- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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There are always surprises and disappointments in every signing class.
It’s just the nature of the business, although I’m not sure it’s politically correct to refer to recruiting as a business. At least, not in the SEC.
Anyway, with most of the hay in the barn from national signing day 2013, keep in mind that it’s impossible to evaluate prospects only hours after their letters of intent are faxed in. So much can happen -- both good and bad -- over the next couple of years.
If you don’t believe so, here’s a look back at the “best surprises” and “biggest disappointments” for all 14 SEC teams going back four years ago to the 2009 signing class.
Best surprise: OG Chance Warmack (Atlanta)
Warmack was not an ESPN 150 prospect, and 34 other players were ranked ahead of him that year in the state of Georgia. The home-state Bulldogs didn’t recruit him, but he landed at Alabama and became a three-year starter for the Tide and established himself this past season as the most dominant interior offensive lineman in college football.
Biggest disappointment: WR Kendall Kelly (Gadsen, Ala.)
Ranked as the No. 7 receiver in the country by ESPN, Kelly moved to defensive back, experienced some health issues and wound up taking a medical hardship.
Best surprise: WR Cobi Hamilton (Texarkana, Texas)
Unranked among the top 40 receivers nationally, Hamilton didn’t get an offer from Texas until two weeks prior to signing day. He stuck with the Hogs and blossomed in Bobby Petrino’s offense. Hamilton led the SEC this past season with 1,335 receiving yards and caught 18 career touchdown passes.
Biggest disappointment: CB Darius Winston (Helena, Ark.)
Winston was the most coveted in-state prospect since Darren McFadden and ranked by ESPN as the No. 3 cornerback in the country. But he never developed into a full-time starter at Arkansas and struggled with consistency. He was injured for part of this past season, his final one in a Hogs uniform.
Best surprise: WR Emory Blake (Austin, Texas)
Blake was ranked as the No. 73 receiver in the country by ESPN and chose Auburn on signing day over Texas Tech and Colorado. He finished his career as Auburn’s fifth all-time receiver with 128 catches and 16 touchdown receptions.
Biggest disappointment: QB Tyrik Rollison (Sulphur Springs, Texas)
Rollison was a Parade All-American and considered one of the Tigers’ prized signees in the 2009 class. He redshirted his first season, and after being suspended for the Outback Bowl, transferred to Sam Houston State that next spring and then to Tyler (Texas) Junior College.
Best surprise: OG Jon Halapio (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
The Gators got Halapio as the No. 144-ranked offensive guard in the country, and when he committed in May, he had very few offers. Now heading into his senior season at Florida, Halapio has 33 starts under his belt and is one of the leaders of the Gators' offense.
Biggest disappointment: DT Gary Brown (Quincy, Fla.)
Brown was ranked as the No. 2 defensive tackle in the country by ESPN, but reported to school overweight and redshirted his first season. He was dismissed that next February without ever playing a down at Florida following his arrest for allegedly slapping a woman at a party.
Best surprise: S Shawn Williams (Damascus, Ga.)
Williams was not ranked among the top 30 prospects in the state of Georgia. He made his mark initially on special teams and then emerged as the Bulldogs’ enforcer in the secondary from his safety position. He was second on the team with 98 tackles this past season.
Biggest disappointment: RB Washaun Ealey (Twin City, Ga.)
Ealey was an ESPN 150 prospect and ranked as the No. 8 running back in the country. He led the Bulldogs in rushing each of his first two seasons, but a pair of suspensions landed him in hot water with coach Mark Richt. Ealey was encouraged to move on following his sophomore season and wound up transferring to Jacksonville State.
Best surprise: OG Larry Warford (Richmond, Ky.)
Not ranked among the top 50 guard prospects in the country, Warford established himself as one of the top guards in the SEC the past two seasons and earned All-SEC recognition as a senior.
Biggest disappointment: QB Morgan Newton (Carmel, Ind.)
An ESPN 150 prospect, Newton made the SEC All-Freshman Team his first season. But his career never took off from there, and he was plagued by a shoulder injury in 2011. He served mainly as a backup this past season and finished his career with 15 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.
Best surprise: DT Bennie Logan (Coushatta, La.)
Logan was ranked as the No. 72 defensive end in the country, and LSU initially offered him as a grayshirt. But a firm offer came in the weeks leading up to signing day, and Logan blossomed into one of the SEC’s top defensive tackles each of the past two seasons.
Biggest disappointment: DT Chris Davenport (Mansfield, La.)
Davenport was one of 10 ESPN 150 prospects LSU signed in 2009, and he was ranked as the No. 7 defensive tackle in the country. Some had him ranked as a five-star prospect, but he was never able to crack the defensive line rotation at LSU and eventually moved to offensive line. He transferred to Tulane after this past season without ever starting a game at LSU.
Best surprise: CB Johnthan Banks (Maben, Miss)
Banks’ only scholarship offer was to Mississippi State. He was from a tiny town in Mississippi and flew under the radar, but wound up being a four-year starter and won the Jim Thorpe Award this past season as the top defensive back in college football. He finished with 16 career interceptions to tie the Bulldogs' all-time record.
Biggest disappointment: RB Montrell Conner (Monroe, La.)
Conner had offers from USC, Oklahoma, Georgia and Tennessee and was ranked as the No. 7 running back prospect in the country by ESPN. He redshirted his first season and left the program in August of that next year. He attended junior college in 2010 and then signed with Troy.
Best surprise: RB Kendial Lawrence (Rockwall, Texas)
Lawrence picked Missouri over SMU, Louisville and Iowa State and was ranked by ESPN as the No. 100 running back in the country. He capped a solid career at Missouri this past season by rushing for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Biggest disappointment: QB Blaine Dalton (Blue Springs, Mo.)
A dual-threat quarterback and one of the top prospects in the state of Missouri, Dalton enrolled in school early. But he was arrested twice in less than four months and dismissed from the team before he ever played in a game.
Best surprise: LB Mike Marry (Largo, Fla.)
Ranked as the No. 94 prospect in the state of Florida and unranked in the ESPN 150, Marry has been one of the leaders of the Ole Miss defense the past two seasons from his middle linebacker position. He had 10.5 tackles for loss this past season to finish second on the team. A three-star prospect, Marry picked Ole Miss over Duke, Iowa State and South Florida.
Biggest disappointment: WR Pat Patterson (Macon, Miss.)
Ole Miss beat several big-name teams, including Alabama, to get Patterson, an ESPN 150 prospect and widely considered the top prospect in the state of Mississippi that year. He showed flashes as a true freshman, but couldn’t stay out of trouble off the field and was dismissed prior to his sophomore season after catching just 12 career passes.
Best surprise: S D.J. Swearinger (Greenwood, S.C.)
A three-star prospect, Swearinger was originally committed to Tennessee, but backed off that pledge after Phillip Fulmer was fired and signed with South Carolina. Swearinger ended up being a three-year starter for the Gamecocks and finished second on the team in tackles each of the past two seasons. He was a second-team All-SEC selection this past season.
Biggest disappointment: RB Jarvis Giles (Tampa, Fla.)
An ESPN 150 prospect and ranked as the No. 6 running back in the country, Giles left the team early during his sophomore season after plummeting down the depth chart behind Marcus Lattimore and a few others.
Best surprise: WR Zach Rogers (Nashville, Tenn.)
Even though he wasn’t nearly as heralded as most of the signees in the Vols’ 2009 class, Rogers emerged this past season as one of the more underrated receivers in the SEC with 32 catches, including seven touchdowns, and averaged 15.3 yards per catch.
Biggest disappointment: RB Bryce Brown (Wichita, Kan.)
Brown has some serious competition for this dubious distinction. There were multiple disappointments in the Vols’ 2009 class. But as ESPN’s No. 2-ranked running back prospect in the country, Brown gets the nod. He rushed for 460 yards as a freshman, but sat out that next spring practice and never played again for the Vols after Lane Kiffin left for USC.
Best surprise: WR Ryan Swope (Austin, Texas)
Swope was more of a running back coming out of high school and ranked by ESPN as the No. 116 athlete in the country. He carved out a splendid career at Texas A&M in becoming the Aggies’ all-time leading receiver. In his last two seasons, he caught 161 passes, including 19 touchdowns.
Biggest disappointment: DT Chris Henderson (Dallas)
Henderson was ranked by ESPN as the No. 16 defensive tackle in the country, but failed to qualify academically and didn’t make it to campus.
Best surprise: RB Zac Stacy (Centerville, Ala.)
Alabama and Auburn both passed on Stacy, who was ranked by ESPN as the No. 98 running back prospect nationally. He finished his Vanderbilt career this past season by rushing for 1,000 yards for the second straight year and set the Commodores’ all-time rushing record in the process.
Biggest disappointment: WR Brady Brown (Argyle, Texas)
Brown was ranked among the top 60 prospects in the state of Texas, and the Commodores were hoping he could add some punch to their passing game. He suffered a leg injury as a freshman and wound up leaving the program following the 2011 season without catching any career passes.
968dHeather Dinich and Chris Low