Offensive Recruiting Booms & Busts - 2002
Posted Jan 30, 2007

Recruiting is an inexact science, to say the least. Often, sure-thing recruits stink and do nothing, while passed over prospects, like former West Virginia star Dan Mozes, turn into superstars. Richard Cirminiello takes a look back on the 2002 recruiting class to see which offensive players boomed and which busted.

By Richard Cirminiello 

If the NFL Draft is an inexact science, it goes to figure that the recruitment of high school athletes would be an absolute crapshoot.  It is.  History has shown us that every year offers up a bunch of blue-chippers that blew once they got on campus and future All-Americans that left high school with fewer stars than a Russ Meyer film festival.  Lost in all the hype surrounding each National Letter Intent Signing Day is the sobering fact that we really have no clue who has truly mined the next pillar of a program or who’s joined forces with an eventual coach killer.  Oh, the growing legions of experts—both published and unpublished—will assure you they’ve got the answers, but the final tally really can’t come for years.  Two or three might work, but four years really allows us to peel the onion on a recruiting class and uncover the can’t-miss recruits that whiffed for any number of reasons and the everyday, no-name teens that blossomed into stars and future NFL players.             

Boom: QB Omar Jacobs, Bowling Green – It’s hard to imagine that Jacobs labored to find a suitor after high school.  Kansas State and UCF backed away late, and Bowling Green aside, only lightweights, such as Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, Bethune-Cookman and Louisiana Tech showed real interest.  In just 20 full games since taking the reigns from Josh Harris, Jacobs accounted for a get-a-load-of-me-now 72 touchdowns and almost 7,000 yards of total offense.  

Bust: QB Ben Olson, BYU/UCLA – Olson still has two years of eligibility remaining, so he still has time to change this around.  However, when the nation’s highest-ranking quarterback has threw four passes in four years before getting hurt and giving way to Patrick Cowan last season, he’s a bust until proven otherwise.  The starting job still might be his to lose this season.

Boom: WR Derek
Hagan, Arizona State – In just four years, Hagan has traveled the equivalent of a galaxy as a wide receiver prospect.  A one-star prospect that appeared headed for UNLV, he finished as ASU’s all-time leading receiver and a safe bet to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Bust: WR Dishon Platt, Florida State – Platt never had the grades to enroll at Florida State, flirted with, but never attended South Florida and has completely fallen off the athletic map over the past three years.  Despite being one of the two or three most coveted high school receivers, he never played a down of college ball.

Boom: OL Greg Eslinger, Minnesota – Eslinger was probably the biggest surprise to come from the Class of 2002.  The Bismark native would have played for a I-AA school in Montana or North Dakota had it not been for the faith of Glen Mason.  He responded by starting every game of his career and winning the Outland and Rimington Trophies.

Bust: OL Brandon Jeffries, Tennessee/NC State – A five-star prospect with a satchel of offers, Jeffries was buried on the depth chart from the moment he arrived in Knoxville.  Poor grades—in the classroom and from  coaches—prompted a quick stop at Cleveland County Community College before he transferred to NC State.

Boom: RB Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois – Here goes that size concern again.  The 5-7 Wolfe was too small to be considered an every down back or to be taken seriously by Big Ten schools.  He turned out to be one of the nation's most productive backs and finished 2006 as the nation's leading rusher.

Bust: RB Michael Johnson, Virginia – The next best thing to Lorenzo Booker and Ciatrick Fason four years ago, Johnson has forever been stuck by lower-ranked backs, such as Alvin Pearman and Wali Lundy.  He’s broken off the occasional long run or return, but that’s a far cry from what the Cavs expected when they beat out dozens of schools for his signature. 

Boom: OL D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia – A very nice high school prospect, Ferguson blossomed into one of the country’s premier blockers during his stay in Charlottesville.  A starter since his freshman season, he was two-time All-ACC and turned into a top draft pick for the New York Jets.

Bust: OL Nathan Rhodes, Washington – Ranked by many as the nation’s top prep tackle, Rhodes’ precipitous fall from grace was attributed to a career-ending back injury that forced him to give up football before he ever played a down for the Huskies.

Boom: WR
Santonio Holmes, Ohio State – Holmes wasn’t even the top-rated wide receiver signed by Ohio State in 2002.  That honor belonged to Roy Hall.  While Hall was still searching for his first career start, Holmes turned into a superstar and a first-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Bust: WR Marquis Johnson, Texas/Texas Tech – A legit top-five wide receiver with great size and speed, Johnson was hailed as the second coming of Roy Williams, but didn’t have the grades and failed to qualify at UT.  He did the JC thing before moving on to Lubbock, where he got suspended for the 2006 Cotton Bowl after a 13-catch year.

Boom: QB Ryan Hart, Rutgers – Rutgers continued to mine the state of Florida, and found their all-time leading passer in Hart.  He had a rocky senior year, but closed strong in the Insight Bowl and was the 17th-rated quarterback in the nation in 2005.

Bust: QB Gavin Dickey, Florida – Urban Meyer felt being a Florida quarterback was a full-time job, and Dickey agreed in January, leaving the football team to concentrate exclusively on his baseball career.  In three seasons, Dickey threw 15 passes and accounted for just a single touchdown.

Boom: WR Charles Gordon, Kansas – A true two-way threat, Gordon set the Jayhawk freshman receiving record in 2003 and, after moving to defense, led the nation in interceptions in 2004.  He was also a dangerous punt returner, and the type of all-around athlete that was sorely missed in Lawrence after turning pro early.

Bust: WR Akieem Jolla, Miami – Jolla never left an imprint on the ‘Cane offense as many had expected, catching just 24 balls in four quiet seasons.  In an attempt to get closer to his mom, who was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, he has left Miami, and will played his final season at New Mexico State.

Boom: OL Taitusi Lutui, Utah/USC – Lutui wasn’t exactly a sleeper four years ago, but he did have about 50 linemen rated ahead of him.  Not today.  He bounced around the West for a few years before finding a home in Los Angeles and becoming a high draft pick by the Arizona Cardinals.     

Bust: OL Kyle Williams, USC – He salvaged his career with a good 2006. The one-time can’t-miss tackle finally came through to help a line that replaced Taitusi Lutui, Fred Matua and Winston Justice.

Boom: WR David Anderson, Colorado State – Few receivers in the country had been more consistent or productive than Anderson, a suggestion that would have been ridiculous four years ago.  Yet, the Rams’ all-time leading receiver got few looks after high school, a snub he hasn’t forgotten

Bust: WR Ryan Moore, Miami – It’s not as if Moore’s career has been void of highlights or that he can’t still be a star, but when you’re the consensus top receiver in the country, 81 catches and nine touchdowns in three years is off the mark.  Injuries and off-the-field issues have kept him down.

Boom: QB Jared Zabransky, Boise State – Zabransky was going to fit in just a few systems, and Boise State happened to be one of them.  Oregon State showed interest, but only if he was willing to walk on.  Zabransky will forever be known as the quarterback who led the way to the epic Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.

Bust: QB James Banks, Tennessee – Banks was going to be the next Tee Martin.  Then he showed signs of being the next Donte Stallworth.  After numerous suspensions and allegations of drug use earned him a quick exit out of Knoxville, he wound up being just another reminder that the UT class of 2002 was way overrated.  

Boom: RB Curtis Brown, BYU – A bit overshadowed by John Beck and Jonny Harline, Brown was one of the key cogs in one of the nation's most unstoppable offenses. He was the BYU running game.

Bust: RB Mario Whitney, Missouri – Whitney seemed to have the size and speed to be a hit in the Big 12, but wound up being overmatched at Missouri, and bounced around the junior college and I-AA circuit without any memorable moments.

Boom: TE Joe Klopfenstein, Colorado – From humble beginnings, Klopfenstein has honed his game each season before going off to the NFL.  He exits Boulder with 86 career catches and at least four touchdowns in each of his last three years.

Bust: TE Aaron Kirkland, Tennessee – Two dozen name brand programs offering scholarships couldn’t be wrong, right?  Uh-uh.  Rated the nation’s top blocking tight end, Kirkland quickly got booted out of Knoxville, transferred to Western Carolina before being an anonymous cog in the Elizabeth City State offense. 

Boom: QB Bryan Cupito, Minnesota – Cupito was getting offers from MAC and C-USA schools, yet proved plenty worthy of playing in the Big Ten as a nice fit for a Gopher offense that likes play-action passing.  He was a solid three-year starter.

Bust: QB Justin
Zwick, Ohio State – Zwick entered Ohio State way ahead of classmate Troy Smith, but that lead didn’t last long.  Smith has lapped Zwick the last two years, putting himself in Heisman contention for 2006, while Zwick, the owner of just seven career touchdown passes, had periodically contemplated a transfer out of Columbus.  

Boom: TE Garrett Mills, Tulsa – The definition of a diamond in the rough, Mills went from an undersized and lightly recruited kid to one of the most decorated players in Tulsa history.  He finished his Hurricane career with 201 catches and 23 touchdowns and set an NCAA single-season record for tight ends in 2005 with 1,235 receiving yards.  

Bust: TE Curtis Justus, Miami – Justus was going to be the next Miami mega star at tight end, but a severe injury toward the end of his high school career was more debilitating than anyone originally thought, and he’s been relegated to long snapper duties since 2003.

Boom: RB Ken Darby, Alabama – ‘Bama’s class of 2002 was headlined by defensive stars, such as Derrick Pope and Ahmad Childress, but Darby, despite a disappointing senior year, distinguished himself on the field becoming the first Tide back since Shaun Alexander to go over 1,000 in back-to-back seasons.

Bust: RB
Darnell Hood, Michigan – Hood came to Ann Arbor as a heralded running back, but over four years, he’s been little more than a special teams player and backup cornerback with 22 career tackles and no picks.

Boom: OL Dan Mozes, West Virginia – Mozes wanted to play for hometown Pitt, but the Panthers thought he was too small.  Oops.  With a little chip on his shoulder, he turned into one of America's best offensive linemen and the quarterback for a tremendous front five.

Bust: OL Heath
Benedict, Tennessee – Everybody’s All-American had a brief and uneventful stay in Knoxville before transferring to Division II Newberry College.

Boom: QB Phil Horvath, Northern Illinois – Horvath seamlessly replaced Josh Haldi with Horvath, who led the MAC in passing efficiency.

Bust: QB Anthony Martinez, Virginia – Slated to be Virginia’s quarterback of the future, Martinez never could cut it in Charlottesville, and left the school before the 2004 season with one career touchdown pass.

Boom: QB Jeff Ballard, TCU – Ballard was hardly an immediate success, however, when his chance came to replace Tye Gunn, he delivered eight consecutive wins and 21 touchdowns in one of the great runs by a quarterback in TCU history. He led the Horned Frogs to another double digit-win season last year.

Bust: QB Marcus
Vick, Virginia Tech – Considering how ridiculously hyped he was coming out of high school and how things turned out, Vick was a colossal bust.  He wound up playing just one meaningful year in Blacksburg before getting dismissed from school, and will be remembered more for his off-field transgressions than on-field performance.  

Boom: RB Mike Imoh, Virginia Tech – Considered too small by many schools, Imoh had been a spark plug for the Hokie running game, running for more than 1,100 yards and 10 scores in his last 19 games.

Bust: RB Michael Cooper, Georgia – Cooper led the Dawgs in rushing in 2003, but grew agitated by the logjam at running back in Athens and opted to transfer to Missouri State, where he averaged 3.1 yards on just 49 carries in 2005.

Boom: RB B.J. Mitchell, Nevada – The Pac-10 had no interest in Mitchell.  Nevada hasn’t stopped thanking them yet.  The 2005 WAC Offensive Player of the Year finished his Pack career with 2,395 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Bust: RB David
Richard, Michigan State/Missouri – Change has not been good for Richard, one of the top big backs of 2002.  After running for 654 yards as a true freshman, he transferred to Missouri, moved to linebacker, was arrested for pot possession and eventually dismissed from the team last September.
Boom: OL Andrew Carnahan, Arizona State – A fixture on the Sun Devil offensive line for three seasons, Carnahan had the reputation as one of the toughest tackles in the country.

Bust: OL Garett Wibel, LSU – Wibel has never been able to crack the starting lineup, picking up some mop-up duty in eight games over the past three years.