|A lot was expected of Bryce Brown at Tennessee, but he ended up a bust. (US Presswire)|
College football recruiting has been around for decades, but it's only in the last 10 years that it has turned into a full-blown spectacle. We have the Internet to thank for that, as the rumors, innuendo, accolades and hyperbole now flows our way at the speed of light.
With all that information comes the very important matter (to recruitniks) of recruiting rankings, and along with the rankings comes expectations. Now, more than ever, the focus is on whether these players will live up to, or surpass, what the pundits say about them.
But keep in mind that evaluating a prospect is as much an art as a science. Not all coaches are great evaluators and not all players develop at the same rate. As a result, we sometimes see highly-touted recruits fall flat on their faces in college, while lightly-regarded ones end up forcing the question "Why the heck wasn't he rated correctly?"
On Wednesday, you'll likely turn on the television to hear some analyst proclaim that Player X is "the real deal," that he is "unblockable," that he is a "lock down corner" or that he can "make all the throws". Conversely, you'll be told that Player Y "lacks top end speed," that he "has a hitch in his delivery" or that he "lacks ideal size."
All of this rhetoric will, of course, set the stage for another year's worth of overrated and underrated recruits.
In honor of national signing day and the recruiting rankings that so often seem so arbitrary, here's a look back at some of the most overrated and underrated recruits of the past decade.
The Five Most Overrated Recruits since 2002
1. Ben Olson, QB, BYU/UCLA -- The statuesque Olson was a five-star prospect out of Thousand Oaks (Calif.) High School in 2002 and rated the No. 4 overall prospect by Rivals.com. He enrolled at BYU, then went on a two-year Mormon mission before landing at UCLA, where he was hailed by some delusional fans as "Southpaw Jesus." Olson was no savior, however, as he threw 12 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in three injury-plagued seasons for the Bruins. He was undrafted by the NFL.
2. Whitney Lewis, WR/RB, USC -- Lewis, who hailed from St. Bonaventure High in Ventura, Calif., was the No. 1 athlete and No. 3 overall player in the 2003 class according to Rivals.com. Though he played at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds in high school, he tipped the scales at 240 pounds upon checking in at his first fall camp at USC. Lewis played himself into shape but soon was plagued by academic issues. He ended up transferring to Northern Iowa after catching just three balls and rushing for 11 yards for the Trojans.
3. Willie Williams, LB, Miami -- Williams was a five-star recruit and the top linebacker from the class of 2004 out of Miami's Carol City High. He ended up as one of the cautionary tales of recruiting lore. He struggled at Miami for two years before transferring to West LA College, then to Louisville (where he was kicked off the team), then to Division II Glenville State (where he was denied eligibility) before finally landing at NAIA Union College. As of 2012, he had been arrested 17 times.
4. Darrell Scott, RB, Colorado -- Scott was the nation's top running back and No. 6 overall prospect in 2008 out of the aforementioned St. Bonaventure High (notice all the five-star busts from Ventura County, Calif.)? He managed just 438 yards and two touchdowns in two seasons at Colorado before transferring to South Florida. He led the Bulls in 2011 with 814 yards and declared for the NFL Draft the following spring, but was not selected.
5. Bryce Brown, RB, Tennessee -- Brown was ranked the No. 1 overall player by Rivals.com in 2009 coming out of Wichita (Kan.) East High. Some were skeptical of the level of competition he faced in high school, but a stellar performance at the Army All-Star Game that year put to rest those fears. Brown signed with Tennessee after much NCAA consternation (due to his association with a shady adviser) and was a backup to Montario Hardesty as a true freshman, finishing with 460 yards. He left the Tennessee program the next spring and transferred to Kansas State, but he never carried the ball for the Wildcats. He ended up as a seventh-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles, where he is finally starting to live up to his early praise.
The Five Most Underrated Recruits since 2002
1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M -- Johnny Football was a three-star prospect coming out of Kerrville, Texas, and rated as the 14th-best dual-threat quarterback prospect in the country by Rivals.com in 2011. One legendary Heisman Trophy-winning season later and this ranking has to go down as perhaps the worst talent evaluation since Decca Records passed on The Beatles.
2. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State -- Blackmon was rated the 91st-best receiver in the country by Rivals.com in 2008. When he left Oklahoma State in 2012, he was merely the two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award and a first-round draft pick.
3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State -- Klein was a three-star recruit with just one college offer coming out of Loveland, Colo., in 2008. He finished up his career with 55 rushing touchdowns and 29 passing touchdowns and he placed third in this past year's Heisman vote.
4. Greg Eslinger, C, Minnesota -- Eslinger was a two-star recruit out of Bismarck, N.D., in 2002. At just 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, few thought he had the ability to be productive in college. But Minnesota took a chance on him and he ended up a two-time All-American and winner of both the Outland and Rimington trophies as a 2005 senior.
5. Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU -- Hughes was a 6-foot-2, 215-pound running back out of Sugar Land, Texas, when he signed with the Horned Frogs in 2006. A two-star recruit by Rivals.com, he went on to become a two-time All-American as a 255-pound defensive end and won the Hendricks and Lott Awards in 2009 before getting drafted in the first round by the Indianapolis Colts.