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:
21. Taylor Mays, S, Seattle, WA, USC
The son of former NFL defensive lineman Stafford Mays earned his first career start in the second week of his true freshman season. He started the next 12 games and became only the third Trojan in school history to earn Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors. Mays earned third-team All-America honors from the AP in 2007 before claiming consensus first-team All-America recognition following his junior and senior seasons. The Thorpe Award finalist in 2009 finished his career with 276 total tackles, five interceptions and three Rose Bowl titles. Mays was selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Interestingly, Mays’ former coach, Pete Carroll (now in Seattle), passed on his former safety to select Texas safety Earl Thomas in the first round, prompting a verbal sparring match between the two.
22. LeSean McCoy, RB, Harrisburg, PA, Miami
McCoy originally signed with Miami but ended up in prep school after failing to qualify academically. In his first season at Pitt, McCoy exploded onto the scene by setting a then-Big East freshman rushing record with 1,328 yards. He broke Tony Dorsett’s Pitt freshman records for points (90) and rushing touchdowns (14). He ended his first season by rushing for 148 yards as the Panthers, a 28-point underdog, shocked West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl. McCoy earned unanimous Freshman All-America honors as well as the Big East Freshman of the Year award. As a sophomore, McCoy rushed for 1,403 yards and 23 touchdowns and was named to several All-America teams. He declared for the NFL Draft after only two seasons at Pitt and was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round in 2009.
23. Deon Beasley, CB, Orange, TX, Texas
Beasley played in 45 games in his four-year career, with 12 starts. He recorded 99 tackles, 18 passes deflected, three interceptions and two sacks.
24. Jamar Hornsby, ATH, Jacksonville, FL, Florida
As a sign of things to come, Hornsby was suspended for five games of his redshirt freshman season (2007) for illegally selling his complimentary game tickets. Then in May 2008, he was arrested for using the credit card of a former Florida student who had been killed in a motorcycle accident the previous October. He was kicked off the Florida football team and eventually signed with Ole Miss in February 2009, though he never played a down for the Rebels. Hornsby was released from his scholarship in July 2009 after he was indicted on a felony assault charge for attacking a man with brass knuckles in March 2009 at a McDonald’s drive-thru. Last summer, Hornsby was sentenced to six months in prison and fined. However, his second crime violated the terms of his first arrest’s probation and resulted in another 90-day jail sentence that began in February.
25. Nate Byham, TE, Franklin, PA, Pittsburgh
Byham made little impact in the passing game for the Panthers, finishing his career with 47 receptions, 612 yards and three scores. But his final season was his best as a Panther despite catching only 10 passes. The bruising second-team All-Big East blocker paved the way for Dion Lewis’ record-setting freshman campaign in 2009. As one of the nation’s top blocking tight ends, Byham was drafted by the 49ers in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
26. C.J. Gable, ATH, Sylmar, CA, USC
Gable got his career started with a bang against Arkansas in 2006 when he became the first freshman running back to start a season opener for USC. Gable was a solid contributor but saw his touches decrease every season, due in part to nagging injuries. He set career highs in 2008 with 617 yards and nine total touchdowns. Yet, he totaled only 355 yards rushing over his final two seasons with only one touchdown.
27. Jarred Fayson, ATH, Tampa, FL, Florida
Fayson earned a national championship ring with the Gators in 2006 and was a contributor at running back, wide receiver and on special teams in 2007. After deciding to transfer to Illinois, Fayson sat out the 2008 campaign. He played sparingly in 2009, finishing with 16 catches for 218 yards and one touchdown. He became a bigger part of the offense as a senior in 2010, setting career highs in receptions (38) and yards (355).
28. Allen Bradford, ATH, San Bernardino, CA, USC
The safety turned running back saw action in 24 of his first 26 games for the Trojans before a bad hip injury ended his junior season. He was allowed to redshirt that season (2008) and returned to the lineup in 2009, finishing as the team’s No. 2 rusher with 668 yards and eight touchdowns. Bradford began his final season as the starter and ended his career with a 212-yard swan song in a win over rival UCLA. He rushed for 1,585 yards and 16 touchdowns as a Trojan.
29. Tim Tebow, QB, Ponta Verda Beach, FL, Florida
Tebow might be the most decorated player in the history of college football. He won two national championship rings and a Heisman Trophy, and he set a slew of school, conference and national records. As a freshman, Tebow performed spot duty on a national championship team. The following season, Tebow became the first player in Division I history to throw and run for 20 touchdowns in a season — also becoming the first sophomore to claim the Heisman. He led the 2008 Gators to an SEC title and the school’s second national championship in three years. As a senior, he saw his bid for a third national title come up short when the Gators lost to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship Game. The Maxwell and Davey O’Brien Trophy winner finished his UF career with 9,285 yards passing, 2,947 yards rushing and 145 total touchdowns. The Denver Broncos traded up to select Tebow with the 25th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
30. Connor Smith, OL, Cincinnati, OH, Ohio State
The son of former Buckeye offensive lineman Joe Smith (1979-82) earned Gatorade Ohio Player of the Year honors in 2005. He was a four-year lettermen for the Buckeyes but did not start a game in his career.