Re-Ranking the 2003 Recruiting Classes
USC RB Reggie Bush
USC RB Reggie Bush
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 2007, Richard Cirminiello looks back at 2003 when USC came up with an epic haul, and reranks the top 20.

By Richard Cirminiello

It’s one thing to have a great recruiting class in a given year.  That looks good on paper and in message boards.  It’s another thing entirely to retain that label once the pads go on and the players become more than just four or five-star entries in cyberspace.  Signing blue-chip recruits is exhausting, but developing and retaining them can be a whole lot harder, something that’s evident when these mass collections of talent are revisited and re-ranked four years after they were first assembled.  
*Player and program rankings from 2003 come courtesy of

Fell from the top 20: North Carolina, Virginia, Washington and Colorado

20. Mississippi State – Jackie Sherrill’s last recruiting class in Starkville stunned a lot of people and wound up being one of his best at Mississippi State.  A high school safety, Culberson went on to become an All-SEC linebacker.  Anderson and Butler were very pleasant, two-star surprises, with the latter returning in 2007 as one of the league’s better pass-catching tight ends.  Davis, Hampton and Griffin, three of the Bulldogs’ seven four-star recruits, couldn’t cut it in Sylvester Croom’s stricter regime and left the university before making serious impacts.     
Hits: LB Quinton Culberson, DT Deljuan Robinson, TE Eric Butler, DE Michael Heard, OL Brian Anderson, S Jeramie Johnson and QB Omarr Conner
Misses: OL Donovan Davis, DE Devrick Hampton and CB Adrian Griffin
Final 2003 Ranking
: 20

19. South Carolina – Headliners Summers and Whiteside were busts, preventing this class from ascending any higher.  Summers was actually rated higher than Reggie Bush, but after a tease of a freshman debut, was dismissed for failing a second drug test in 2005. The Gamecocks’ spot in the Top 20 was salvaged by Bennett and two-star Simpson, who needed just two solid seasons in Columbia to earn a starting job with the Buffalo Bills as a fourth-round pick.  Mitchell and Boyd have one more year in the South Carolina backfield, so there’s still some room for growth out of this class.
Hits: S Ko Simpson, CB Fred Bennett, QB Blake Mitchell, LB Marcus Lawrence, QB Syvelle Newton and RB Cory Boyd
Misses: RB Demetris Summers, WR Noah Whiteside and LB Ryan Brown
Final 2003 Ranking
: 15

18. Oklahoma – Exhibit A why it makes good sense to let the dust settle on a class before labeling it with all kinds of superlatives.  This was supposed to be Bob Stoops’ recruiting opus in Norman.  Uh-uh.  The downside, Oklahoma realized, is that too much talent has a way of scaring off young kids that believe they’ll be buried for years on the depth chart.  Tashard Choice and Courtney Tennial are starring for Georgia Tech and Tulsa, respectively, Millington has helped solidify the left side of the Illinois line and Cade, the nation’s No. 2 safety, is with UNLV.  Oh, and how good would Grady look with quarterback-starved OU instead of the Utah Utes?  Dampeer had All-America potential, but was an undisciplined flop of epic proportions, a microcosm of this collection’s legacy.  Good thing for the safeties, Nicholson and Williams, who barely kept the nation’s No. 3 class from slipping completely outside the revised Top 20.   
Hits: S Donte Nicholson, S Darien Williams, TE Joe John Finley, DT Carl Pendleton and DT Steven Coleman,
Misses: DT Moe Dampeer, S Tony Cade, QB Tommy Grady, LB Demarrio Pleasant, S Chijioke Onyenegecha, T Akim Millington, OL Brian Zimpel, TE Willie Roberts, LB Lewis Baker, LB Dane Zaslaw and Cody Freeby
Final 2003 Ranking
: 3

17. Miami – Larry Coker’s recruiting classes always looked better on paper than on grass, a major reason why he’s currently out of work.  The 2003 group was no different, providing some decent starters, but no star power beyond the electrifying Hester.  Olsen was the closest thing, but even he never erupted with the ‘Canes, catching just six touchdown passes in three seasons.  Beason was the teams’ best defensive player in 2006, taking that momentum into the NFL with a year of eligibility left on the table.  The haul of offensive linemen that included Morse, Bain, Rochford and Cyrim Wimbs was supposed to be the program’s best in years, but has yet to produce an all-league performer.  For a variety of reasons, Wright and Moss haven’t approached their top 5 designation, but Wright has one year left in Patrick Nix’s system to redeem himself.  By the way, how in the world was H.B. Blades allowed to escape this Miami class?   
Hits: TE Greg Olsen, CB Devin Hester, LB Jon Beason, G Derrick Morse, LB Glenn Cook, TE Kevin Everett and P Brian Monroe
Misses: S Willie Cooper, RB Tyrone Moss, QB Kyle Wright, OL John Rochford, LB Tavares Gooden, DE Vegas Franklin and OL Andrew Bain
Final 2003 Ranking
: 6

16. Florida State – Sims, widely considered the top recruit of 2003, was as good as advertised for three years in Tallahassee before a terrific debut with the Detroit Lions last year.  The ‘Noles built a solid foundation on both lines, led by Fluellen, who’s primed to become the next really good defensive tackle from the school.  This class, however, was extremely light on skill position talent, a troubling trend of late that’s hindered a floundering offense.  Cromartie was headed toward an All-American career, but tore his ACL before the 2005 season, and is now a rising star with the San Diego Chargers.  
Hits: LB Ernie Sims, DT Andre Fluellen, DE Chauncey Davis, T Mario Henderson, WR De’Cody Fagg, T David Overmyer and OL John Frady
Misses: CB Antonio Cromartie, K Chase Goggans, DT Chris Anderson and DE Chris Bradwell
Final 2003 Ranking
: 12

15. Georgia – The Dawgs have received some unexpected production from Jones, Jackson, Flowers and Shackleford, none of whom were ranked in the top 35 at their position.  Those surprises helped offset the huge disappointments of four-star linemen, McKinzey and Chandler, who’ve yet to start a game in Athens.  Injuries have been a key reason why five-star playmakers Lumpkin and Bailey have missed the mark, but both have one more year to approach All-SEC caliber.  For two years, Pope was one of the nation’s scariest tight ends and Oliver is on the verge of becoming a top-flight corner in his senior year.  Thurman played just 23 games in his star-crossed Georgia career, but was a force for two years.      
Hits: LB Odell Thurman, TE Leonard Pope, CB Paul Oliver, LB Jarvis Jackson, C Nick Jones, CB Thomas Flowers, T Ken Shackleford and PR Mikey Henderson
Misses: RB Kregg Lumpkin, WR Sean Bailey, OL Zeb McKinzey, OL Trey Chandler, DE Richard Cook and TE Coleman Watson
Final 2003 Ranking
: 11

14. Auburn – Can the Tiger staff attract and develop pass rushers, or what?  McClover, Groves and Gunn have all tormented SEC quarterbacks at one time or another, leaving Blevins as the lone bust in the bunch.  Irons patrolled the secondary like a hawk for two seasons, while the tandem of Bliss and Vaughn, for the most part, gave the kicking game stability.  Britt was a top 20 lineman with a bright future until a shoulder injury prematurely ended his playing career.  Jacobs was the year’s top junior college recruit, but stayed for just a year, opting instead to use Southern Illinois as a stepping stone to the NFL.
Hits: DE Stanley McClover, CB David Irons, DE Quentin Groves, DE Marquies Gunn, TE Cole Bennett, T King Dunlap, S Eric Brock, P Kody Bliss and K John Vaughn
Misses: DE Lloyd Blevins, OL Jarrod Britt, RB Brandon Jacobs, NG Tez Doolittle and QB Courtney Denson,
Final 2003 Ranking
: 16

13. Texas A&M – The legacy of this recruiting class will be the offensive line, which has already produced a ton of starts out of seniors-to-be Wallace, Elder, Clark and Kirk Yoder.  The defensive line also fared pretty well, landing Bryant and Harrington, who was honorable mention All-Big 12 last year.  The headliner of the group, however, was Warren, a seek-and-destroy linebacker with all-conference credentials in each of his final two seasons.  Adams was the epitome of an underachiever.  Slotted as the fifth best lineman in the nation, he was shifted to defense in 2004 and banished from the program a year later for a drug-related arrest. 
Hits: LB Justin Warren, S Melvin Bullitt, DE Chris Harrington, C Cody Wallace, DT Red Bryant, G Kirk Elder, FB Chris Alexander, T Corey Clark and CB Brock Newton
Misses: T Jorrie Adams, DE Jason Jack, WR Earvin Taylor and RB Derrick Brown,
Final 2003 Ranking
: 9

12. Virginia Tech – Pundits assured us four years ago that Virginia ruled the Commonwealth, however, history will sing a different song.  With another season of eligibility left, Hall and Adibi will both end up having better careers than Cavalier uber-recruit Ahmad Brooks.  Ditto Brown, who’s blossomed from a tight end to a stud tackle, surpassing top-ranked UVa lineman Jordy Lipsey along the way.  Ellis, Booker and Powell have been regular producers on the defensive line and the mercurial Clowney, who played in last week’s Senior Bowl, would have had much better numbers playing in a more diverse offense.  The biggest casualty was Hinton, an incorrigible four-star prospect, who transferred to Ohio after two arrests cost him his Hokie scholarship.
: LB Vince Hall, LB Xavier Adibi, T Duane Brown, DE Chris Ellis, WR David Clowney, DT Barry Booker and DT Carlton Powell,
Misses: S Michael Hinton and OL Tripp Carroll
Final 2003 Ranking
: 21

11. Iowa – The Class of 2003 was another example that few staffs coach up young talent better than the one in Iowa.  Jones, an outstanding three-year starter, was the only blue-chipper of a group that’s injected talent into both sides of the ball.  Tate is an all-time Hawkeye, throwing 60 touchdown passes over the last three years, and Young is back for his senior year, looking to recapture his sophomore form.  Chandler began his college career as the 140th-ranked wide receiver before growing into an All-Big Ten weapon as a tight end.  Klinkenborg led the 2006 defense with 129 tackles, while the bookends of Iwebema and Mattison, overlooked by lots of schools, have all-league skills.     
Hits: QB Drew Tate, G Mike Jones, RB Albert Young, TE Scott Chandler, DE Kenny Iwebema, DE Bryan Mattison and LB Mike Klinkenborg
Misses: None
Final 2003 Ranking
: 30

10. Georgia Tech  – Very quietly, Chan Gailey’s first full recruiting class at Tech was rock solid and vastly underrated four years later.  The haul produced 10 starters on last year’s division championship squad, including five members of the All-ACC team, but wouldn’t have been possible without some stellar coaching.  The staff dug deep with these kids, getting maximum contributions and well over 100 starts from Wheeler, Anoai, Wrotto, Hall, Oliver, Tuminello and Rhodes, not one of which was even a top 75 prospect at his position.  Grant and Ball, on the other hand, were heavily recruited, but generated sobering results.  Grant was the team’s fourth-leading rusher in 2006 and Ball was one of the most erratic non-option passers of this generation.     
Hits: LB Phillip Wheeler, CB Kenny Scott, DT Joe Anoai, T Mansfield Wrotto, LB KaMichael Hall, DE Adamm Oliver, G Matt Rhodes and C Kevin Tuminello
Misses: RB Rashaun Grant and QB Reggie Ball
Final 2003 Ranking
: 34

9. Louisville – Few schools did more with less than Louisville in 2003.  This was supposed to be Bush and a cast of question marks, but evolved into a deep collection of talent that was instrumental in last season’s Big East crown and Orange Bowl win.  What Bush was to the offense, Okoye was to the defense, emerging from an unranked, two-star teen to one of the country’s premier run-stuffing tackles.  Gay and Sharp were multi-year starters and All-Big East performers in the Cardinal secondary.  Despite being rated below classmates B.J Vickers and Antwuan Giddens, the fleet-footed Douglas has caught 97 passes the last two years and enters 2007 as one of the game’s most dangerous receivers.      
Hits: RB Michael Bush, DT Amobi Okoye, LB Malik Jackson, WR Harry Douglas, CB William Gay, CB Brandon Sharp and RB Kolby Smith
Misses: None
Final 2003 Ranking
: 48

8. North Carolina State – The Wolfpack held up to the scrutiny of a top 10 class by delivering a ton of defensive talent  to build around and very few embarrassing busts.  Williams was a pass-rushing terror and the eventual No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.  Labeled too small by some local schools, Tulloch was a ferocious tackling machine in Raleigh, carving out a spot in last spring’s draft as well.  Tyler played his way on to the All-ACC first team last year, beating out more heralded peers.  Blackman is an elite return man with an extra gear and game-breaking speed.  Brown led the team in sacks in 2006 and still has a year left at State.  Morris was a five-star enigma, who started 23 games for the Pack, but could have been so much more had he stayed for his senior year.         
Hits: DE Mario Williams, LB Stephen Tulloch, DT Tank Tyler, OL Derek Morris, LB LeRue Rumph, S Garland Heath, RB Darrell Blackman, S Miguel Scott and DE Martrel Brown
Misses: WR Lamart Barrett, DE Kennie Covington, QB Marcus Stone and TE Jamesley Jean
Final 2003 Ranking
: 9

7. Texas – Mack Brown opted for quality over quantity in 2003, signing just 18 kids, but efficiently landing some cornerstone athletes for both sides of the ball.  Eight of those signees were in the starting lineup for last year’s Alamo Bowl win, highlighted by All-Big 12 first team selections, Crowder, Griffin and Sweed.  Coming off building block junior years, Hills and Derry will be two of the peak performers of next year’s Longhorns.  Had Hardeman fulfilled his expectations, this class would easily have soared into one of the top 5 slots.  The nation’s No. 8 back squandered a perfect blend of power and speed by struggling in the classroom and running afoul with the law.      
: DE Tim Crowder, S Michael Griffin, WR Limas Sweed, CB Tarell Brown, WR Billy Pittman, T Tony Hills, LB Robert Killebrew and LB Scott Derry
Misses: RB Erik Hardeman, WR Tyrell Gatewood and S Erick Jackson
Final 2003 Ranking
: 14

6. Michigan – As is often the case in Ann Arbor, Michigan searched far and wide for the next generation of Wolverines, signing 17 recruits from ten different states.  Backfield gaffes aside, Lloyd Carr built a nice foundation of talent that’s won 37 games and a handful of individual honors since 2003.  Hall and Woodley were All-Americans and two of the country’s premier players at corner and defensive end, respectively.  Long has the same potential in 2007, while Crable is ready to make a splash after a productive junior year.  Rivas ended his career as Michigan’s all-time leading scorer.  Richard was going to be the next big-time Wolverine quarterback, but opted to play professional baseball instead.    
: CB Leon Hall, DE LaMarr Woodley, T Jake Long, G Adam Kraus, LB Prescott Burgess, LB Shawn Crable, K Garrett Rivas and S Ryan Mundy,
Misses: TE Will Paul, LB Jim Presley, QB Clayton Richard, RB Anton Campbell and RB Jerome Jackson,
Final 2003 Ranking
: 8

5. Tennessee – From a relatively small recruiting class, the Volunteers got five All-SEC players last year alone.  The receiving trio of Meachem, Swain and Smith have produced 334 receptions and 41 touchdowns during their Tennessee careers.  Sears and McBride were pillars of strength and consistency in Knoxville for the offensive and defensive line, respectively.  Hefney, the No. 70 corner, was the pleasant surprise of the group, lapping the more acclaimed Campbell and Fellows with one more season to go.  The latest of the kicking Colquitts was seventh nationally in punting a year ago.  Young is one to watch in 2007.  A little slow out of the gate, the former five-star tackle laid the foundation last fall for what should be a very strong senior year.     
Hits: WR Robert Meachem, T Arron Sears, WR Jayson Swain, DT Turk McBride, P Britton Colquitt, T Eric Young, Bret Smith and S Jonathan Hefney
Misses: LB Daniel Brooks, S Corey Campbell and CB Roshaun Fellows
Final 2003 Ranking
: 7

4. LSU – Feast your eyes on this class, ‘Bama fans.  Before long, you might be seeing similar levels of depth and quality now that Nick Saban is your coach.  There was plenty of high-profile attrition here, but that’s sort of expected when you back up the truck and unload 17 four or five-star recruits on a campus.   Russell will go down as an all-time great LSU quarterback and could be the first player chosen in this year’s NFL Draft.  A day one starter, Landry was named All-American twice and All-SEC all four years.  Bowe combined with Russell on 23 touchdowns, making them the most prolific pass-catch combo in school history.  Arnold is All-SEC, two years running.  Matt Flynn has thrown just 78 career passes, but now that he’s expected to replace Russell, he could really boost this group with a banner 2007.  How in the world do you size up Vincent, who helped LSU to a national title as a freshman, but never was able to recapture that magic?  
Hits: QB JaMarcus Russell, S LaRon Landry, WR Dwayne Bowe, G Will Arnold, WR Craig Davis, S Jessie Daniels, CB Jonathan Zenon, LB Kenny Hollis and K Chris Jackson
Misses: RB Justin Vincent, S Daryl Johnson, RB Barrington Edwards, DE Kirston Pittman, RB Alley Broussard, DE Tim Washington, DT Carnell Stewart, WR Amp Hill and OL Jerry Sevin
Final 2003 Ranking
: 2

3. Notre Dame – The hiring of Charlie Weis has had plenty to do with Notre Dame’s recent two-year uptick, but then again so has this class, easily Tyrone Willingham’s best with the Irish.  Quinn was a two-time Heisman contender and the holder of just about every school passing record.  Samardzija was his favorite target, catching 179 passes and 27 touchdown passes.  Zbikowski, while beatable in pass defense, is a true playmaker returning punts and picks.  While Abiamiri has really come into his own as a pass rusher, Sullivan  and Harris have been starters together for the past three seasons.  Before getting injured last year, Carlson was headed toward an improbable Mackey Award given to the nation’s top tight end.  His return, along with Zbikowski’s and Thomas’ likely ascent to the feature back ensures this class will only get stronger.    
Hits: QB Brady Quinn, WR Jeff Samardzija, S Tom Zbikowski, DE Victor Abiamiri, C John Sullivan, T Ryan Harris, S Chinedum Ndukwe, DT Trevor Laws, TE John Carlson and CB Ambrose Wooden 
Misses: S Freddie Parish, RB Isaiah Gardner and RB Travis Thomas
Final 2003 Ranking
: 5

2. Florida – The Gators’ national championship may have been won early in 2007, but the seeds were planted in February of 2003.  And the Master Gardener was none other than Ron Zook, who was run out of Gainesville, but not before assembling some killer recruiting classes.  Eight players that started in the 41-14  demolition of Ohio State were from that 2003 group, headed by Leak on offense and All-American Nelson on defense.  Moss finally emerged from his mini-slumber in 2005 and Rissler and Medder were important pieces of this season’s rebuilt offensive line.  Jackson, Crowder and Webb are all on NFL rosters these days, but had they hung around campus for another year, Florida could have seriously challenged USC for the top billing. 
Hits: QB Chris Leak, S Reggie Nelson, WR Chad Jackson, DE Jarvis Moss, LB Channing Crowder, DT Marcus Thomas, CB Dee Webb, LB Earl Everett, WR Andre Caldwell, C Steve Rissler, T Carlton Medder and P Eric Wilbur
Misses: DE Tranell Morant, RB Skyler Thornton, QB Justin Midgett and DE Joe Cohen
Final 2003 Ranking
: 4

1. USC – The top recruiting class of 2003 is still the top recruiting class four years later.  Even more than the 11-win season and Orange Bowl blowout a year earlier, this collection of talent signaled that the Trojans were back and armed for long-term excellence.  Pete Carroll swept through California like a brush fire, landing star power for both sides of the ball.  Bush and White were a devastating duo, while Booty is ready to challenge for the program’s fourth Heisman in six years.  Smith played in the shadows of Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett, yet caught 190 passes and 22 career touchdowns.  Baker, Kalil, Ellis and Jackson have been All-Pac-10 stalwarts along the offensive and defensive lines.  Ellis, Jackson and Moala return in 2007 to give the Trojans one of the deepest D-lines in America.  Lewis arrived as the top-rated receiver in the country, but has never lived up to expectations.  Rucker died tragically just days before his first camp with the program.           
Hits: RB Reggie Bush, WR Steve Smith, T Sam Baker, QB John David Booty, DT Sedrick Ellis, RB LenDale White, DE Lawrence Jackson, C Ryan Kalil, DT Fili Moala and CB Terrell Thomas,
Misses: WR Whitney Lewis, LB Drean Rucker, LB Thomas Williams, DT Ryan Watson, RB Chauncey Washington and TE Chris Barrett
Final 2003 Ranking
: 1