Compiling as many blue-chip recruits as possible is the aim of every major program this time of year. Yet even that doesn’t always ensure success on the field. “Can’t miss” prospects miss all the time. And, on occasion, “hidden gems” shine brighter than any 5-star.
With that mind, below are the “best surprises” and “biggest disappointments” for last season’s outgoing Big 12 class – the recruiting class of 2008:
Best surprise: WR Terrance Williams (Dallas)
Colorado State was the only other school to offer Williams other than Baylor. Williams made sure the Bears didn’t regret it. After a productive junior season catching passes from Robert Griffin III, Williams exploded as a senior. He led the nation with 1,832 receiving yards, and was a Biletnikoff Award finalist and All-American.
Biggest disappointment: CB Mike Williams (Beaumont, Texas)
Coach Art Briles’ first recruiting class at Baylor could end up producing three first round picks (Griffin, Kendall Wright and perhaps Williams). But while spectacular, the class wasn’t perfect. Mike Williams, one of Briles’ first – and highest-rated – defensive signees, transferred after one year to Stephen F. Austin.
Best surprise: ATH Leonard Johnson (Largo, Fla.)
The Cyclones swooped into the Sunshine State to snag Johnson away from Ole Miss, West Virginia and South Florida. Johnson started five games at cornerback as a true freshman and became a veteran cornerstone of the Iowa State defense.
Biggest disappointment: WR Sedrick Johnson (Arp, Texas)
Iowa State’s top signee played just sparingly his first three years before electing to transfer to Division II Southern Nazarene in Oklahoma City.
Best surprise: TE Tim Biere (Omaha, Neb.)
Biere was one of just a few players from the class to carve out a substantial role for the Jayhawks. As a senior in 2011, he hauled in 27 passes for 322 yards and two scores to earn honorable-mention All-Big 12 honors.
Biggest disappointment: DT Darius Parish (Wichita, Kan.)
Kansas’ top prospect – and the No. 9 defensive tackle in the country – showed tremendous promise as a run-stuffer during his true freshman season. But after Turner Gill’s first season as coach in 2010, Parish transferred to Central Methodist, an NAIA program in Missouri.
Best surprise: QB Collin Klein (Loveland, Colo.)
Klein was the recruiting incarnate of a hidden gem. The Wildcats were the only ones to offer the low-key quarterback. After a short stint at receiver, Klein moved back to quarterback after Bill Snyder took over and led K-State to back-to-back, double-digit-win seasons, including a Big 12 title in 2012.
Biggest disappointment: DT Tony Gillespie (Tulsa, Okla.)
Kansas State’s top high school defensive signee also held offers from the likes Florida, Arkansas and Tennessee. Gillespie, however, failed to qualify, and ended up at Troy after attending junior college.
Best surprise: DE David King (Houston)
King was somewhat of an afterthought in one of Bob Stoops’ most hyped recruiting classes. But outside quarterback Landry Jones, King had as solid a tenure as anyone in the class, finishing his career with 21 starts.
Biggest disappointment: WR Josh Jarboe (Decatur, Ga.)
The only receivers from the class ESPN ranked higher than Jarboe were Julio Jones and A.J. Green, both NFL Pro Bowlers this year. Jarboe, however, didn’t even make it to two-a-days in Norman. A gun charge followed by a YouTube video that featured Jarboe rapping about shooting people forced Stoops to dismiss him three days before OU’s first practice.
Best surprise: WR Justin Blackmon (Ardmore, Okla.)
ESPN ranked Blackmon the No. 139 receiver prospect in the country. The Cowboys, however, banked on his potential, and Blackmon would eventually develop into a back-to-back Biletnikoff winner while leading OSU to its first outright Big 12 title in 2012.
Biggest disappointment: S Victor Johnson (Waco, Texas)
Along with Markelle Martin, Johnson was one of two blue-chip safeties the Cowboys signed in the class. Martin went on to become an All-American; Johnson suffered a pair of season-ending injuries before Mike Gundy kicked him off the team for off-the-field transgressions.
Best surprise: OG Blaize Foltz (Rose Hill, Kan.)
Coach Gary Patterson offered Foltz late in the recruiting season, and swiped him from rival SMU on signing day. Foltz has started right guard the last two years for the Frogs, and was a second-team All-Big 12 selection last season.
Biggest disappointment: DT Jeremy Coleman (Missouri City, Texas)
Coleman, TCU’s top-rated lineman from the class, flashed potential during his first two seasons as a backup. But he was passed over on the two-deep and didn’t step on the field once during either of the last two seasons.
Best surprise: S Blake Gideon (Leander, Texas)
The lightly recruited Gideon won a starting job as a true freshman, and went on to start 52 games, second only in Texas history to Colt McCoy’s 53.
Biggest disappointment: DT Jarvis Humphrey (Cedar Hill, Texas)
Humphrey was ESPN’s No. 5 defensive tackle recruit in the country. But a kidney condition forced him to withdraw from the team after just one year.
Best surprise: S Cody Davis (Stephenville, Texas)
Davis, who played high school ball for now Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, went largely unnoticed by Big 12 schools. Yet despite playing for four different coordinators, Davis became a four-year starter in Lubbock and finished eighth all-time at Tech with 362 career tackles.
Biggest disappointment: DE McKinner Dixon (Lufkin, Texas)
The Red Raiders originally beat out Texas and Texas A&M to sign Dixon in 2005. After a stellar freshman season, grades forced Dixon to Cisco Junior College. He re-signed with Tech in 2008, and had another terrific year with nine sacks. But after the season, Dixon once again was dismissed, this time for good.
Best surprise: C Joe Madsen (Chardon, Ohio)
Coming out of a tiny high school in northeast Ohio, Madsen’s only other offer came from Bowling Green. After redshirting, Madsen started center the next four years as a key cog in West Virginia’s high-powered offense.
Biggest disappointment: CB Jerome Swinton (Daytona Beach, Fla.)
It’s hard to play pass defense when your top cornerback prospect fails to quality. That’s what happened with Swinton, whom then-coach Bill Stewart dubbed “the best football player” the Mountaineers had recruited that year. Swinton ended up enrolling at Youngstown State instead.