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Recruiting Analysis: Class of 2009 Re-Ranked

Clemson Tigers

Clemson Tigers

Recruiting, like the NFL Draft, is the lifeblood of the sport. But recruiting, just like the NFL Draft, is an inexact science. Five-star prospects have a significantly better shot at landing on All-American teams or getting drafted than two-star prospects. But busts and overlooked talents are a natural and inherent part of the process — just like the NFL Draft.

So Athlon Sports re-ranked the top 10 players of the 2009 class and asked 247Sports' national recruiting analyst Barton Simmons to look back at the evaluation process:

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1. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

Outside Linebacker No. 44, No. 567 nationally

Possibly the best pure tackler of this generation, Kuechly signed with BC as a mid-level recruit out of Ohio. He won all sorts of awards, broke all sorts of records and has quickly proven to be the best young linebacker in the NFL. Who was No. 1: Matt Barkley, QB, USC

Barton Simmons’ Take: “He came from one of the top programs in Ohio, he was big, he was productive, he was a high academic kid. Kuechly was one that the recruiting industry should have hit on.”

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2. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame

Inside Linebacker No. 1, No. 4 nationally

The most decorated player in NCAA history also helped return Notre Dame to national relevance with a trip to the BCS national title game. He was a second-round pick of the Chargers and a five-star stud coming out of high school. Who was No. 2: Bryce Brown, RB, Tennessee

Simmons’ Take: “An extremely athletic linebacker out of Hawaii, Te'o's instincts and playmaking ability were evident in high school. He was a can't-miss guy.” 

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3. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Offensive Tackle No. 12, No. 155 nationally

Lewan was a two-time All-American, two-time Big Ten lineman of the year, a first-round pick and three-time, first-team All-Big Ten pick. His personality is as big as his massive 6-foot-7, 310-pound frame. Who was No. 3: Russell Shepard, WR, LSU

Simmons’ Take: “Lewan's talent was undeniable. He was long and athletic but light. We knew he was going to be special with some added weight and strength.”

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4. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

Pro-style QB No. 2, No. 18 nationally

Despite always getting knocked for being undersized, all Murray did was become the SEC’s all-time leading passer in both yards and touchdowns. He was also five yards away from leading Georgia to the BCS national title game as a junior. Who was No. 4: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame

Simmons’ Take: “Murray's high school profile was similar to his college profile: not ideal size but fantastic productivity and leadership.”

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5. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

Dual-threat QB No. 3, No. 31 nationally

Like Murray, Boyd was highly recruited and developed into one of the most prolific passers in NCAA history. He owns most of the major ACC passing records and led Clemson to its only BCS bowl win. Who was No. 5: Jacobbi McDaniel, DT, Florida State

Simmons’ Take: “As a high schooler, Boyd was a productive QB that did a lot of things really well but wasn't spectacular in any one area. We knew he had an 'it' factor to him though.”

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6. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

Running Back No. 2, No. 6 nationally

A rare blend of power and speed, T-Rich helped Bama to two BCS titles during his three seasons. He backed up Heisman winner Mark Ingram for two seasons before finishing third in the Heisman voting and claiming the Doak Walker in his lone season as the starter (1,679 yards, 21 TD). Who was No. 6: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

Simmons’ Take: “I saw Trent rush for 419 yards and 6 touchdowns on 29 carries against Milton HS as a senior. He was so physical that it really wasn't fair. “

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7. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia

Outside Linebacker No. 4, No. 49 nationally

Jones was a monster sack artist off the edge but he took a long route to becoming a two-time All-American. After one year at USC, Jones wasn’t cleared medically to play and transferred back home to the Peach State where he terrorized SEC offensive lines for two seasons before landing in Pittsburgh as the 17th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Who was No. 7: Jelani Jenkins

Simmons’ Take: “Jones was a beast out of Columbus (Ga.) Carver and a tackling machine. Would he be a defensive end or a linebacker in college? That was about the only question mark.”

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8. Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

Inside Linebacker No. 122, No. 2233 nationally

Everyone missed on the Fort Pierce, Fla., prospect — recruiting services and head coaches alike. Mack was a three-time, first-team All-MAC player, an All-American and was the fifth pick in the most recent NFL Draft. He is in the running for AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors this season. Who was No. 8: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU

Simmons’ Take: “A total unknown, Mack had a hoops background and didn't have any film until his senior year.”

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9. Chance Warmack, G, Alabama

Offensive Guard No. 26, No. 461 nationally

Warmack was a part of three BCS national championship squads and was a unanimous All-American his final season. He paved the way for some of Alabama’s greatest offenses and was the No. 10 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Who was No. 9: Craig Loston, S, LSU

Simmons’ Take: “Chance was just overweight as a high school kid and a little sloppy but he was physical and clearly the talent was there.”

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10. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Athlete No. 31, No. 541 nationally

In a secondary loaded with talent — Eric Reid, Tyrann Mathieu — Claiborne was the least touted recruit but the most decorated college player. He won the Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year while going unbeaten and playing in the BCS title game. Who was No. 10: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State

Simmons’ Take: “A classic sleeper, Claiborne was an athlete playing QB on a sub-.500 team who LSU dug up late in the process.”

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Best of the Rest: 

* - indicates five-star prospects, Pos. Rk = position rank




Pos. Rk

National Rk

Will Sutton


No. 47 DT

No. 582

Fletcher Cox


No. 11 DT

No. 142

Matt Barkley*


No. 1 QB

No. 1

Cyril Richardson


No. 64 OT

No. 861

Tavon Austin


No. 22 WR

No. 163

Chris Borland


No. 78 ATH

No. 1,245

D.J. Fluker*


No. 3 OT

No. 28

Kyle Van Noy


No. 11 ATH

No. 228

Johnthan Banks


No. 41 S

No. 538

Montee Ball


No. 40 RB

No. 419

Eddie Lacy


No. 13 RB

No. 124

Alshon Jeffery


No. 12 WR

No. 107

Sheldon Richardson*


No. 5 DT

No. 30

Gabe Jackson


No. 61 OG

No. 909

John Simon


No. 14 DT

No. 167