As Grant reinforced earlier today, recruiting rankings is an inexact science, prone to all kinds of outside factors that have nothing to do with the sport itself. He explored the success that Ohio State has had “coaching up” 3 star talent, and now I’ll follow up with the other end of the spectrum. How a five star ranking can either be a great indicator of collegiate success, or an albatross hanging around the neck of the top prep players in the country.
There is no doubt that anyone who grabs a five star rating from any of the four major recruiting services undeniably has a ton of talent at their given position. The major difference is what that player decides to do with their talent once they reach the next level. Today we’ll take a look at varied successes that these five star talents have had in college, and coming up later this week we’ll take a look at why some of the most heralded prep players never really translated that to on-field production.
We’ll compare two five star talents at select positions from 2002 through 2008. I have used the Rivals.com ratings system to pull a five star talent from Ohio State and then the top player in the country that year at that position. Let’s get right to it.
5* RB #1: 2285 Career Yards, 19 Touchdowns, 6.3 yards per carry
5* RB #2: 1341 Career Yards, 18 Touchdowns, 5.7 yards per carry
2002 was, as everyone who reads this site knows, OSU’s last championship year. That year, an electrifying power back from Youngstown powered the Buckeyes to an improbably title run. His 18 touchdowns in his single season is just one less than the top RB in the country that year, Ciatrick Fason of Florida had in all three years of his collegiate career.
We all know the story of Maurice Clarett and what could have been had his career not been derailed. The good news is that he has turned his life around and is now an inspiration to football players everywhere.
5* WR #2: 135 Receptions, 15 touchdowns, 1943 total receiving yards
When I was compiling this research, I found this gem. Both Early Doucet, of LSU; and Ted Ginn, Jr., both had 1943 receiving yards in their careers. The only difference is that it only took 3 years for Teddy G as opposed to 4 for Early. This extra year for Doucet produced the additional 5 touchdowns and additional receptions, including 7 catches with one TD in the 2007 BCS title game. Both had decent careers at their respective universities, and now both play on Sundays.
5* RB #1: 3547 career yards, 32 touchdowns, 5.9 yards per carry
5* RB #2: 3382 career yards, 30 touchdowns, 5.8 yards per carry
This is a contrast in running styles that yielded almost exactly the same results. However, as we saw with Ted Ginn, OSU’s five star talent managed to put up the same numbers even though they had foregone their last year in school. Chris “Beanie” Wells put together a stellar career as that punishing power back that Jim Tressel loved so much, while C.J. Spiller of Clemson was carved in the same mold as Jordan Hall. A slippery eel of a runner, Spiller captured the eyes of the nation his Senior season and turned that into a continued NFL career, just as Beanie has.
5* WR #1: 179 Receptions, 15 touchdowns, 2653 total receiving yards
5* WR #2: 136 Receptions, 18 touchdowns, 1955 total receiving yards
5* QB #1: 6177 career passing yards, 57 touchdowns, 26 interceptions
5* QB #2: 6822 career passing yards, 40 touchdowns, 18 interceptions
We see here that the top WR in the country lived up to his five star potential, while another was hampered by an abbreviated Senior season. Had DeVier Posey not been suspended for most of the 2011 season, he projected to surpass Julio Jones in raw statistics. Posey already had more college TDs, and could have had anywhere from 6-8 more had the Tat5 scandal not occurred. Meanwhile, Jones was a favorite target of Greg McElroy during the Tide’s 2009 title season and went on to get drafted in the top ten.
Now we turn to a person who is probably the most polarizing figure in Ohio State’s last 30 years. Yet you cannot debate his on-field performance, regardless of the damage he left in his wake. Terrelle Pryor was the top QB in the country in 2008, and prolonged his commitment process before finally choosing “The University of Ohio State.” There are some of you out there who wish he would found that mythical university and gone there instead. As with Clarett, we know the circumstances of Pryor’s career, so let’s compare his 3 years to the three years of Blaine Gabbert, the #2 QB in the 2008 class. Gabbert played in a wide open offense at Mizzou, while Pryor was limited in his ability to air it out early on. Yet Pryor was able to throw more footballs into the endzone during his career.
As a math nerd, what these stats tell me is that, should you choose to apply yourself as a five star talent, and are fortunate enough to play significant time for 3 or more years, the likelihood of being drafted into the NFL is nearing the 100% mark. Ever player on this list has, at one time, been on an NFL roster, with the vast majority of them still suiting up on Sundays.
Later this week we’ll take a look at the other side of the coin, or what happens when you let your five star talent go to waste.