Each year, Athlon Sports takes a look back at one recruiting class to figure out what happened to the best and brightest prospects in the nation.
The 2008 class was as heralded as any in modern era of recruiting rankings and was highlighted by a number of potential first round picks. The wide receiver class in particular was incredibly talented with names like Julio Jones and A.J. Green ranked in the top 10 coming out of high school.
Jones and Green weren’t the only All-Americans ranked in the top 40 as high school players though. Seven years later, here is a look at the top 40 players in the 2008 recruiting cycle as ranked by Athlon Sports, what they accomplished in college and what they are doing now.
1. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State
Jeannette (Pa.) High
A two-sport state champion, Pryor took to the limelight, extending his decision to sign well beyond National Signing Day. Six weeks later, the star quarterback inked with Ohio State over Oregon, Penn State and Michigan. By the fourth game of his career, Pryor was the starting quarterback, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors en route to the first of three straight Big Ten championships. However, following his junior season, his career in Columbus came to an end when an NCAA investigation discovered improper benefits and activities. He was the centerpiece of the scandal that led to the firing of coach Jim Tressel and the suspension of other key players. On June 7, 2011, Pryor withdrew from Ohio State with a 31–4 record as the starter. He was taken by the Oakland Raiders in the third round of the 2011 Supplemental Draft.
2. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Foley (Ala.) High
One of the most coveted prospects in recent memory, Jones signed with Alabama over Florida, Oklahoma and Florida State. He caught a touchdown in four of his first five college games, quickly showing a truly rare blend of size and speed. The wideout helped lead Bama back to a national title as a sophomore and a 10–3 record as a junior. Jones finished second in school history in receptions (179) and yards (2,653) and fourth in touchdowns (15) despite playing just three years in a run-first offense. The Atlanta Falcons traded most of their draft to move up and select the star wideout with the sixth overall pick in 2011.
3. Darrell Scott, RB, Colorado
Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure
Born in Tallahassee, Fla., Scott grew up in Texas and California, where he developed into one of the best running back prospects in the nation. He rushed for nearly 6,000 yards and 79 touchdowns in his final two prep seasons at two different California high schools. He picked Colorado over Texas, Florida and LSU. After two undistinguished seasons in Boulder, he transferred to South Florida. He posted career highs in 2011 for the Bulls, rushing for 814 yards and five touchdowns. After three unremarkable seasons at two schools, Scott left early for the NFL and went undrafted in 2012.
4. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Bamberg (S.C.) Bamberg-Ehrhardt
A freak athlete, Bowers excelled at defensive end, running back and kick returner his final season in high school. At Clemson, he contributed immediately as a freshman and continued to develop as a sophomore, posting 18.5 tackles for a loss in his first two seasons. As a junior, he led the nation in tackles for a loss (26.0) and sacks (15.5), earning consensus All-America honors. He took home the Nagurski, Ted Hendricks and ACC Defensive Player of the Year awards and departed early for the NFL. Major knee issues caused his NFL stock to drop, resulting in Tampa Bay selecting Bowers with the 51st overall pick in the 2011 Draft.
5. Will Hill, S, Florida
West Orange (N.J.) St. Peter’s
Hill did everything for St. Peter’s, playing quarterback, running back, wide receiver and defensive back. He picked Florida and went on to become an SEC All-Freshman in 2008 after recording 48 tackles and two INTs en route to the BCS National Championship. Hill never developed into a star, however, and finished with 144 career tackles and four career picks. He declared early for the NFL but went undrafted. In May 2012, he signed with the New York Giants and played in 12 games as a rookie.
6. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Summerville (S.C.) High
Forever linked with Julio Jones, Green signed with Georgia after a high-profile and extremely productive high school career. Like Jones, Green brought rare size, length, big-play ability and speed to the college game the second he stepped onto campus. And like Jones, he caught a touchdown in his first college game. He never posted a 1,000-yard season, but Green led the SEC in receiving yards (963) and touchdowns (eight) as a freshman. He finished his career with 166 receptions, 2,619 yards and 23 scores before leaving early for the NFL. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and has had one of the best statistical starts of any wide receiver in NFL history.
7. Arthur Brown, LB, Miami
Wichita (Kan.) East
After a long and high-profile recruitment, Brown signed with Miami over powerhouses like LSU and Florida. After struggling his first two seasons in Coral Gables, he transferred back home to Kansas State. Once back in the Sunflower State, Brown flourished, earning Big 12 Newcomer of the Year in 2011 after recording 101 tackles. He returned for his senior season and helped lead the Wildcats to a Big 12 title and earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors after another 100-tackle season. The Cats went 21–5 during his tenure.
8. Jermie Calhoun, RB, Oklahoma
Van (Texas) High
Garnering unwarranted comparisons to Adrian Peterson, the Lone Star State runner went North to Oklahoma and never realized his potential. He rushed for just 242 yards and one touchdown before transferring to Angelo (Texas) State in 2011. He rushed for 341 yards and two touchdowns in 2012 for the Rams.
9. Patrick Johnson, CB, LSU
Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely
The highly coveted prospect changed his name from Johnson to Peterson in August 2008 prior to playing a down for LSU. He played in all 13 games as a freshman, starting the final four games. His elite athletic ability was obvious, not only on defense but also on special teams. The accolades piled up as Peterson won the Thorpe and Bednarik awards as the nation’s top defensive back and top defensive player. He was a consensus All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and also racked up 1,350 yards and two touchdowns as a return man. He left LSU early and was the fifth overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
10. R.J. Washington, DE, Oklahoma
Fort Worth (Texas) Keller Fossil Ridge
Washington never lived up to the hype of being ranked the No. 2 defensive end in the nation. He played in 40 career games but started just six in his career, all during his senior season in 2012. His tenure in Norman ended with 57 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, 7.0 sacks and one forced fumble.
11. Marcus Forston, DT, Miami
Miami (Fla.) Northwestern
The star prep nose tackle was the most high-profile member of the 2007 Miami Northwestern state championship team that sent seven prospects to Miami and Lavonte David (eventually) to Nebraska. Forston played in 12 games as a freshman and earned Freshman All-America honors. After a promising first season, Forston missed all but three games as a sophomore due to injury. Returning in 2010, the big nose guard started 12 games and posted 37 tackles with 12 tackles for a loss. However, a knee injury ended his 2011 season after just three games. His collegiate career ended when he declared early for the NFL Draft. He went unselected, but made the New England Patriots practice squad in 2012.
12. Michael Brewster, OL, Ohio State
Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater
The 6'5", 305-pound pivot is one of the greatest centers to play at Ohio State. He entered the starting lineup in the fourth game of his college career as a freshman and never let go. His 49 consecutive starts comprised the second-longest streak in school history. He earned Freshman All-America honors in 2008 and was a Rimington Trophy finalist in 2010. The star center played in 51 games and was a part of three Big Ten championships. He went undrafted in 2012 but started seven games for the Jaguars as a rookie.
13. Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall
Hailing from one of the most talent-rich high schools in the Midwest, Floyd burst onto the scene at Notre Dame as a freshman by playing in 11 games and setting school freshman records for receptions (48), yards (719) and touchdowns (7). He dealt with minor injuries and off-the-field issues throughout his career in South Bend, but he rewrote the Irish receiving record book. He set school marks for receptions (271), yards (3,689), touchdowns (37) and 100-yard efforts (16) to go with the single-season record for catches (100) in 2011. He was the 13th overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
14. Nigel Bradham, LB, Florida State
Crawfordville (Fla.) Wakulla
Bradham never became the superstar the experts imagined, but he was a dependable three-year starter for the Seminoles. He became the first Noles defender to lead the team in tackles for three consecutive years since Marvin Jones did it in the early ’90s. His career culminated by being named All-ACC honorable mention in 2011. Bradham was selected 105th overall in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. He started 11 games and posted 57 tackles as a rookie last season.
15. Blake Ayles, TE, USC
Orange (Calif.) Lutheran
Ayles played for three seasons at USC, catching just 14 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown. He transferred to Miami and was set to contribute in 2011 before a preseason concussion ended his college career. He never played another down and went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft.
16. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
Aliquippa (Pa.) High
Another big-bodied receiver in the ’08 receiver class, Baldwin made a quick impact. As a sophomore, he had 57 receptions for 1,111 yards as the school’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2004. He was first-team All-Big East and received some All-America recognition. He finished his three-year career with 128 catches, 2,337 yards and 16 touchdowns before leaving early for the NFL Draft. He was a first-round pick by the Chiefs in 2011 but has yet to deliver in the professional ranks.
17. DeAndre Brown, WR, Southern Miss
Ocean Springs (Miss.) High
Fans in Hattiesburg wonder what could have been with Brown. He dominated Conference USA as a freshman, setting a school record with 67 receptions. Yet, his first season ended when he suffered a gruesome broken leg in the bowl game. From there, Brown was never the same player. He is second in Southern Miss history with 24 TD catches, third with 2,207 yards and fifth with 134 catches. He went undrafted, and his NFL career consists of a 15-day stint with the Eagles.
18. Matt Kalil, OL, USC
Corona (Calif.) Servite
Kalil was the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, started all 16 games in front of Adrian Peterson and earned a Pro Bowl invite as a Minnesota Vikings rookie. With a father, Frank, and brother, Ryan, excelling as not only college stars but also NFL performers, the youngest Kalil was well prepared for life at USC. He started for two full seasons protecting Matt Barkley’s blind side without allowing a sack in 2011.
19. Richard Samuel, RB, Georgia
Cartersville (Ga.) Cass
Samuel never settled into one position while in Athens during his injury-plagued career. He played running back in his first two seasons, rushing for 528 yards before redshirting in 2010 to facilitate a move to linebacker. However, he moved back to running back for his final two seasons, rushing for just 305 yards in 2011 and ’12.
20. Dayne Crist, QB, Notre Dame
Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame
Injuries played a role in Crist being labeled a bust, but he had his chances and failed to come close to his lofty recruiting status. He played in just 17 games for Notre Dame in three years (2,327 yards, 16 TDs, eight INTs) before transferring to Kansas to reunite with Charlie Weis. As a Jayhawk, he had yet another shot at being the star but managed to throw just four touchdowns with nine interceptions in 2012.
21. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside
On one hand, Manuel dealt with injuries and inconsistency throughout his career and was never a first-team All-ACC quarterback. On the other, he is third all-time at Florida State with 25 wins in 31 starts; he led the Noles back to an ACC championship; he completed a school-record 66.9-percent of his passes; and he became the second quarterback in NCAA history to win four consecutive bowl games. He finished third all-time in school history for passing yards (7,736), third in total offense (8,563), fourth in completions (600) and seventh in TDs passes (47). Manuel was selected by Buffalo with the No. 16 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
22. B.J. Scott, ATH, Alabama
Prichard (Ala.) Vigor
Scott projected as an “athlete” because of his potential at both defensive back and wide receiver. It turns out that he wasn’t good enough at either to stick at Alabama. He transferred to South Alabama and finished third on the team with 84 tackles in 2012.
23. Tyler Love, OL, Alabama
Mountain Brook (Ala.) High
Nick Saban rarely misses on 5-star talent, but Love will end his Tide career as an afterthought on some of the most talented teams in program history. He played a total of 14 games in his four-year career and decided to step away from football after the 2011 season with one year of eligibility remaining.
24. DeAngelo Tyson, DT, Georgia
Statesboro (Ga.) High
The big in-state lineman was never a star in Athens but was a consistent, dependable member of the defense for four years and helped return the Bulldogs defense to prominence in 2010. He was named to the SEC All-Freshman team by the coaches in 2008 and played in 13 games in 2009 before entering the starting lineup as a junior. He started 23 games over his final two years, posting 56 tackles and 7.5 tackles for a loss. Tyson was drafted by the Ravens in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, playing in 10 games for the Super Bowl champs.
25. Mike Adams, OL, Ohio State
Dublin (Ohio) Coffman
Adams was an integral part of the highly touted 2008 Ohio State offensive line class. Playing for three Big Ten title teams, he started five games his first two seasons and earned all-conference honors in his final two seasons. Like teammate Terrelle Pryor, Adams was named in the tattoo scandal that brought NCAA sanctions to Ohio State. The Steelers made him a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
26. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder
Rudolph became the first Notre Dame tight end to start every game of his freshman season before injuries limited his sophomore and junior seasons. His final three-year stat line of 90 receptions, 1,032 yards and eight touchdowns seems underwhelming, but he showed enough to be a second-round draft pick of the Vikings after three seasons. He has established himself as one of the most dynamic players at his position in the NFL.
27. Tyron Smith, OL, USC
Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde
Smith and Matt Kalil gave USC two first-round picks in one offensive line class. Smith appeared in 10 games as a freshman and started 12 as a sophomore, earning All-Pac-10 honorable mention in the process. As a starting right tackle in 2010, Smith earned the Morris Trophy as the league’s top offensive lineman before leaving early for the NFL. He was the ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Cowboys, and he has started 31 games since.
28. T.J. Bryant, DB, USC
Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln
The cross-country trip from Florida to Los Angeles didn’t work as Bryant had planned. After a suspension in his final year at USC, Bryant transferred to Troy, where he played 10 games and picked up 22 tackles in 2012.
29. Stephen Good, OL, Oklahoma
Paris (Texas) High
Expectations were high for Good after he was a part-time starter as a sophomore, but he never locked down a starting spot as an upperclassman. He was arrested in a nightclub altercation near the end of his college career and went undrafted in 2012.
30. Aldarius Johnson, WR, Miami
Miami (Fla.) Northwestern
The second-highest rated Hurricanes recruit from Miami Northwestern, Johnson made a quick impact with the Canes, leading the team with 31 receptions, 332 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman. His numbers dropped from there, and he was eventually suspended as a senior for his connection to the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
31. Matt Patchan, OL, Florida
Tampa (Fla.) Armwood
After a dramatic recruitment, Patchan had an injury-plagued career at Florida. He started his career as a defensive lineman and missed most of 2009 and all of 2010 with injuries. He returned as an offensive tackle in 2011 and missed all of 2012 due to injury. Patchan transferred to Boston College, where he’s expected to start in 2013.
32. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Ballwin (Mo.) Parkway West
A one-time Nebraska commit, Gabbert ended up as a backup to Chase Daniel at Missouri as a freshman. Becoming the starter in 2009, he threw for 6,779 yards and 40 touchdowns over the next two seasons while leading Mizzou to an 18–8 record. His marquee win over Oklahoma in 2010 was the first for the Tigers over OU since 1998 and just the second since 1983. He was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 10th overall pick in 2011 and set a franchise rookie record with 14 starts.
33. Etienne Sabino, LB, Ohio State
North Miami Beach (Fla.) Dr. Krop
It took a long time for Sabino to earn his starting spot, but as a senior in 2012 he was named a team co-captain and starting linebacker. Sabino finished with 119 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. He was a member of two Big Ten championship teams and was a leader on the undefeated 2012 squad.
34. D.J. Shoemate, WR, USC
Corona (Calif.) Servite
A fullback and wide receiver at USC, Shoemate played in 21 games but never had a defined role. Shoemate eventually transferred to UConn, where he played in 15 games in two years before shoulder injuries ended his career.
35. Lucas Nix, OL, Pittsburgh
Jefferson Hills (Pa.) Thomas Jefferson
The massive offensive lineman started as a sophomore, paving the way for Dion Lewis’ 1,799-yard season in 2009. Nix started 12 games as a junior and played eight games as a senior before going undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft. However, Nix earned a spot on the Oakland Raiders roster and played in one game as a rookie last season.
36. Ethan Johnson, DL, Notre Dame
Portland (Ore.) Lincoln
The cross-country recruit was never a star in South Bend but played a lot of football. He played in every game during his first three seasons with the Irish, starting 24 of 25 games in 2009-10. Johnson finished his Notre Dame career with 97 total tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks and one blocked kick. He went undrafted in 2012 but landed on the practice squad with the Kansas City Chiefs.
37. Baker Steinkuhler, OL, Nebraska
Lincoln (Neb.) Southwest
Steinkuhler came to Lincoln with high expectations as the son of legendary Nebraska Hall of Famer Dean Steinkuhler. After a redshirt season in 2008, the younger Steinkuhler made a name for himself in a big way. He finished his career with 150 total tackles, 17 tackles for a loss and eight sacks to go with three division titles. He was a Big 12 All-Freshman selection in 2009 and second-team All-Big Ten in 2012.
38. Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
Manassas (Va.) Stonewall Jackson
An unexpected starter as a redshirt freshman, Williams replaced the injured Darren Evans for a record-breaking season. Williams set a single-season school and ACC freshman record with 1,655 yards in addition to an ACC-record 22 touchdowns. He capped his first season as the ACC’s Rookie of the Year, a first-team All-ACC selection and the Chick-fil-A Bowl MVP. After an injury-shortened sophomore season, Williams left school early and was drafted in the second round by the Arizona Cardinals with the 38th overall pick. The explosive tailback has missed 27 of his first 32 professional games due to injury.
39. DeVier Posey, WR, Ohio State
Cincinnati (Ohio) LaSalle
A high-profile member of the heralded ’08 Buckeyes signing class, Posey played in all 12 games as a freshman before posting big numbers as a sophomore (60 receptions, 828 yards, eight TDs) and junior (53 receptions, 848 yards, seven TDs) alongside his star quarterback, Terrelle Pryor. Yet, much like Pryor, Adams and Dan Herron, Posey was implicated in the tattoo scandal that resulted in Jim Tressel’s ouster in Columbus. He played three games as a senior and was drafted in the third round by the Houston Texans in the 2012 NFL Draft.
40. Dan Buckner, WR, Texas
Allen (Texas) High
A dominant physical specimen at 6'4" and 220 pounds, Buckner showed loads of promise, playing in all 12 games as a true freshman. He then started eight games as a sophomore, catching 45 passes for 442 yards and four touchdowns on an undefeated regular-season Big 12 title team that lost to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game. Following an arrest in College Station, Buckner transferred to Arizona, where he sat out the 2010 season. In two seasons in the desert, Buckner caught 103 passes for 1,379 yards and seven scores.