Unpleasant surprises: The recruiting gurus' stars who haven't panned out
We recently featured a column on some of the under-the-radar SEC stars the recruiting gurus missed — the 2-star or 3-star guys who will go on to play on Sundays. Unfortunately, it works both ways. Here are the highly regarded players who have gone nowhere but down the depth charts. We picked one from each school.
Alabama—Robert Foster, WR
A 5-star recruit (per 247sports.com, the source of all rankings in this article) and the 23rd-ranked player in the entire 2013 recruiting class, Foster has done very little in three years in Tuscaloosa — 21 catches and 215 yards. He’s been overtaken by Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart, and that’s unlikely to change in 2017.
Arkansas—Bijhon Jackson, DT
Jackson was Arkansas’s top signee in 2014, a 4-star prospect who was the 81st best player in the nation. But as a Hog, in three seasons, he has posted nine tackles, seven tackles and then nine tackles. Sure, he had 2.5 sacks in 2016 — but 1.5 of them came against Alcorn State and Texas State — probably the competition level where Jackson should have ended up.
Auburn—Byron Cowart, DE
Cowart was the No. 3 player in the nation in 2015, a true 5-star recruit. But in two seasons, he’s had no impact, totaling a dozen total tackles. Cowart has had more appendix removals (one) than QB sacks (zero) while at Auburn. He does still have two seasons to go, and as Carl Lawson showed, you can bloom late … but he had better get moving.
LSU—Travonte Valentine, DT
Valentine was kicked off of LSU’s team last week, the second time he’s been dismissed, so if you believe in second chances, maybe he gets a third chance to underachieve. The enormous defensive tackle managed just 10 stops in his sophomore season, so if he does make it back, he probably won’t get on the field very much.
Mississippi—C.J. Hampton, DB
Hampton, a 4-star safety who was the No. 96 player in the nation in 2014, has shown little for a very needy Ole Miss defense. In 2016, Hampton contributed 16 tackles with no tackles for loss, interceptions or passes broken up. He does have one season left to make an impact, but it looks unlikely.
Mississippi State—Jesse Jackson, WR
Frankly, Jackson’s lack of success (one catch in 2016) isn’t that surprising — especially given that he has only played two seasons. But the 3-star prospect was the 4th best player in State’s 2014 recruiting class, so it is at least a little unsettling that he hasn’t done more.
Texas A&M—Qualen Cunningham, DE
Sure, Cunningham got himself stuck behind Myles Garrett. But the 4-star defensive end from the 2014 class would have seen more field time someplace had he played up to his ranking. Instead, Cunningham had 18 tackles in 2015 and 17 stops in 2016. He’ll get more time in 2017, but time is running out on the senior.
Florida—Khairi Clark, DT
Clark was a 4-star prospect who was the 183rd best player in the nation in the 2014 class. But in three seasons in Gainesville, he has shown little productivity. Clark had 16 tackles in 2015, and then ended up with the same total in 2016. He will be a junior in 2017, but his chances to shine are running out.
Georgia—Brice Ramsey, QB
Ramsey was a 4-star passer who was the 100th best player in the 2013 class — and the sixth best pro-style QB in the nation. But at UGA, things haven’t panned out for him. The senior has thrown just 74 passes, with 582 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. Ramsey has also punted at times, but he averaged under 35 yards per kick in 2016. At last indication, Ramsey was pondering whether to transfer out for his senior season or remain at Georgia.
Kentucky—Matt Elam, DT
A literally gigantic recruit, the 360-pound Elam (below) was a 4-star prospect who turned down Alabama to play in Lexington. After three seasons, he has totaled 42 tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss. Elam still looks lost on the field, and probably won’t see much of it in 2017.
Missouri—Tucker McCann, K
McCann was the fifth best kicker in the nation in the class of 2016, but he didn’t show it on the field. McCann missed four extra-points and connected on just half of his field goal tries (6 for 12). McCann made one kick of longer than 33 yards and missed three field goals from inside of 25 yards. He will doubtlessly get another shot in 2017, but Missouri can’t afford another season of shanked short kicks.
South Carolina—Shameik Blackshear, DL
Blackshear was a 4-star recruit who was the 151st best player in the 2015 national recruiting class. In two seasons in Columbia, he has survived being shot, redshirted a year, and recorded four tackles in little playing time. He’ll only be a sophomore, but if Blackshear doesn’t step it up, he’ll be buried on the bench.
Tennessee—Quart’e Sapp, LB
Sapp was a 4-star recruit from the 2015 class, but in two seasons in Knoxville, he’s spent more time injured than on the field. After an abbreviated 2015 campaign that ended in injury, Sapp missed most of 2016 as well, totaling four tackles so far.
Vanderbilt—Josh Smith, LB
Smith was the third best inside linebacker in the 2015 recruiting class. The 4-star signee was the 142nd best player in the nation. But in two season in Nashville, he has just 10 tackles. Derek Mason hasn’t nabbed many recruits who are higher-rated than Smith, but he has signed many who have shown more production.