Commentary

McFadden tops reordered Class of 2005 recruiting list

Originally Published: March 21, 2008
By Bruce Feldman | ESPN The Magazine

Don't feel too bad Nittany Lion and Wolverine fans. While QB Terrelle Pryor might go on to win a Heisman for Ohio State, he also might go down as another touted quarterback prospect who didn't live up to the massive expectations set for him.

Projecting is hard enough for the college coaches, much less for the recruiting analysts who end up working off much less information than the recruiters who sign these kids. Plus, it's no sure thing to predict how a teenager will develop physically or how he'll handle the mental aspect of football or whether he'll be mature enough to deal with college life. Injuries are another wildcard in this mix.

With that said, it seems like an ideal time to look back at the recruiting class of 2005, which seems to be loaded with a lot of prospects who haven't panned out as well as a bunch of stars who really came off the radar.

Ryan Perrilloux (LSU), Jonathan Stewart (Oregon), Toney Baker (NC State), Mark Sanchez (USC), Patrick Turner (USC) and Fred Rouse (FSU) were ranked as the top prospects in the Class of 2005 by some. Other services touted Penn State's Derrick Williams as the top overall talent. Here's how I would rank the Class of 2005 in hindsight. Of course, there's still plenty of time for guys like Sanchez who have waited behind talented upperclassmen to shine. But for now, we're trying to lean on production more than projection.

Darren McFadden
AP Photo/Ann HeisenfeltDarren McFadden rushed for 2,865 yards during his Arkansas career.

1. Darren McFadden, Arkansas, RB
Pegged as one of the top 50 players in the class, McFadden more than lived up to that billing, winning two Doak Walker Awards and finishing as the Heisman runner-up twice.

2. James Laurinaitis, Ohio State, LB
Few ranked him as one of the top linebackers in the Midwest, but Laurinaitis has been arguably one of the two best linebackers in college football the past two seasons.

3. Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois, RB
After carrying the Illini offense and leading Illinois to the Rose Bowl, Mendenhall is moving on to the NFL.

4. Chase Daniel, Missouri, QB
Dogged by skepticism concerning his lack of height, Daniel has turned Mizzou into a legit top 10 program.

5. Curtis Lofton, Oklahoma, LB
The Big 12's top defender in 2007 might not have great speed or size, but Lofton has a knack for big plays. He made 157 tackles last season, 66 more than the Sooners' second-best tackler.

6. Ray Rice, Rutgers, RB
Rice, who ran for 2,012 yards last season, carried the Scarlet Knight offense on his shoulders. He was a star from the moment he stepped on campus and played a big part in the Rutgers renaissance. Not too bad for a back few touted as one of the top 25 in the class.

7. Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State, CB
The lightly heralded New Jersey prospect with great size and good speed has emerged as one of the best covermen in the game.

8. Rey Maualuga, USC, LB
Maualuga was one of the best projections of the class. A consensus top recruit -- because of his thunderous hits and scary closing speed -- he's delivering on that promise. Maualuga enters his senior year coming off a dazzling showing in the Rose Bowl.

9. Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt, WR
The rugged wideout who carried Vandy's offense leaves the Commodores for the NFL draft as the SEC's career receptions leader with an amazing total of 236 catches.

10. Kevin Smith, UCF, RB
The nation's leading rushing in 2007 sprinted to 2,567 yards for the Knights. Not bad for a guy who nobody outside of UCF saw as a tailback.

11. Nic Harris, Oklahoma, DB
Despite excellent size, speed and grades, the Louisiana native didn't get much interest from LSU coach Les Miles. That's fortunate for Oklahoma; Harris made all-Big 12 second team as a sophomore and first-team all-conference in 2007.

[+] EnlargeGeorge Selvie
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesGeorge Selvie registered 14.5 sacks in 2007.

12. George Selvie, USF, DE
The sleeper recruit has blossomed as a big-play man coming off the edge. He registered 31.5 tackles for loss in 2007.

13. Jonathan Stewart, Oregon, RB
Stewart was another shrewd call by the recruiting guys. His amazing combination of speed and power really showed up the past two seasons. He's expected to be a top-20 pick in April's NFL draft.

14. DeSean Jackson, Cal, WR/PR
Jackson arrived with a huge reputation -- and at times lived up to it.

15. Steve Slaton, West Virginia, TB
Slaton came to WVU in the shadow of uber-prospect Jason Gwaltney, but Slaton stole the spotlight early and never gave it back.

16. Kenny Phillips, Miami, S
Phillips didn't have a great 2007, but he still made first-team All-ACC and was one of the team's best players in each of his three seasons in Coral Gables.

17. Felix Jones, Arkansas, RB
Labeled as an athlete, Jones seamlessly fit in nicely as the do-it-all back to take the pressure off McFadden. He averaged 8.7 yards per carry in 2007.

18. Travis Beckum, Wisconsin, TE
The analysts loved Beckum, who was projected as a linebacker. That didn't quite work out, but he's been terrific as a receiver, snagging 136 passes over the past two seasons.

19. Derek Pegues, Mississippi State, DB
Pegues came to Starkville with a huge rep as a coverman, and he really backed it up with game-changing plays throughout 2007 as a safety/returnman.

20. Duke Robinson, Oklahoma, OL
One of OU's less heralded O-line prospects, Robinson's toughness and quickness enabled him to blossom into an All-American.

21. Mike Mickens, Cincinnati, CB
The under-the-radar DB committed to Bowling Green before he flipped to Cincy. Mickens, a three-year starter, picked off six passes in 2007 and made first-team All-Big East.

22. Vance Walker, Georgia Tech, DT
The very unheralded recruit's heart and quickness apparently were underestimated; Tech only had to beat East Carolina and Georgia Southern for Walker. He was often unblockable this past season, making 14 TFLs for the Yellow Jackets.

[+] EnlargeDan LeFevour
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesDan LeFevour threw 27 TD passes in 2007.

23. Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan, QB
LeFevour couldn't get an offer from Illinois despite showing up at the Illini's summer camp. The Illinois native didn't arrive in the MAC with any fanfare, but he proved to be one of the country's top 10 QBs in 2007 because of his great run-pass combination game.

24. Macho Harris, Virginia Tech, CB
Solid player from the moment he arrived on campus. Harris earned first-team All-ACC selection in 2007 after intercepting five passes and breaking up 12 more.

25. Mike Thomas, Arizona, WR
Mike Stoops went into Texas and didn't have to beat the in-state powers to get Thomas. The 5-foot-8, 190-pounder has grown into a first-team All-Pac-10 player, catching 185 passes for 2,406 yards and 18 TDs in three seasons.

26. Nick Reed, Oregon, DE
Reed came from a respected Southern California program (Mission Viejo High School) with big expectations and has really taken off after piling up 22.5 TFLs in '07.

27. Matt Grothe, USF, QB
The gritty Bulls leader wasn't a high-profile prospect because of some skepticism over his height, but Grothe's heart and leadership skills have done wonders for this upstart program.

28. James Davis, Clemson, RB
Despite splitting time with C.J. Spiller, Davis has put up big numbers for the potent Tigers offense.

29. Branden Albert, Virginia, OL
Albert's production has been greater than his more celebrated linemate Eugene Monroe. Great finisher.

30. Antonio Coleman, Auburn, DE
The lightly touted one-time LB prospect broke through in 2007 as a big-play man, making 18.5 TFLs as a redshirt sophomore.

31. Mario Manningham, Michigan, WR
One of the more heralded recruits in Michigan's class, Manningham more than backed it up by making a ton of big plays and proving to be faster than his 40-time.

32. Colt McCoy, Texas, QB
Not ranked all-World by many of the analysts who seemed skeptical over his frame and arm strength, McCoy figures to leave UT with virtually every imaginable Longhorn passing record.

33. Phillip Merling, Clemson, DE
The project came on big in '07, registering 16 TFLs, and he is looking like a top-20 draft pick.

[+] EnlargeReggie Smith
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesReggie Smith picked off three passes for the Sooners last season.

34. Reggie Smith, Oklahoma, CB
DT DeMarcus Granger and LB Ryan Reynolds might have arrived at OU with more fanfare in the Class of 2005, but Smith proved deserving making all-Big 12.

35. Brian Cushing, USC, LB
The all-world recruit has lived up to the expectations, although Cushing has had injury problems.

36. Peria Jerry, Ole Miss, DT
Jerry didn't have a huge national rep coming from Hargrave Military Academy, but this nasty 295-pounder with sub-4.9 speed has been a disruptive force when healthy.

37. P.J. Hill, Wisconsin, RB
The powerful Badger back from New York didn't arrive with any hype, but Hill has rushed for 2,781 yards in his first two years in the Big Ten after redshirting in '05.

38. Justin King, Penn State, CB
Touted as the top-rated CB in the class, King has been good. However, King did struggle at times in 2007, especially against Indiana.

39. Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma, WR
The rangy Texan has been a force for the OU offense.

40. Michael Oher, Ole Miss, OT
The ballyhooed lineman has been a three-year starter for Ole Miss and he certainly looks the part. He has, however, been plagued by inconsistency and did surrender the most sacks of any Rebel lineman in '07.

41. Auston English, Oklahoma, DE
The productive Sooner, who picked OU over Penn State and Mizzou, has a great knack for getting into the backfield (13 TFLs).

42. Sean Lee, Penn State, LB
Lee was one of the lower-rated players in the PSU class, but he might turn out to be the best of the bunch. In 2007, he was 17th in the country in tackles (10.62 per game).

43. Jared Gaither, Maryland, OT
The towering tackle showed promise and jumped to the NFL early -- he was selected in the supplemental draft -- after starting his first two seasons at Maryland. Started two games last year for the Baltimore Ravens.

[+] EnlargeMatt Shaughnessy
David Stluka/Getty ImagesMatt Shaughnessy registered 18 TFLs for the Badgers in '07.

44. Matt Shaughnessy, Wisconsin, DE
The rangy end, who chose the Badgers over BC, had 18 TFLs for the Badgers in 2007.

45. Jamaal Charles, Texas, TB
The former track star had more than his share of big moments in an up-and-down career at UT.

46. Tray Blackmon, Auburn, LB
Although Blackmon -- the highest-rated Tiger in the '05 class -- and has been very good, he has struggled to stay on the field for a variety of reasons.

47. George Hypolite, Colorado, DL
A former lightly touted FB from L.A., Hypolite beefed up some 40 pounds since arriving and proved to be an often an unblockable DT. He piled up a team-best six sacks and made first-team all-Big 12. As a sophomore, he made 13 TFLs.

48. Brandon Gibson, Washington St., WR
Some of the recruiting analysts seemed to like more than the other Pac-10 coaches. Wazzu only had to fend off Idaho to get him. Gibson rewarded the Cougars staff with 67 catches for 1,180 yards in 2007 and made first-team all-Pac-10.

49. Javon Ringer, Michigan State, RB
Quietly ran for 1,447 yards in 2007.

50. Rico McCoy, Tennessee, LB
The much-hyped D.C. native made second-team all-SEC in '07 after registering 106 tackles.

51. Kenny McKinley, South Carolina, WR
Despite a lot of uncertainty at QB, McKinley has proven to be one of the South Carolina's better receivers.

52. Terrill Byrd, Cincinnati, DT
The productive inside man had 17 TFLs this year anchoring a stout UC defense. At just 5-10, his size scared off some schools, so Byrd opted to stay home to play for Cincy over Toledo.

53. Brian Robiskie, Ohio State, WR
OSU beat Miami and Stanford for Robiskie who came on in 2007, catching 55 passes for 935 yards and 11 TDs.

54. Tyrell Sutton, Northwestern, TB
Sutton had an outstanding first season and has battled injuries the past two years.

55. Geno Hayes, Florida State, LB
Picked FSU over Tennessee and Clemson. Hayes battled through some nagging injuries in 2007, but he still registered 17.5 TFLs, five sacks and an interception.

56. Jairus Byrd, Oregon, DB
Byrd, who signed with the Ducks over Cal, earned co-Pac-10 freshman of the year in his first season on the field. He has proven to be a physical corner, leading Oregon in picks each of the last two seasons.

57. Chase Coffman, Missouri, TE
The slender receiver prospect filled out and blossomed into a red zone weapon for the Tigers, catching 110 passes and 16 TDs the past two seasons combined.

58. DeMarcus Granger, Oklahoma, DT
The massive Dallas product was all-world in high school and came on to make second-team all Big 12, but then was suspended for the Fiesta Bowl after being arrested for shoplifting.

59. Dexter Davis, Arizona State, DE
The undersized Arizona kid who ASU beat UTEP for has turned into one of the Pac-10's best pass rushers (10.5 sacks in '07.)

60. Eugene Jarvis, Kent State, RB
The tiny back from Pittsburgh couldn't get Dave Wannstedt or Joe Paterno to offer, so he ended up in the MAC. He was fifth in the country in rushing in 2007.

61. Dave Philistin, Maryland, LB
Coming from New Hampshire, he wasn't going to get a ton of hype, but after making 121 tackles in 2007, people are starting to find out about him now.

62. Ciron Black, LSU, OT
Former prep teammate of LSU QB Matt Flynn, Black is a two-year starter for the Tigers.

[+] EnlargeHarvey Unga
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesHarvey Unga rushed for 1,227 yards last season.

63. Harvey Unga, BYU, RB
Many projected him as a linebacker, but Unga rumbled for 1,227 yards rushing and averaged over five yards per carry during his first season in 2007.

64. James Holt, Kansas, LB
Holt wasn't highly rated, but KU coaches loved his versatility and have been rewarded. He's become KU's second-leading tackler (99) while also making 13 TFLs.

65. Terrance Taylor, Michigan, DT
Only Manningham has been more productive in the Wolverines '05 class. Taylor has proved to be a quality anchor for Michigan's defense last fall.

66. Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma, WR
The Sooners beat UTEP for Iglesias, who caught 68 passes last season for 907 yards.

67. Kevin Ellison, USC, S
Ellison doesn't have the speed or size of the other Trojans DBs, but coaches say he is one of the smartest football players they've ever had.

68. Lucas Taylor, Tennessee, WR
The highly touted "athlete" had a breakthrough season for UT in 2007 catching 73 passes for 1,000 yards.

69. Anthony Scirotto, Penn State, S

Scirotto wasn't one of the bigger-name recruits in the PSU class, but he made all-Big Ten by his second season in State College. Has led the Nittany Lions in INTs the past two seasons.

70. Will Davis, Illinois, DE
One of Ron Zook's first big finds at Illinois, Davis had 12.5 TFLs last year.

71. Eugene Monroe, Virginia, OL
The top-ranked line prospect is still on the radar of NFL scouts thanks to his imposing size and power.

72. Darrell Stuckey, Kansas, S
The impressive athlete camped at Kansas and committed early, perhaps short-circuiting his recruiting hype. Stuckey made all-Big 12 as a redshirt sophomore and is a leader for the Jayhawks.

73. Jeremy Jarmon, Kentucky, DL
The Cats only had to fend off Memphis and Ole Miss for the Memphis product. Jarmon has become one of the SEC's more productive players, notching 12.5 TFLs last season.

74. Anderson Russell, Ohio State, DB
A very unheralded recruit who battled back from a torn ACL, Russell finished third on the team in tackles.

[+] EnlargeMartellus Bennett
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesMartellus Bennett made 102 catches during his Aggie career.

75. Martellus Bennett, Texas A&M, TE
One of the highest rated players in the entire class, Bennett was certainly an interesting quote and made some plays. But he never really made a huge impact for the Aggies.

76. Albert McClellan, Marshall, DE
The Herd were his only option coming out of Lakeland, Fla., and the speedy former LB has been impressive enough to have been voted the C-USA's preseason defensive player of the year, but he was derailed in 2007 by an injury.

77. Rafael Eubanks, Iowa, C
The top recruit has been solid for the Hawkeyes ever since he hit the field.

78. Mike Wallace, Ole Miss, WR
The unheralded blazer had a breakout season in 2007 despite relying on a shaky QB tandem.

79. Reed Williams, West Virginia, LB
Led the Mountaineers' much-improved D with 107 tackles in '07.

80. Louis Murphy, Florida, WR
Not one of the bigger name guys when he was signed, but Murphy has been the most productive Gator from his class in '07.

81. Jeff Owens, Georgia, DT
The blue-chipper has been solid for the Dawgs, starting the last two seasons.

82. Joe Burnett, UCF, DB
Stayed local, signing with UCF and has been terrific as a playmaking corner and returnman.

83. Jeffrey Fitzgerald, former Virginia, DE
Overshadowed by Monroe and a few others, Fitzgerald was a force early for UVa. Has made 22.5 TFLs the past two seasons, but left the UVa program this winter. Rumored to be transferring to a I-AA school for 2008.

84. Jordan Lake, Baylor, DB
The unheralded prospect has emerged, ranking 30th in the country in tackles.

85. Marlon Lucky, Nebraska, RB
The much-hyped back from California who turned down USC to play for Bill Callahan had a nice year in 2007 running for 1,019 yards and nine TDs.

86. Jeremy Childs, Boise State, WR
The highest rated guy Boise signed in '05, Childs caught 82 passes for 1,045 yards and nine TDs in '07.

87. Steve Octavien, Nebraska, LB
The highly touted NU recruit has lived up to his hype when healthy. He made 12.5 TFLs in '07.

[+] EnlargeEverette Brown
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesFSU's Everette Brown picked up 6.5 sacks in 2007.

88. Everette Brown, Florida State, DE
An explosive pass-rusher, Brown was one of the bright spots on a disappointing FSU D making 6.5 sacks in '07.

89. Josh McNeil, Tennessee, C
The touted center prospect has been very good for the Vols, and he has matured some after needing to be, by his own admission, humbled.

90. Victor Butler, Oregon State, DE
The spindly off-the-radar DE project had 10.5 sacks in 2007 for an outstanding Beaver D.

91. Louis Vasquez, Texas Tech, OG
The strongman was the top lineman for an offense that averaged 41 points and 530 yards per game.

92. Darry Beckwith, LSU, LB
The highly regarded prospect is a two-year starter for the national champs.

93. Shane Carter, Wisconsin, DB
The lightly-touted former basketball player really came on late last season, leading the Big Ten with seven interceptions, including two against Michigan.

94. Roy Miller, Texas, DT
Battled through injuries, but Miller remained in the DT rotation in 2007. He is expected to be the anchor of the UT D-line in '08.

95. Conredge Collins, Pitt, FB
Touted second-generation back from Miami is on the NFL's radar.

96. Brandon LaFell, LSU, WR
Helped sustain LSU's offense in '07 while star Early Doucet was sidelined.

97. Sen'Derrick Marks, Auburn, DL
Might have been the lowest-rated guy in the Tigers class, but Marks has been a rock for their defense.

98. Zach Follett, Cal, LB
Versatile linebacker made 12.5 TFLs in 2007 behind a very green DL.

99. Jessie Bowman, Mississippi State, DT Lost in the shadow of Jerrell Powe, Bowman went the JC route before proving to be one of the SEC's better DTs in 2007.

100. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Wash., DL
High motor lineman who came on strong in '07.

Bruce Feldman is a senior writer with ESPN The Magazine. His new book, "Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting," is on sale now.