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Thursday, June 16, 2011
Re-ranking the 2008 recruiting class

By Edward Aschoff

ESPN colleague Bruce Feldman took a stroll down Memory Lane Wednesday when he re-ranked the top 10 players in the 2008 recruiting class. The SEC had five members inside Feldman's top 10.

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck took the top spot after being ranked No. 61 overall by ESPN and the seventh-best quarterback prospect back in 2008. With what he did in his last two years, I don't think many will argue with Feldman there.

LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson was the highest of the SEC players, coming in at No. 2 after ranking eighth when he came out of high school.

Peterson took away half of the field when he lined up at corner and was a dynamic kick returner. He might end up playing safety in the NFL, but he'll be a game changer on defense for years to come.

Here's Feldman's take:
A real freak athlete, the 6-1, 220-pound corner was the nation's No. 8 recruit and he more than lived up to that hype. Peterson won a starting job by the end of his freshman season in 2008, was all-SEC and made some All-America teams as a sophomore. He then won the Jim Thorpe and Chuck Bednarik awards and SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2010. The Cardinals drafted him fifth overall in April.

Next was Alabama running back Mark Ingram, who was third, moving all the way up from 109th.

The Heisman trophy winner was a total work horse in Tuscaloosa and his numbers would have been even better last season if he hadn't have suffered a knee injury before the year.

Here's Feldman's take:
It's fascinating to go through the collection of backs that ESPN had ranked higher in '08: Jermie Calhoun, Darrell Scott, Jamie Harper, Ryan Williams, Richard Samuel; Andre Ellington; Aundre Dean; Carlton Thomas; De'Anthony Curtis and Jonas Gray. A few transferred (Scott and Dean). A few now play other positions (Samuel and Curtis) and if you take out Williams, who had an outstanding 2009 season, you have a group that combined has run for around the same amount of yards and TDs -- 3,300 yards and 42 touchdowns -- as Ingram did in his three seasons in Tuscaloosa, in addition to winning the Tide's first Heisman Trophy. Not bad for the 12th ranked back or 109th overall recruit.

"That wasn't a great running back class," Luginbill said. "With Ingram, his style of play and the school he chose with the scheme they play couldn't have been more of a fit. It was a perfect marriage."

Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green kept the SEC streak alive, coming in at No. 4, which is one spot higher than his 2008 ranking.

What more can be said about Green? He never shied away from double teams and made awkward catches look easy. Despite missing the first four games of the season in 2010, he led the Bulldogs in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns.

Here's Feldman's take;
The lanky South Carolina native had three QBs in three seasons at Georgia and he excelled with each of them, despite some nagging injuries and a four-game NCAA suspension in 2010. Green was equally adept at making the spectacular catch and the routine go-to play for the Dawgs. The Bengals just drafted him fourth overall.

Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus ranked sixth after being ranked the No. 39 defensive tackle prospect coming out of high school in 2008.

Dareus arrived on the mainstream college football scene when he had that nasty interception returned for a touchdown in the national championship. He was drafted No. 3 overall in this year's NFL draft and some thought he could have easily gone No. 1.

Here's Feldman's take:
The Crimson Tide had the No. 3 recruiting class, according to ESPN (behind Miami and Clemson), but Dareus wasn't a major reason for the lofty status. He was only touted as the No. 39 defensive tackle prospect in the country. Even die-hard college football fans probably hadn't heard of him until the BCS title game against Texas, when he knocked Colt McCoy out of the game and proceeded to dominate the Longhorns en route to winning MVP honors. Dareus was one of the few proven players on the 2010 Tide D, but when he was on the field he was a big impact guy. In his career, he finished with 20 tackles for loss and 11 sacks before leaving as the No. 3 pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

Finally, Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones came in at No. 9 on Feldman's list, which is seven spots lower than where he was coming out of high school.

Jones was a freakish athlete during his three seasons with the Tide and while some questioned his on-field work ethic at times, he was easily Alabama's best receiver in each year he was in Tuscaloosa. His work ethic certainly wasn't challenged when he went through the NFL combine with a broken foot this year.

Here's Feldman's take:
A big, strong wideout with every bit as much athleticism as Green, Jones was ranked a tad higher than Green, coming in at No. 2 overall in 2008. Jones became the first true freshman receiver to ever start the opener for the Crimson Tide. In 2009, he helped Bama to a national title. Last season, he had his best year, catching 78 passes for 1,133 yards. At the NFL combine he put on quite the display, notching the longest broad jump and the third-fastest 40-yard dash time among the receiver group and did so despite having a broken bone in his foot. The Falcons traded the kitchen sink to get him at No. 6 in the draft.