With National Signing Day a week away, lets start visiting a little with the ghosts of 'crootin' past, particularly the busts. Yeah, it can be defined in a lot of ways, but there are going to be some in every class. Some struggle with grades or off-field problems, some get hurt, others just never grasp the transition. It's one thing to be a great high school player when you may rarely, if ever see an athlete on your level. It's another thing to get to college and have to beat out all the other former high school studs just to see the field.
So when you think about LSU recruiting in the last 10-15 years, who are some of the recruiting busts that you remember? Players that you thought had all of the tools, youtube highlights you fell in love with, that just never found a way to make it...
I'm going to kick this off by stating the obvious (since I don't have much experience with 'crootin) by saying one big name: Russell Shepard. He occupies a weird space in my mind, since I don't think he can really be classified as a bust for a few reasons. As a freshman in college, I remembered seeing his highlight video on YouTube and all of the hype surrounding him as (potentially) one of LSU's biggest recruits ever.
He had so much promise, and he showed flashes of it during his time here (I don't think anyone will forget his 80+ yard run in the 2009 blowout of Auburn). He was especially deadly running the jet sweep, and it seemed like he had eight or nine gears when it came to his speed. But he sort of slotted into the position of a role-player, good for one or two big plays a season, rather than the game-changing, everyday star many fans hoped for him to be. His skill set may have been a mismatch for LSU's offensive scheme, but I'm not sure I understand the X's and O's enough to say that definitively. However, according to Les Miles' great rant after the 2012 Ole Miss win, he alluded to someone "getting their degree and providing great leadership," which is no doubt an allusion to Shepard (in my mind, at least).
I'm not sure Shepard was a bust so much as he was a victim of his own high school hype machine and lofty fan expectations when there are several variables at play in football affecting his performance. I don't consider him a bust so much as I consider him a prospect who left fans wondering could have been. I'm also still waiting for him to throw a pass (someday).
I know when most LSU fans think of this question, the first person that comes to mind is Russell Shepard. Unfortunately, I enjoy recruiting too much, and I can find more guys deserving of the bust label. At least Shepard started a good portion of his career, produced some and is on an NFL roster.
In terms of busts, I'll give out 5 (In no specific order)
Xavier Carter - Maybe he was overrated in the rankings to begin with due to his attributes, but the 6'3" athletic freak with Olympic speed just never did anything on the football field despite being a 5-star recruit.
Ryan Perrilloux - No LSU bust list is right until this name is attached to it. Yes, he came in and won the SEC Championship on our way to a national title, but that was it. Off-the-field issues killed a career that Les tried to keep going for as long as he could.
Deangelo Benton - This is sort of an odd one to put on this list, but he was a 4-star top LA WR in 2007 and was a commitment. Couldn't make it in and went to Hargrave, which saw him get bumped to a 5-star and once again an LSU commit in 2008. Never made it to LSU and even got a 3rd chance with Auburn this time and could never do anything with that either.
Akiem Hicks - I know most would put Chris Davenport in this spot, but I decided on a lesser known fact that is an even harder pill to swallow. I'm going to go with Hicks, who was an LSU commit and was in line to come here until coach D.J. McCarthy provided improper benefits and cost them both their spots at LSU. Hicks is now a huge impact, literally and figuratively, for the Saints. Oh what could have been.
Chris Davenport - But it is true, any LSU bust list without Davenport would just be uncivilized. Maybe it was the lack of competition in high school, but Davenport could never make the transition from 5-star prospect to starter at LSU. He was even moved to offensive line to see if that could get him on the field, but nothing came of him until he went to Tulane.
Russell Shepard is one LSU fans always mention and associate with the word "bust". The hype out of HS just got too big for the guy to handle and it probably wasn't ever warranted. So many of Shepard's highlights were of him running and showing off his athleticism. And while he did have athleticism off the charts, a lot of his plays were stuff you can get away with in HS but can't get away with in CFB. We never really got to see what Shepard could do throwing. The hype was so high for Shepard it wasn't really possible to live up to and it probably wasn't warranted.
But he did contribute in different ways. He wasn't a total bust. He was deadly running the sweep as mentioned by Zach. He contributed. As Zach said, he was the what-could-have-been sort of guy. Don't think he's a total bust.
Bust is Ryan Perrilloux, who DID show how good he could be in that 07 SEC Championship before going off the rails. He had so much potential, far more than Shepard. Sure, he did contribute and won and was the player of the game in that SEC Championship but he's the epitome of bust, sadly.
After that, Chris Davenport never developed and he was a five-star, top-30 prospect.
Looking at recent classes, Jermauria Rasco doesn't come to mind as a "bust" but for a four-star, top-100 guy, I feel he's underwhelmed. Staying on the D Line, Al Woods was a five-star DT, the #1 DT in his class. Never really amounted to much at LSU. Back to our terrific 04 class, and one Corey mentioned, Xavier Carter. Carter was rated above Calvin Johnson and Dwayne Jarrett. Never played better than either.
So in terms of busts, I don't think we've had many you look at and go "man...he never did anything." But we've had some ones who haven't done enough to back up their high rating.
I'm loathed to label anybody who simply underachieved a "bust," but I guess that's more a question of degrees. Russell Shepard played in a ton of football games and found a way to contribute, even if he never came close to matching his hype. And LSU doesn't win a conference or national title in 2007 without Ryan Perriloux. Even if his departure helped to set up a ton of the problems of 2008/09, he'll always have that SEC title game MVP.
I'm going to date myself and go back to some of the first recruits I ever really followed. Names like Brad Smalling and Damian James. I watched Derron Parquet dominate the New Orleans Catholic League in 1999/2000 and was completely sure he'd be a stud running back. I also very clearly remember safety Daryl Johnson, who was considered the jewel of the 2003 O. Perry Walker trio of himself, Craig "Buster" Davis and Dominic Cooper (coached by Frank Wilson). I want to say his senior year stat line featured like 13-14 picks and half of them run back for touchdowns -- he was a huge name in a class that featured multiple NFL players. Carnell Stewart was also one of the huge gets in that class as a four- or five-star defensive tackle, and although he at least found a way to contribute on the offensive line as a fifth-year senior, he never saw the field on defense.
The 2004 class was really the first one I deeply followed.
Mario Stevenson, a JUCO DB from that year, I thought was sure to be an impact player in the secondary with all his athletic gifts. He hardly played (7 games in 2 years), and his most memorable moment was scooping and scoring a FG block vs. AZ State in 2005. Stevenson was top 10 JUCO player, and a player we hoped would be starting in 2005 after Corey Webster and Travis Daniels declared for the NFL. It never happened.
Marlon Favorite was a top-100 d-tackle that season that I thought would as good as or better than Glenn Dorsey. Instead, he was little more than a rotational player.
Derrick Odom was the meanest looking linebacker that you ever saw do nothing. And you can just run down the list of four-star linemen that never did squat: Zhamal Thomas, Matt Allen, Jarvis Jones, Ernest McCoy, Greg Shaw, Clay Spencer, Carneal Ainsworth and Stavion Lowe.
If we're going to kick it old school, then I'm gonna play the Josh Booty card. He was a prospect so disastrous, he managed to damage the program twice: once when he originally signed, actually showed up on campus, and then bolted for pro baseball and then again we were his ultimate "safety school" after his baseball career stalled out.
As a freshman, he beat out Rohan Davey and Craig Nall for the job, costing Gerry Dinardo his. The 1999 season is the worst LSU season outside of the 2-9 1992 disaster under Curley. He left after his sophomore year, thankfully, but not until he managed to complete just 49.3 percent of his passes in his career. And lose to UAB.
I don't like the term bust, as I'm respectful of anyone who is willing to make the kind of commitment required to play big-time college football, but it's hard to find too many people with fond remembrances of Booty. I'll even defend Perrilloux, who made some poor life choices but ultimately showed he was an NFL talent. I'm glad he found his way there.
The guys I thought would be stars but just didn't quite get there? Al Woods, I really thought would be a star. But the one guy I really thought would be great? Poppa Loston. He turned into a good player, and he may even make the NFL. But I really, really thought he was going to be the player Eric Reid was. That happens, and it doesn't make him a bust. But I really thought he was going to be one of the all-time greats.
Recruiting rankings certainly matter, but here's a point a friend made to me that shows some of the flaws in them. Craig Loston, the class of 2009's No. 1 safety, spent the last weekend playing in the Senior Bowl. Meanwhile Eric Reid, the No. 6 safety in the class of 2010, just spent the last weekend in the Pro Bowl.
A lot of it gets tied to how kids handle the process. Favorite was rated higher than Dorsey because Dorsey committed to LSU very early and didn't play the game or take visits. Likewise with Reid versus Loston. And yeah, comparing a top-10 guy to the No. 1 guy is splitting hairs, but that's what we're doing here.
I do agree that there can be a flaw in recruiting rankings. I don't think they look at how a guy can adapt and be good in college. Russell Shepard (and I don't want to pick on Russ, as said, he contributed for a few seasons here) was compared to Vince Young. Well in HS sure. But in CFB? No. You have to take that into account. But where I defend the rankings is where people bring up a Tyrann Mathieu or Mo Claiborne and say "oh Tyrann Mathieu was a 4 star, Mo Claiborne is a three star, recruiting rankings are obviously flawed". Well for all those guys, there's your Early Doucet's, Julio Jones', Patrick Peterson's. That's where I stand up for recruiting rankings.
Say what you will about the rankings, they've proven to be pretty damned accurate. Look, there will never be a 100-percent accuracy rate. Of course some kid will blossom at Kent State or Georgia Southern or whatever. Of course even a lightly recruited kid will blow up at LSU, like Morris Claiborne. There's any number of explanations for this, but "recruiting services suck" isn't one of them.
At the end of the day, recruiting services can only employ so many people and can only closely evaluate so many kids. Let's not forget we're still dealing with the business of human evaluation here, and it's pretty damned hard to judge whether or not a player will be focused/motivated/driven of the next decade or so of their lives to live up to their athletic talents.
Ultimately, if you go back and look at who is winning, and winning BIG, it's those programs who sustain in recruiting. It's not a coincidence that Alabama's three recent national championships are built on the backs of multiple no. 1 signing classes. Nor is it that FSU ascended to the throne this season. Even for a team like Auburn, for as bad as they were in 2012, the talent was there. If you want to win, recruit.
Along the same line of discussion, has there ever been a bust that you thought you saw coming? A highlight tape that made you kind of wonder what the big deal was?
Always thought Xavier Carter looked like a track stud in football pads.
Davenport is another one I was always skeptical on. He looked like a big kid that just pushed around awful competition.
Paul beat me to it. I never saw what everyone else saw in Xavier Carter. I'm wary of track guys, honestly, ever since Bennie Brazell. Trindon Holliday of course is the exception, but he was really just a return guy. He was a better track athlete than football player.
As I get older, I really do think there is something to the idea that guys who handle their recruitment poorly are going to bust. It's not film that lies, it's that we misread their character. There's nothing wrong with waiting until NSD or pulling the hat trick, but as Paul keeps saying: just be honest. Guys who are drama queens as recruits tend to not suddenly mature when they arrive on campus. You can see that in a guy like Janzen Jackson who pulled the "my fax machine is broken" BS or Ryan Perrilloux, who strung along Texas before bolting at the end.
I know Miles took some heat from the national press for saying Gunner Kiel lacked chest, but it wasn't that Kiel went somewhere else, it's that he didn't have the guts to tell the staff. He was supposed to be on campus and just sort of disappeared. A guy who handles his recruitment like that is one giant red flag that has burst into flames. His career so far is no surprise to me since that disaster.
I'll jump on board as well. Looking back, and watching highlights, you look at Xavier Carter and you think "really, really fast. Track speed". Guy could catch a jump ball pretty well. But his highlights are him using his speed to beat a guy on a go route and catching a ball. That doesn't mean he couldn't be pretty good in college, but for a five-star recruit, like he was, that's not enough. And to a larger point, I agree with Poseur and what he says about track stars. If there is one thing you can be critical of with recruiting sites and rankings, it's that they always will fall prone to track speed. Even if you look at a guy and don't see much, a track guy is always ranked very high.
**cough** Tony Brown **cough**
Yes, you speak Poseur. I find his recruitment mystifying, but I'm not all that torn up we lost him.
I think the fascination with track athletes is that they are almost always the most athletic guys of any sport on campus. They can run fast, jump high, twist and turn with the greatest of ease. The difficulty is finding the ones who are actually good at football. Jamaal Charles was a track star, but he was also amazing on the football field. Same with C.J. Spiller. But there's so many more guys like Carter or Brazell that are really just track athletes that dominated high school football because they were faster than everyone else. If you hit on them, they tend to turn on to stars. But how often do you hit?
It can happen with cornerbacks too. You don't often see them in real coverage situations so recruiting analysts have to project on measurables. Like speed. And Brown's got it. Runs a 4.35 I believe.
And yeah. I'm not too upset either. We're already in a good spot at CB, and we've likely got Toliver coming in next year too. And also, two weeks? You're on campus two weeks and you're arrested? No matter what's it's for, not a good sign.
I hate piling on guys, but I would have to toss Chris Davenport into this category as well. For a five-star, top defensive tackle going up against very weak competition, I just didn't see the sheer domination that I was expecting to see. Back in my high school days, Frank Okam (who went to Texas before having a brief NFL run) played my school and almost every snap he was in the backfield before the QB could finish his drop. I came to expect that from any other defensive tackle. I just never saw the 5-star in him.
I think the problem is a lot of people put too much stock into these rankings when they should just be more generally looked at as a placeholder. The issue that you get is most of the guys that rank these recruits are just more glorified versions of recruitniks. That's not a knock on them, but these guys may have a little bit of a background in scouting, but it's why you see guys like Claiborne and Mathieu being taken by a powerhouse like LSU and turned into stars. Coaches sometimes see things that these recruiting websites do not and that's why you find diamonds in the rough. That is also why these coaches are paid quite more than recruiting insiders. Yes, most top-tier recruits are easy to see that they are elite players, but these websites have trouble identifying good players that they rate lower than your top of the line 5-star recruits.
The thing with really big tackles like Davenport (or even Al Woods) from really small schools is that they probably have 100 pounds on almost every offensive lineman they've ever seen in high school. Factor in the height (both were around 6-5) and it creates a heck of a learning curve from a technique standpoint. You become so used to being able to stand right up out of a stance and shoving everybody around that it can be really difficult, even with good coaching, to break that tendency. It's a lot like a quarterback's release almost. Sometimes, for a DT, being in the 6-2, 6-3 range is almost better.
In a similar style to track guys, I think taller receivers tend to get overrated a bit as well, and that brings me to Terrance Toliver. This guy was the No. 1 or No. 2 receiver in his class, and I remember watching his film and seeing a tall, scrawny kid that looked fast and athletic but didn't really catch the ball with his hands and would need to add quite a lot of weight to his frame to play in the SEC. That sounds more like a project than a five-star guy you would expect to have an instant impact. And while Toliver had a nice four years here, he certainly never met that hype.
I was leaning towards mentioning Toliver in not the "bust" category, but the "underachieved" category. He had a pretty solid 4 years and some really nice games. But as you said Billy, he was the No. 1 or 2 receiver in his class. He was supposed to be what A.J. Green was. He never reached the heights Green did. And I think that's a big issue. I think tall wide receivers, who easily can catch jump balls and just he's their gifts to gain advantages get hyped up too much. Their actual potential as a receiver is not analyzed enough as their speed or athletic ability.
That's probably fair. He wasn't really a bust, but his tape never really wowed me.
Not to mention Tolliver had some big catches in 2010 and played through a quarterbacking wasteland from 08-10.
Yeah. That's definitely true. And it's why I wouldn't call him a bust at all. He had his fair share of great games. But for how highly he was touted, I think you could classify him as an underachiever.