With National Signing Day closing in, SEC Country invokes a hindsight review of recent recruiting classes, lamenting the various hits and misses of each group.
Today’s breakdown focuses on the 2012 recruiting class — headlined by an SEC wide receiver (ex-Missouri star Dorial Green-Beckham) and Alabama’s top-ranked recruiting class (along with Florida and UGA in the top 10).
HITS: The draft viability of the top 10
SUMMARY: Eight of the top 10 players from 247Sports.com’s listing have already been drafted into the pros: Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (40th overall — Titans), Florida State defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. (35th overall — Raiders), Florida O-tackle D.J. Humphries (24th overall — Cardinals), Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson (25th overall — Panthers), Alabama safety Landon Collins (33rd overall — Giants), Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs (146th overall — Vikings), Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown (32nd overall — Patriots) and Florida State defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (39th overall — Bears).
Citing the above info, Diggs was the only 2015 draftee of this group to fall below the No. 40 slot. However, he might have garnered the most fame among the eight-man set, rolling for 52 catches, 570 yards and four TDs as a rookie (Minnesota’s top receiver).
SEC: 247Sports.com’s Recruiting Rankings For 2012
6. Texas A&M
7. South Carolina
9. Mississippi State
12. Ole Miss
HITS: Quarterback Jameis Winston
SUMMARY: The Hueytown, Ala. native was correctly hailed as the 2012 class’s top-ranked quarterback (albeit as a “dual-threat” asset) and No. 14 overall performer. Winston would easily justify the ranking during his redshirt freshman campaign, accounting for 4,057 yards passing, 44 touchdowns (40 passing) and leading the Seminoles to the BCS national championship (knocking off Auburn in the title game).
Oh, and Winston also captured the Heisman Trophy that season; and he would parlay a decorated college career into being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), tallying 4,042 yards passing and 21 total TDs as a rookie.
MISSES: The top 20 pro-style QBs from 2012
SUMMARY: This underwhelming lot of supposed blue-chippers — excluding Jameis Winston, who was labeled a “dual-threat” quarterback — can be lumped into five awkward subcategories:
GOOD — Utah quarterback Travis Wilson (10th-ranked QB), a four-year starter, accounted for 7,401 yards and 75 total touchdowns. Cincinnati’s Gunner Kiel, the top-ranked pro-style passer who never panned out with Indiana, Notre Dame or LSU, tallied 50 touchdown passes in his first two seasons with the Bearcats. Kiel will return for one final campaign in 2016.
FULL OF POTENTIAL — BYU’s Tanner Mangum (3rd-ranked QB) passed for 3,377 yards and 23 touchdowns as a first-year starter in 2015, highlighted by a Hail Mary score to beat Nebraska. Illinois QB Wes Lunt (No. 16 ranking) could be a candidate for 3,500 yards/25 touchdowns next fall. Trevor Knight (11th-ranked QB) garnered instant fame with Oklahoma, leading the Sooners to a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama two years ago and catching the eye of pop icon Katy Perry. But he’s now in the process of a career reboot, transferring to Texas A&M for 2016.
MEH — UGA quarterback Greyson Lambert (8th-ranked QB) and Kentucky’s Patrick Towles (No. 15), who recently transferred to Boston College. Lambert has shown potential with the Bulldogs … but he’s not the long-term pick at quarterback, given the impending arrival of freshman All-American Jacob Eason.
NONEXISTENT — Zach Kline (Rank: 2 — Cal), Connor Brewer (Rank: 4 — Texas), Chad Voytik (Rank: 5 — Pitt), Bart Houston (Rank: 6 — Wisconsin), Jake Rodrigues (Rank: 7 — Oregon), Jeff Lindquist (Rank: 9 — Washington), Zeke Pike (Rank: 12 — Auburn), Tyler Matthews (Rank: 13 — TCU), Ford Childress (Rank: 14 — West Virginia), Nathan Peterman (Rank: 17 — Tennessee), Bennie Coney (Rank: 18 — Cincinnati), T.J. Milweard (Rank: 19 — UCLA).
ONE LAST CHANCE — Tyler O’Connor, the 20th-ranked QB, does not have an expansive resume at the college level. However, he’s slated to be Michigan State’s starting quarterback this fall (succeeding Connor Cook). He also gets bonus points for engineering the Spartans’ landmark upset of Ohio State back in November, while subbing for the injured Cook.
Hindsight Top 10 — National
1. Florida State QB Jameis Winston (overall rank: 14)
2. Alabama receiver Amari Cooper (overall rank: 45)
3. Southern California defensive tackle Leonard Williams (overall rank: 50)
4. UGA tailback Todd Gurley (overall rank: 74)
5. Alabama safety Landon Collins (overall rank: 7)
6. Florida linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. (overall rank: 37)
7. Florida State defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (overall rank: 10)
8. Alabama tailback T.J. Yeldon (overall rank: 29)
9. Florida offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (overall rank: 3)
10. Stanford offensive tackle Andrus Peat (overall rank: 30)
HITS: Pro-style QBs outside the top 20
SUMMARY: As a group, Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld (rank: 23), Florida State’s Sean Maguire (rank: 25), Purdue’s Austin Appleby (rank: 32), Baylor’s Seth Russell (rank: 34), Iowa’s C.J. Beathard (rank: 49) and Memphis’s Paxton Lynch (rank: 84) averaged 2,458 yards passing and 20 passing touchdowns in 2015.
In fact, Lynch (3,778 yards passing, 30 TDs) may be the first or second quarterback taken in the upcoming NFL draft.
HITS: Top 20 offensive tackles
SUMMARY: We’re already singing the praises of the highly ranked offensive tackles from 2012. This large cluster of mammoth, but eminently nimble linemen should evolve into formidable assets in the pros, as well.
Of the top 20 O-tackles from 2012, Florida’s D.J. Humphries (rank: 1; pro team: Cardinals), Stanford’s Andrus Peat (rank: 4; pro team: Saints) and Miami’s Ereck Flowers (rank: 17; pro team: Giants) were all first-round picks in last year’s NFL draft.
As a follow-up, Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley (rank: 13), Ohio State’s Taylor Decker (rank: 19), Stanford’s Kyle Murphy (rank: 2) and UGA’s John Theus (rank: 3) could be first- or second-round picks in the upcoming draft.
Throw in the progressions of Auburn offensive tackle Avery Young (an athletic tackle built like a tight end) and Notre Dame’s Jarron Jones (2017 draft class) — who converted to defensive tackle — and time will look quite favorably at the 2012 bumper crop of franchise-defining tackles.
SEC’s Hindsight Top 20
1. Alabama receiver Amari Cooper (overall rank: 45)
2. UGA tailback Todd Gurley (overall rank: 74)
3. Alabama safety Landon Collins (overall rank: 7)
4. Florida linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. (overall rank: 37)
5. Alabama tailback T.J. Yeldon (overall rank: 29)
6. Florida offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (overall rank: 3)
7. Florida defensive end Jonathan Bullard (overall rank: 12)
8. LSU offensive guard Vadal Alexander (overall rank: 160)
9. Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland (overall rank: 41)
10. Texas A&M offensive tackle German Ifedi (overall rank: 260)
11. LSU defensive end Kwon Alexander (overall rank: 87)
12. Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (overall rank: 1)
13. South Carolina tailback Mike Davis (overall rank: 48)
14. Arkansas tailback Jonathan Williams (overall rank: 179)
15. LSU offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins (overall rank: 352)
16. UGA offensive tackle John Theus (overall rank: 16)
17. Auburn offensive tackle Avery Young (overall rank: 72)
18. Ole Miss safety Trae Elston (overall rank: 444)
19. Auburn receiver Ricardo Louis (overall rank: 247)
20. Florida tailback Matt Jones (overall rank: 156)
20b. Missouri tailback Russell Hansbrough (overall rank: 360)
**Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (top-ranked JUCO)
**Clemson QB Chad Kelly (transferred to Ole Miss — SEC’s most prolific passer in 2015)
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.