggled to put together a five-game Big Ten schedule and was given a pass to their conference championship game. Ohio State made the most of its limited opportunities, winning another Big Ten title, beating Clemson in the College Football Playoff before falling to Alabama in the national championship game. Fleming was primarily an observer on the sidelines his first season, appearing in seven games and catching a total of seven passes for 74 yards.
CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia (No. 4)
Injuries hampered Ringo before the season even started. He suffered a shoulder injury in fall camp and eventually underwent surgery. He returned to practice in December but never saw the field, taking a redshirt.
TE Arik Gilbert, LSU (No. 5)
Earning Freshman All-SEC honors counts, giving Gilbert his A. Opting out in December after eight games… well that is something else. Gilbert ended this shortened season third on the team in receptions (35), fourth in receiving yards (368), and tied for fourth in touchdown catches (2). However, he's one-and-done in Baton Rouge as he announced on Jan. 31 that he will be transferring to Florida.
Other 2020 5-Star Recruits Worthy of Top-5 Reconsideration
DE Myles Murphy, Clemson (No. 7)
Murphy was a no-doubt top-10 recruit who arguably outplayed that status. The former Hillgrove (Ga.) star got after it for Clemson, finishing fourth on the team in tackles (51). He led the Tigers with 12 tackles for a loss and tied for second with four sacks.
QB D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson (No. 10)
Clemson fans had a love affair with Trevor Lawrence, but will end up falling head over heels for Uiagalelei. The former MaxPreps national championship-winning quarterback from southern California powerhouse St. John Bosco made two starts for the Tigers while Lawrence was sidelined by COVID-19. In his first start, Uiagalelei threw for 342 yards with two touchdowns against Boston College. When the chips were on the table, he tore apart then-No. 4 Notre Dame for 439 yards with two scores and also ran in a touchdown in the thrilling, double-overtime loss in South Bend. In 10 total games, Uiagalelei threw for 914 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions among his 117 pass attempts.
CB Eli Ricks, LSU (No. 14)
Coming from Mater Dei in California’s Trinity League to IMG Academy in Florida, Ricks was no stranger to speedy receivers that run cut-throat routes. All the high school preparation paid off instantly as Ricks earned Freshman All-SEC honors. Playing opposite Derek Stingley Jr., Ricks saw more action and he responded with 20 tackles, five pass breakups, and a team-high four interceptions.
RB Bijan Robinson, Texas (No. 15)
Robinson was another former Arizona talent that hit the collegiate field as a 5-star performer, and he lived up to it. Robinson led the Longhorns in rushing with 703 yards on 86 attempts (8.2 ypc). He also contributed as a receiver (15 rec., 196 yds.) and scored six total touchdowns (four rushing). He saved for his best for last, with 355 rushing yards and all six of his touchdowns in Texas' final two games. He's already generating some offseason Heisman buzz.
WR Kayshon Boutte, LSU (No. 24)
As mayhem ensued around the LSU program, between three starting quarterbacks, COVID-related setbacks, and the coaching disagreements, Boutte rose above the noise to lead the Tigers in receiving yards (735). With No. 1 wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase opting out before the season and Terrace Marshall Jr. and tight end Arik Gilbert doing the same before it was over, Boutte made the most of his increased opportunities. He led the Tigers with 735 receiving yards, 308 of those coming in the regular-season finale against Ole Miss where he set a new SEC single-game record.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.
(Top photo by MG Miller, courtesy of lsusports.net)