Another round of knee-jerk assessments, with a strong sprinkling of premature adulation, will fill recruiting websites and spill out of analysts’ lips Wednesday on National Signing Day.
Given time and player development, some of the lofty projections about blue-chip prospects will be justified. But many of this year’s most-heralded signees never will be remembered as impact players at the end of their college careers.
That happens every year. The latest examples can be found in the recruiting classes of 2009, the most eye-opening groups to date put under the microscope by the Star-Telegram with its analysis that focuses on signees’ accomplishments based on milestones reached in their college careers.
In examining the legacies of 2009 signees from former Big 12 South Division schools after the conclusion of most players’ five-year eligibility windows, it is clear that this is the class that formed the foundation for Baylor’s run to a 2013 Big 12 championship.
The Bears had more productive players than any class in the survey and did so by having 10 players score at least one point in the Star-Telegram’s formula — the most individual scorers by any single recruiting class in the four-year history of this survey.
Yet Baylor’s class was the lowest-ranked group among the six former South Division schools on 2009 National Signing Day, rated 55th nationally by Rivals. The Star-Telegram ranked Baylor’s class 10th among Big 12 schools, ahead of only Iowa State and Kansas State in an era when the league had 12 members.
At the other end of the recruiting spectrum, Texas’ top-ranked class from 2009 should be remembered as the one that marked the beginning of the end of the Mack Brown regime in Austin.
Despite landing six of the Star-Telegram Elite Eleven recruits in that class, only defensive end Alex Okafor wound up having a notable career (two-time All-Big 12 performer) among a six-pack of blue-chip signees for the Longhorns.
Two of Texas’ most cherished 2009 signees, five-star quarterback Garrett Gilbert and four-star offensive tackle Thomas Ashcraft, finished their careers at SMU after struggling in Austin. Texas’ 2009 signees rank ahead of only Texas A&M among the former South Division schools.
During the four-year history of the S-T analysis (2006-2009 classes), signees at A&M and Texas have been the least productive among the six schools from the former Big 12 South Division. That corresponds to a stretch when the Aggies and Longhorns combined for zero conference championships in the four seasons when those players would have been fifth-year seniors (2010-2013).
The top three schools in the survey all won at least one league title in the past four seasons: Oklahoma (titles in 2010, 2012); Oklahoma State (2011 title) and Baylor (2013 title).
For Baylor, the 2009 results underscore the program’s remarkable turnaround under coach Art Briles. In the two seasons before Briles arrived in Waco (2006 and 2007) the only signee of note was by punter Derek Epperson, a two-time All-Big 12 performer.
That stands in stunning contrast to the 2009 group, which included nine all-conference performers and one 2013 Pro Bowl receiver (Cleveland’s Josh Gordon) among the 29 signees.
Top players included offensive guard Cyril Richardson, a 2013 consensus all-American and two-time All-Big 12 performer from North Crowley, and quarterback Bryce Petty, the 2013 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and one of the preseason favorites in the 2014 Heisman Trophy race. Petty has another year of eligibility remaining because he signed in 2009 but did not enroll at Baylor until January 2010.
All other signees in the Bears’ productive 2009 class, which included a Big 12 rushing leader (RB Terrance Ganaway, 2011) and an NFL first-round draft choice (OT Danny Watkins) are out of eligibility.
Richardson (6-foot-5, 345 pounds), who moved to Fort Worth in 2006 after being displaced from his native New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, received only one scholarship offer from a Division I school: Baylor. He said that show of faith spurred him throughout his college career.
Briles cited Richardson, a large-but-unpolished prospect in high school, as an example of the type of player he seeks in efforts to elevate a once-struggling Baylor program that claimed its first outright conference football title in 33 years last season.
“When you recruit, you look for people that are not afraid to go down a path that no one’s ever been down,” Briles said. “We’ll always have mavericks and pioneers that come into this program because they feed off that type of atmosphere and that type of vision. You can sense that in a person’s personality and we’ve got a bunch of them.”
The ones who signed in 2009 just blew away recruiting analysts’ projections of their potential from national signing day. Their 2009 counterparts at Texas, meanwhile, helped open the door for a coaching change in Austin.
Regrading the class of 2009
55th nationally by Rivals
|Cyril Richardson, OG||2013 Consensus All-American;|
|Bryce Petty, QB||2013 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year|
|Terrance Ganaway, RB||2011 All-Big 12 (first team)|
|Philip Blake, OL||2011 All-Big 12 (first team)|
|Josh Gordon, WR||Early NFL departee in 2012|
|Danny Watkins, OL||2010 All-Big 12 (second team)|
|Tevin Reese, WR||2013 All-Big 12 (second team)|
|Chris McAllister, DE||2013 All-Big 12 (second team)|
|Ivory Wade, OL||2012 All-Big 12 (second team)|
|Byron Landor, S||2010 All-Big 12 (second team)|
|Eric Ward, WR||2011-13 All-Big 12 (second team each year)|
|Kerry Hyder, DL||2012 All-Big 12 (first team), 2013 All-Big 12 (second team)|
|LaAdrian Waddle, OT||2012 All-Big 12 (first team)|
|Eric Stephens, RB-KR||2010 All-Big 12 (second team)|
|Gabe Ikard, OL||2011-13 All-Big 12 (first team each year)|
|Ronnell Lewis, DL-LB||2011 All-Big 12 (second team)|
|Parker Graham, OL||2013 All-Big 12 (first team)|
|Andrew McGee, DB||2010 All-Big 12 (first-team)|
|Clint Chelf, QB||2013 All-Big 12 (second team)|
|Daytawion Lowe, DB||2013 All-Big 12 (second team)|
|Alex Okafor, DE||2011-12 All-Big 12 (first team)|
|Kenny Vaccaro, DB||2011-12 All-Big 12 (second team)|
|Ryan Swope, WR||2011 All-Big 12 (second team)|
|Sean Porter, LB||2011 All-Big 12 (second team)|