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Build Me Up, Tear Me Down, Part Two: 2004 In Review

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Interpretations of this kind of project are in the eye of the beholder, but in my opinion, Fox Sports' review of the top 30 players of the class of 2004 is more evidence for the general strength of recruiting rankings, as opposed to the charlatanism of which the gurus are often accused.

Reviewing the five-star players of four years ago at the end of their careers (not only one of them, Brian Toal, is slated to be a fifth-year senior next fall [Corrected. See comments - ed.]), Scout reassessed its grades to fit the on-field reality: Class of 2004 Top 30: Revised Stars
Pos. Player Stars Pos. Player Stars
RB Adrian Peterson DT DeMario Pressley
Ath Ted Ginn QB Anthony Morelli
LB Dan Connor DE Brandon Miller
LB Keith Rivers WR Cameron Colvin
WR Calvin Johnson OL Jeff Byers
DT Glenn Dorsey QB Rhett Bomar
TE Zach Miller QB Xavier Lee
QB Chad Henne RB Charlie Jones
WR Early Doucet OL Leon Hart
WR Fred Davis S Drew Kelson
DE Derrick Harvey DE Jeff Schweiger
OL Alex Fletcher LB Willie Williams No Stars
DT Frank Okam WR Xavier Carter No Stars
DE Charles Johnson OL Greg Harrison No Stars
LB Brian Toal DT Eric McLendon No Stars

This is a very, very limited look, restricted to the top one percent or so of all I-A recruits in 2004, but it shows further a relatively good job of forecasting the best players by Scout: 13 of the top 30, five-star studs that year were four, four-and-a-half or five-star caliber players during their careers, and six of the remaining 17 players (Johnson, Toal, Pressley, Morelli, Miller and Colvin) were multi-year starters at major, successful programs; Johnson was arguably at least a four-star player at Georgia, having been picked on the first day of last year's draft. (Doucet, Davis and Harvey, despite falling just short of five-star careers in this assessment, are all projected first-rounders in April).

Bomar: Five-star talent, one-star grasp of NCAA rules.
- - -
In the article, Rich Cirminiello says in the course of assessing Rhett Bomar's star-crossed career, "Most blue-chip busts are a result of a kid not being able to cut it," but that's not really the case. Among that two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half star group, fast-starting Toal and Colvin were derailed by injuries the last two years but probably have NFL futures if their health allows it. Below them, Bomar and Willie Williams were done in by severe boneheadedness, not lack of ability at football; McLendon, too, was an academic casualty who never made it to Georgia. Carter was injured early in his career and eventually left football to focus on track after just two years. Hart played a lot at Auburn, but separated his shoulder before he could assume the starting job last year. Schweiger injured his ankle as a sophomore and got buried beneath a mountain of competing defensive line talent at USC.

Including Hart and Schweiger, the true busts - guys who actually made it to campus and demonstrated a lack of ability to secure a starting job for at least two years at a major school without injuries or other non-football-related plagues that never factored into their high projections. i.e., they "didn't cut it" - are Byers, Lee, Jones, Kelson and Harrison. I'll throw in Williams for good measure, since despite his well-publicized mishaps he played several seasons without making an impact at Miami or Louisville. Eight misses out of 30, or about half the rate of the obvious hits.

Disregarding the unpredicatable, mitigating factors that knock a lot of kids off track, a 50-50 track record among the top recruits doesn't seem outstanding, until you also ask what the rate of high level success is among the hundreds and hundreds of players graded as two, three and four-star prospects: what percentage of those groups had a four or five-star career? If it's anywhere near half, I'll find some way to eat my blog.