Re-ranking 2007 recruiting classes (cont.)
2007 Rivals rank: No. 5
2009 Starters: DE Sam Acho, CB Curtis Brown, OT Kyle Hix, WR James Kirkendoll, LB Keenan Robinson, S Earl Thomas, WR Malcolm Williams.
Analysis: Texas classes probably need five years to properly evaluate. Mack Brown has stockpiled so much talent in Austin that it takes a long time for players to earn starting jobs. This makes it seem as if some classes underachieve at first.
Still, this class has produced legitimate stars in Acho and Thomas and solid receivers in Kirkendoll and Williams. It also included tight end Blaine Irby, who would have started in 2009 had he not suffered an offseason knee injury.
To better evaluate this class, place it at another school. For instance, if quarterback-turned-receiver John Chiles -- another 2007 Longhorn -- played anywhere else, how quickly would he have gotten on the field at some position? Immediately.
5. Ohio State
2007 Rivals rank: No. 15
2009 Starters: DE Cameron Heyward, S Jermale Hines, LB Brian Rolle, RB Brandon Saine, WR Dane Sanzenbacher, CB Devon Torrence, WR Taurian Washington.
Analysis: Ohio State classes suffer from the same issues as Texas classes. With so many good players stacked up for so many years, it takes a while to get on the field. So it's tough to sign a class that will produce 10 starters just because of the quality of players already in the program.
That said, the fact that this class has produced seven starters is pretty amazing considering the Buckeyes only signed 15 players in 2007. Another member of the class, tailback Dan "Boom" Herron, isn't officially a starter, but he gained 600 yards and scored seven touchdowns as Saine's backup in 2009.
2007 Rivals rank: No. 11
2009 Starters: OG Mark Asper, WR D.J. Davis, CB Talmadge Jackson, WR Jeff Maehl, LB Casey Matthews, LB Eddie Pleasant, DE Kenny Rowe, DE Will Tukuafu, OG Carson York.
Analysis: Several four-star headliners in this class (Davis, Rowe, Tukuafu, York) made a big impact, but so did some of the less heralded players. Two-star Asper became a starter, and the Ducks probably don't beat Oregon State for the conference title without three-star Maehl, who caught six passes for 138 yards and a touchdown against the Beavers.
On defense, Rowe led the Pac-10 in sacks with 11.5, and Jackson led the Ducks with four interceptions in 2009.
7. Virginia Tech
2007 Rivals rank: No. 29
2009 Starters: OG Jaymes Brooks, LS Collin Carroll, OT Blake DeChristopher, LB Barquell Rivers, QB Tyrod Taylor.
Analysis: For some reason, coach Frank Beamer's classes never get the respect they deserve. Rivals has ranked the Hokies' past five classes 22nd, 23rd, 18th, 29th and 32nd, yet all Beamer's teams do is crank out double-digit win seasons.
This class produced the Hokies' most potent offensive weapon (Taylor) and two stud linemen. It also included backs Darren Evans and Josh Oglesby. Remember, Evans -- not Ryan Williams -- was supposed to carry the rushing load for the Hokies in 2009 after gaining 1,265 yards in 2008, but missed the season after injuring his knee in camp.
2007 Rivals rank: No. 28
2009 Starters: TE Christian Ballard, LB Broderick Binns, OT Bryan Bulaga, WR Marvin McNutt, S Tyler Sash.
Analysis: This is another example of quality over quantity. The Hawkeyes' classes of 2005 and 2006 brought in most of the starters on the 2009 squad, but Bulaga and Sash played huge roles in Iowa's 2009 success.
After the NFL combine later this month, it should be pretty obvious why Bulaga left Iowa City after his junior season. Meanwhile, Sash will return and team with defensive end Adrian Clayborn to lead a group that should be one of the nation's best.
2007 Rivals rank: No. 2
2009 Starters: WR Brandon Carswell, LB Chris Galippo, DE Everson Griffen, WR Ronald Johnson, RB Joe McKnight, Kris O'Dowd, DT Christian Tupou.
Analysis: As usual, this USC class produced some great individual players, but this group didn't enjoy the same success as its predecessors when it matured. That might not necessarily be this class' fault, though. The Trojans dominated the Pac-10 for seven seasons. At some point, USC was bound to have a team that, for whatever reason, just didn't click.
Still, Galippo, Griffen, Johnson and McKnight would have been stars for any program in the nation. We'll have to watch next season to learn whether 2009 was a hiccup or if the rest of the Pac-10 has caught up to USC on the recruiting trail.
2007 Rivals rank: No. 10
2009 Starters: WR Darius Hanks, CB Kareem Jackson, WR Marquis Maze, LB Rolando McClain, C William Vlachos.
Analysis: Most of coach Nick Saban's first Alabama class got overshadowed by the members of the class of 2006 (Andre Smith, Javier Arenas, Greg McElroy) and the class of 2008 (Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Terrence Cody, Dont'a Hightower, Jerrell Harris, Mark Barron, Barrett Jones), but the Crimson Tide don't win the 2009 BCS title without this class -- most of which was stitched together after Saban was hired on Jan. 4, 2007.
Still, predecessor Mike Shula deserves a thank you for securing linebacker Rolando McClain, the best player in the class and the best player on the national title team. (I realize the reigning Heisman winner played on that team as well. I stand by my statement, and I'm pretty sure Saban would agree with me.) McClain was so brilliant during his three seasons at Tuscaloosa that even though this class produced just five starters, it belongs on this list.
Just missed the cut: North Carolina, TCU, Nebraska, Penn State, LSU.
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