CFN Archives - 2001 Recruiting Late Bloomers
Michigan WR Braylon Edwards
Michigan WR Braylon Edwards
Posted Feb 1, 2011

We've unearthed some of the old CFN pieces, and with a few minor tweaks, we've kept them intact to show what the thoughts were at the time. Originally published in February of 2005, Richard Cirminiello looked on the 2001 recruiting class to see which players needed a little while to blossom.

Recruiting 2011 

Archives - 2001 Late Bloomers

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CFN Recruiting Archives
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- How To Build A Team Through Recruiting
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- The Unheralded Stars ... The 2005 Class
- Recruiting Busts ... the 2005 Class
- Recruiting Booms ... the 2005 Class
- Re-Ranking the 2004 Recruiting Classes
- Late Bloomers ... the 2004 Class
- Re-Ranking the 2003 Recruiting Classes
- Booms & Busts ... the 2003 Class
- Booms & Busts ... the 2002 Class -
- The Blue Chippers ... the 2001 Class
- The Busts ... the 2001 Class
- The Late Bloomers ... the 2001 Class
February is the domain of the can't-miss prospect, whose signing day decision can alter the mood of an entire region of the country.  Conversely, the bulk of each year's recruits are relatively anonymous cogs in a given recruiting class.  A handful, however, always seem to defy the experts, authoring feel-good stories of perseverance, humble beginnings and unexpected success—the non-blue chip prospect that blew past expectations.

Whether you call them late bloomers, hidden gems or sleepers, they're the best examples that you never can tell what an 18-year old athlete will look like when he turns 22.  He might wind up even spiffier than that prep All-American, who was going to rewrite the record books.          

1. LB Lofa Tatupu, USC
In more ways than just miles, it's a long, long way from the A-10 to the Pac-10, but that's the improbable cross-country path Tatupu has taken to achieve stardom.  The one-time Maine Black Bear transferred to father Mosi's alma mater after the 2001 season, setting off an unlikely success story.  Considered undersized by most I-A programs, the instinctive Tatupu has led the Trojans in tackles the last two years, and has positioned himself nicely for the NFL Draft.  

2. WR Braylon Edwards, Michigan
Lloyd Carr's Class of 2001 overflowed with Top 100 prospects.  Hard to believe, but Edwards wasn't one of them.  He was an unfinished product coming out of Detroit, and very much an afterthought until after David Terrell and Marquise Walker had graduated.  Edwards just kept honing his game every fall, culminating in last year's Biletnikoff Award and All-American recognition.  His unexpected rise offset the implosion of top get, running back Kelly Baraka

3. TE Heath Miller, Virginia
As quarterbacks from tiny high schools go, Miller has developed into quite a tight end.  The nation's best tight end, in fact.  Looking for a way to better utilize his skills, Virginia coaches moved him out from under center his freshman year, a switch that'll make him very wealthy in three months.  In short time, Miller transformed into a prolific pass-catcher and terrific blocker, setting numerous ACC records and winning the Mackey Award last season.

4. LB Chad Greenway, Iowa
Greenway knows a little something about coming out of nowhere, having played nine-man football in South Dakota, and suffering a severe knee injury just a year before his breakout season of 2003.  He's got terrific size and sideline-to-sideline quickness to go along with All-Big Ten honors in each of the last two seasons.  Greenway is Case No. 47 why few coaches are developing talent these days better than Kirk Ferentz and his staff. 

5. LB LeRoy Hill, Clemson
Few have come so far, so fast than Hill has these past four years.  From the tail end of a great Clemson class, he's ascended to the role of flag-bearer following two sensational seasons that conjured up memories of former Tiger standout, Keith Adams.  Hill has an insatiable desire for the ball carrier, as evidenced by his 251 tackles and 46 tackles for loss since becoming a starter in 2003.

6. S Sean Taylor, Miami
While not exactly a rags-to-riches story—the ‘Canes don't recruit paupers—no one could have figured the prolific high school back would develop into the prototypical NFL safety.  Taylor still had plenty of chances to show off his running ability at Miami, however, courtesy of his 14 picks over two seasons.  The consensus All-American attracted the attention of the Washington Redskins, who scooped him up with the No. 5 overall pick in last year's draft, and were thrilled with their selection before his tragic death. 

7. CB Corey Webster, LSU
Webster was a quarterback in high school, a wide receiver his first season in Baton Rouge, and one of the nation's best lockdown corners shortly thereafter.  When a kid possesses that ideal confluence of size, speed and athleticism, there's no limit to what he can do.  He made the All-SEC first team three straight years, and repeated as a first-team All-American in 2004.  Webster picked off 16 passes for LSU, and with limited experience in the secondary, figures only to get better at the next level.  

8. DE Mathias Kiwanuka, Boston College
As a high school senior, Kiwanuka was 6-foot-7, 195 pounds, and in the hunt for a basketball scholarship.  Today, he's a sturdy 260 pounds, and considered one of the best defensive ends returning to school in 2005.  In between, he and the Eagles caught a huge break when he got noticed as BC coaches were scouting Cathedral High teammate, Jeremy Trueblood.  In the last three years, he's bagged 28 sacks and a slew of postseason honors.

9. OG Chris Kemoeatu, Utah
A good defensive tackle prospect in high school, Kemoeatu has  blossomed into a great right guard since arriving in Salt Lake City.  He's a fiery, at times out of control, lineman, who simply destroys opponents with his brute strength and massive upper body.  Kemoeatu was a three-year starter, a three-time All-conference selection, and an All-American during the 2004 season.    

10. OG Elton Brown, Virginia
In a recruiting class dotted with big names, Brown was hardly the headliner.  He was a developmental prospect with a checkered past and just two games of playing time his senior year.  Cav coaches thought he'd be pretty good, but not this good.  Not at-the-top-of-his-craft good.  Brown, who was an All-American and a Lombardi Award finalist in 2004, is a mauler with uncommon agility for a 6-foot-6, 335-pound lineman.    

11. S Thomas Davis, Georgia
Until the incoming Georgia staff finally succumbed to his incredible versatility, Davis looked like he might be headed to I-AA Grambling, one of the only schools to make him an offer.  After lying in the weeds his first two years, he exploded on the national scene in 2003, leading the Dawgs in tackles, and generally creating havoc with his size and burst toward the ball.  Davis was a beast again last fall, fueling speculation that he'll be the first safety chosen in April's NFL Draft.

12. LB Will Derting, Washington State
Derting is Exhibit A that good things do come in small inseams, and from small towns.  The kid from tiny Okanogan, Wash., who was considered too short and too slow other to make it in the Pac-10, has been a non-stop force for the Cougars since earning the start his freshman year.  The epitome of a tough, old school player, Derting will be looking to land on his third straight all-league team in 2005.    

13. S James Butler, Georgia Tech
Playing at Bainbridge (Ga.) High, Butler made local headlines, but never created a national buzz like an Ahmad Carroll or Marlin Jackson.  He was a nice prospect, who wouldn't have caused a furor in Atlanta had he not become a star.  However, after two pedestrian seasons as a backup, he began approaching stardom with a breakout year in 2003, and proved it was no fluke with another great season in 2004.  Butler ended both years by being named to the All-ACC first team.     

14. DE Manase Hopoi, Washington
The son of Tongan immigrants, Hopoi came to Washington as a partial qualifier, failing to reach the necessary SAT score and forced to sit out his freshman season.  Pac-10 schools are allowed to sign one such student-athlete each year, and the Huskies hit paydirt here in 2001.  Hopoi has excelled in the classroom, and tallied a whopping 50 tackles for loss since becoming a starter in 2002.  He's got a non-stop motor, and has proved he can play equally well inside or at end.  

15. WR Mike Hass, Oregon State
Walk-ons earn scholarships every year, but it's a happening when one rises to the heights Hass has since becoming a starter in 2003.  He's not the biggest, the fastest or the most heralded receiver in most games he plays, but doggone it, he is a handful to cover.  Hass has terrific hands and runs crisp routes, skills he's used to grate on the nerves of opposing secondaries and churn out back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

16. LB Barrett Ruud, Nebraska
A super productive player throughout his career, Ruud had interest from Notre Dame and Michigan, but was considered no better than a Top 50 linebacker when he graduated from high school.  He leaves Lincoln as one of the Top 5 ‘backers from his class after racking up more than 140 tackles in each of the last two seasons, and breaking the Husker mark for stops in a career.  

17. QB Bruce Gradkowski, Toledo
So unappealing was Gradkowski to I-A programs four years ago that not one offered him a scholarship until Toledo finally took a leap of faith.  Boy, has it paid off.  Over the past two seasons, he's piloted the explosive Rocket offense with incredible poise and precision, while establishing himself as yet another pro-caliber MAC quarterback.  In just 25 starts, he's accounted for 66 touchdowns, more than 7,500 yards and just 15 picks.

18. LB Odell Thurman, Georgia
 It was a long and circuitous route getting Thurman to Athens, but he proved worth the wait.  After redshirting in 2001, he was dismissed from the team, and forced to spend a year at Georgia Military College.  Thurman returned to the Dawgs in 2003 with a lot to prove, and a couple of fences to mend.  He responded with a breakthrough sophomore season and back-to-back appearances on the All-SEC defense.  As a true hardship case, he's off to the NFL with a year of eligibility still on the table.   

19. WR Terrence Murphy, Texas A&M
A lightly regarded quarterback, Murphy was relocated  to wide receiver his first year in College Station, and promptly broke the Aggie freshman mark for receptions.  It was a sign of things to come for the kid who'd eventually own the school career mark for both receptions and receiving yard.  Murphy's been the lone offensive constant the past four years, and had he been playing in a more stable offense, might have challenged for All-American votes.  

20. S Josh Bullocks, Nebraska
Primarily a running back at Hixson High School, Bullocks has far exceeded expectations since having his monster season two years ago.  In 2003, he demanded to be noticed after picking off ten passes, and becoming just the second Husker sophomore in school history to be named first-team All-American.  After a less spectacular junior year, Bullocks has opted to enter the NFL Draft, where he expects to be chosen on the first day.  

21. CB Darrent Williams, Oklahoma State
The late Williams' diminutive frame kept plenty of major programs from making him an offer, but it hasn't stopped him from developing into a  playmaking corner and punt returner.  He's got tremendous quickness and speed, which makes him tough to beat in the passing game, and even tougher to catch when the ball is in his hands.  A broken forearm  derailed Williams' quest for a spot on the All-Big XII first team in consecutive seasons.  

22. LB Rian Wallace, Temple
While a few ACC and Big East programs kicked Wallace's tires, no one other than Bobby Wallace and Temple really took him seriously or made him an offer.  The linebacker has been repaying the Owls ever since.  On a team low on stars, Wallace has been the face of the program since Dan Klecko's departure, collecting tackles in bunches and representing the school on post-season honors rolls.  The early entry in this year's draft figures to be a first day selection.   

23. QB Josh Cribbs, Kent State
Not big enough.  Can't throw the deep ball.  Cribbs heard all the critics when he was in high school, but rarely listened.  Few schools showed interest, especially when he made it clear he was remaining behind center.  As a four-year starter, Cribbs got the last laugh, rewriting the Kent record books, and becoming the first freshman in NCAA history to pass and run for 1,000 yards in the same season.  A shifty dual-threat, he'll look to find his niche in the NFL much the way Antwan Randle-El did three years ago.

24. OT Travis Leffew, Louisville
Leffew had visits to higher-profile programs, but narrowed his choice to in-state rivals, Kentucky and Louisville.  If nothing else, he displayed impeccable judgment with that decision.  The Cards' iron man has started 38 consecutive games, polishing his skills each fall along with the rest of the offense.  Leffew was named to the AP All-American third team last season, which could be a springboard for even bigger achievements in 2005.   

25. C Jason Brown, North Carolina
It says something about Brown's notoriety that he was better known for throwing the discus in high school than for playing football.  He was a good lineman at Northern Vance, but he was a two-time state champion in track and field.  Since making the switch from tackle his sophomore year, Brown has gradually become one of the best centers in the nation.  This past year, he earned All-ACC honors, and should be the first at his position drafted this April.