by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)
Every year, millions of dollars and man hours are spent trying to acquire talent by college football programs across this great country. Attempting to rank these players has become as big a part of the college football machine as tailgating on Saturdays. Each cycle, recruiting experts evaluate the best our nation's prep ranks have to offer, and every year, the rankings offer future stars as well as total busts.
In the 2011 College Football preview magazine, Athlon Sports looked back on how the Top 40 propects from the Class of 2006 fared on the college gridiron:
1. Chris Wells, RB, Akron, OH, Ohio State
There was little doubt as to where Wells would end up playing college football, as his famous quote indicated: “I think I came out of my mom’s womb wanting to go to Ohio State.” Wells, the MVP of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, made an immediate impact as a freshman. His 52-yard, game-changing run against Michigan helped the Buckeyes clinch a spot in the national title game. The next season, on the legs of the first team All-Big Ten running back, the Buckeyes made their second straight national title game appearance. Despite battling nagging injuries throughout his career, Wells finished with 3,382 yards and 30 touchdowns in 36 games. He left school early and was selected with the 31st pick in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
2. Andre Smith, OL, Birmingham, AL, Alabama
The nation’s No. 1 offensive lineman got his college career started with a bang when he pulled out the signature houndstooth hat during his creative announcement on Signing Day. The big bulldozer earned Freshman All-America honors in 2006, first-team All-SEC recognition in 2007 and was a consensus All-American in 2008. Smith was suspended for the Sugar Bowl after his junior season, and he declared for the NFL Draft shortly thereafter. He was selected in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals. After he had disrobed defensive linemen for three years, it was a shirtless Pro Day appearance that has left the lasting (not-so-slender) image of Smith.
3. Sam Young, OL, Coral Springs, FL, Notre Dame
Young became an instant starter at Notre Dame as a freshman and was a stalwart for the Irish offensive line for four years. He started all 50 games of his Notre Dame career — an Irish record. He was selected in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys.
4. Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma City, OK, Oklahoma
After redshirting as a freshman, McCoy went on to be a three-year starter for the Sooners. After a 34-tackle, six-sack season as a junior, McCoy earned All-America honors. He finished his career with 33 tackles for a loss and 14.5 sacks. McCoy was drafted No. 3 overall by the Tampa Bay Bucs in the 2010 NFL Draft.
5. Vidal Hazelton, WR, Staten Island, NY, USC
The public disagreement between Vidal and his father, Dexter, extended Hazelton’s recruitment until long after Signing Day. The father, who wanted his son to go to Penn State, refused to sign his son’s letter-of-intent to USC. Finally, 23 days after Signing Day, Hazelton put pen to paper for the Trojans. He caught one pass as a freshman and then had 50 receptions for 540 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore. He was plagued by injuries in 2008 and then transferred to Cincinnati for his final season of eligibility. Poised to be a big contributor in 2010 for the Bearcats, Hazelton caught six passes for 63 yards in his first game, against Fresno State, before being carted off the field with a torn ACL that ended his collegiate career.
6. Sergio Kindle, LB, Dallas, TX, Texas
From famed Woodrow Wilson High School, Kindle entered college with a gaudy résumé. The two-way star posted 411 tackles and 86 rushing touchdowns in his final three prep seasons. After playing a backup role as a freshman and sophomore, Kindle broke into the starting lineup as a junior. He switched full-time to end as a senior and finished his career with 151 tackles, 16.5 sacks and 33.5 tackles for a loss. Kindle was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
7. Myron Rolle, S, Galloway, NJ, Florida State
Few top-10 recruits can claim similar experiences to Rolle’s. A first-team Freshman All-American, Rolle started at safety, earned his degree in two-and-a-half years, became the only FSU football player to claim the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, postponed his NFL career to study at Oxford and started a free health services clinic in the Bahamas called the Myron L. Rolle Foundation. The extraordinary safety was selected in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans.
8. Percy Harvin, WR, Virginia Beach, VA, Florida
Few players in college football history have been as productive as Harvin. Used as both a receiver and running back, Harvin totaled 1,929 yards receiving on 133 career receptions while rushing for 1,852 yards on 194 career attempts. He scored 32 career offensive touchdowns. He played in, and won, two national championship games. He touched the ball 14 times in each game, scoring in both and amassing 253 total yards. The two-time All-American dealt with injuries his entire career in Gainesville or the numbers could have been better. He was selected in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings.
9. Micah Johnson, LB, Fort Campbell, KY, Kentucky
Kentucky’s reigning Mr. Football earned Freshman All-SEC honors in 2006. The season ended with Kentucky’s first bowl win since 1984. In that game, a Music City Bowl victory over Clemson, Johnson scored the only offensive touchdown of his career on his second and final rushing attempt. A part of the first Kentucky team to go to four straight bowl games, the two-time All-SEC performer registered 285 career tackles. The Cats went 3–1 in bowl games during Johnson’s time in Lexington.
10. Mitch Mustain, QB, Springdale, AR, Arkansas
Mustain had a roller-coaster ride of a college career. As part of the “Springdale 5,” he headed to Fayetteville with high school head coach Gus Malzahn and three other prep teammates. As a true freshman, Mustain was promoted to the starting lineup in Week 2 and finished the season with an impressive 8–0 record as the starter. Despite his early success, he was replaced as the starter later in the year by Casey Dick, and when Malzahn left for Tulsa after the ’06 season, Mustain decided to transfer to USC. The perennial backup never lived up to the recruiting hype and did not start a game during his three years at USC. He was arrested this past February for selling prescription amphetamines.