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2012 Top Ten Recruiting Classes: How Did They Do?

2012 Top Ten Recruiting Classes: How Did They Do?


Just how much do recruiting classes really matter? Does getting a top haul mean a run to a championship? Check out the top recruiting classes from 2012 and how they did.


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– Ranking No. 1 recruiting classes since 2002
– 2012 2-star recruits who starred
– Ranking No. 1 recruits since 2002
– 2011 top ten classes, how did they do?

Here’s what we know about big-time recruiting classes – can’t hurt, could help.

Getting lots and lots of four-and-five-star talents doesn’t guarantee anything, but obviously you’d much rather have the better-looking football players than the other guy.

Did the 2012 recruiting classes translate into success? Sort of.

The 2014 BCS Champion – Florida State – finished 11th according to the Scout.com rankings at the time, 2015 College Football Playoff finalist Oregon was 15th, and Michigan State finished 37th. And Clemson? It got to two straight national championships in the five-year window after finishing 17th in the 2012 recruiting rankings. But overall, the top ten turned out to be okay.

With a few very, very notable exceptions.

Out of the teams that finished in the top ten in recruiting, five currently have different head coaches. Were the expectations too high for those five? No, but as you’ll see, getting the top talents translated to some success in the five-year cycle.

10. Oklahoma

Top 5 Ranked Recruits of 2012

1. WR Durron Neal
2. RB Alex Ross
3. WR Sterling Shepard
4. C Ty Darlington
5. OG John McGee
Unsung Recruit Who Rocked: LB Eric Striker

How does a recruiting class end up leading the way to three Big 12 titles in five years, two Sugar Bowl wins and a College Football Playoff appearance? Nail it on a slew of unsung prospects who didn’t receive a whole lot of fanfare. Sterling Shepard was the star of the top-shelf guys, but Bob Stoops brought in an okay QB prospect in Trevor Knight, and decent defensive end in Charles Tapper, and relatively unnoticed defensive options Zack Sanchez and Eric Striker.

CFN at-the-time analysis on 2012 NSD: “Oklahoma isn’t slipping under Bob Stoops, but it’s having to work a bit harder lately to not only bring in the four and five-star types, but keep everyone happy. The Sooners need running back help, and now. Everything was supposed to be set, but Jermie Calhoun, Jonathon Miller, and Brandon Williams all bolted and Dominique Whaley is coming off an injury. The receivers are flocking to Norman with the biggest boost to come when Trey Metoyer, a top recruit last year, is ready to roll after spending a year at the Hargrave Military Academy.“

9. Miami

Top 5 Ranked Recruits of 2012

1. RB Duke Johnson
2. CB Tracy Howard
3. DE Jelani Hamilton
4. OT Ereck Flowers
5. LB Raphael Kirby
Unsung Recruit Who Rocked: S Rayshawn Jenkins

In theory, Al Golden recruited well. He kept many of the top talents at home, and loaded up on a few superstar talents including Duke Johnson and Tracy Howard – two of the best prospects at their respective positions in the 2012 class. But outside of Ereck Flowers and Deon Bush, there were a whole slew of massive whiffs, and almost no development among the also-ran recruits. The player development didn’t come.

CFN at-the-time analysis on 2012 NSD: “Apparently, someone forgot to tell the excellent Miami recruiting class about the Nevin Shapiro situation. While this might not be a special haul, it’s looking like a strong job done by Al Golden to keep bringing in enough NFL caliber prospects to keep the expectations high. Golden wants to upgrade the passing game, and it shows with a load of receivers coming in of all shapes and sizes. At least three quarterbacks are going to be signed, and they’ll be expected to be the main backups behind Stephen Morris sooner than later.”

8. Auburn

Top 5 Ranked Recruits of 2012

1. OT Avery Young
2. OT Jordan Diamond
3. DT Tyler Nero
4. WR Jaquay Williams
5. TE Ricky Parks
Unsung Recruit Who Rocked: OG Alex Kozan

This was when the national championship season of 2010 was supposed to hit with full force on the recruiting trail, and it didn’t really happen – at least in terms of overall production. Chizik never got a chance to see it through, getting canned after a 3-9 season, but Gus Malzahn was able to get to the national title game the next year – with little help from the 2012 haul. As it turned out, there were way, way, way too many misfires in what should’ve been a building-block class, and Malzahn is still trying to get past it.

CFN at-the-time analysis on 2012 NSD: “The Tigers and Gene Chizik came up with a whopper of a 2011 class and doesn’t have any glaring needs this year. Skill players were the priority in 2010 – led by a decent get named Newton – and the defensive back seven was strong last year. This was a young team that’s maturing and should be coming into its own.”

7. Stanford

Top 5 Ranked Recruits of 2012

1. OT Kyle Murphy
2. OG Joshua Garnett
3. OT Andrus Peat
4. RB Barry Sanders
5. S Alex Carter
Unsung Recruit Who Rocked: WR Michael Rector

Yeah, this group ended up working out just fine – yeesh. In the five years after this class, Stanford won three Pac-12 championships, two Rose Bowls, and won four of its five bowl appearances. That’s what happens when you nail the top offensive line picks cold, with Kyle Murphy, Joshua Garnett, and Andrus Peat all turning into NFL talents, while DT Aziz Shittu, LB Blake Martinez, and a whole slew of other good prospects ended up paying off big-time.

CFN at-the-time analysis on 2012 NSD: “Stanford was terrific over the last few years partly because the lines were strong, partly because Andrew Luck was Andrew Luck, and partly because Jim Harbaugh did a terrific job of recruiting. David Shaw brought in a nice class last year, especially for the defensive front, but he has to upgrade the athleticism and speed at receiver. He’s getting enough variety for the receiving corps to come up with a few instant options to help keep the Luck-less passing attack rolling.”

6. LSU

Top 5 Ranked Recruits of 2012

1. LB Kwon Alexander
2. DE Danielle Hunter
3. TE John Thomas
4. OG Vadal Alexander
5. CB Derrick Raymond
Unsung Recruit Who Rocked: WR Travin Dural

The whole didn’t really add up to the sum of the parts. It was a nice class, though, with three-star types like WR Travin Dural and LB Deion Jones just a few who ended up doing big things, while relatively unsung RB Jeremy Hill ended up putting together a nice run to the NFL. The original NSD analysis ended up being right – it was a decent haul, but nothing amazing compared to other LSU recruiting classes. Even so, it was good enough to finish sixth in the Scout rankings.

CFN at-the-time analysis on 2012 NSD: “Zach Mettenberger was the key pickup last year after transferring from Georgia, but the Tigers need more talents in the stable for depth and more options. However, that doesn’t appear to be coming. Upgrading the defensive front seven is a bit of a must, and Les Miles is bringing in a solid group of linebackers that should shine in a few years. This is a good-looking class, but it might not be a special one.”

5. Florida

Top 5 Ranked Recruits of 2012

1. OT D.J. Humphries
2. DE Jonathan Bullard
3. CB Brian Poole
4. TE Kent Taylor
5. DE Dante Fowler
Unsung Recruit Who Rocked: DE Alex McCalister

Give some credit to Will Muschamp for stocking the shelves – at least defensively – for two SEC East champs under Jim McElwain. Outside of RB Matt Jones, the skill players on the offensive side might not have been any big deal, but Muschamp got the defensive linemen. Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler were obvious, but Alex McCalister and Bryan Cox were unsung prospects who turned out fine. Throw safety Marcus Maye into the mix, and the foundation for the D was in this class.

CFN at-the-time analysis on 2012 NSD: “The Gators haven’t had a superior running game in years, and the offense sputtered and coughed throughout last season. QB Jeff Driskel was the star of last year’s class and could be the franchise, but he’ll have to battle for the job and he’ll need more playmakers. However, that’s not coming with this class that’s full of next-level defensive prospects.”

4. Michigan

Top 5 Ranked Recruits of 2012

1. OT Kyle Kalis
2. LB Joe Bolden
3. LB Royce Jenkins-Stone
4. DT Ondre Pipkins
5. OT Erik Magnuson
Unsung Recruit Who Rocked: WR Jehu Chesson

Brady Hoke has never received enough credit for making Jim Harbaugh’s life easy. The superstar, “sure-thing” prospects might not have all panned out, but how’s this for hitting on the receiver prospects? Devin Funchess, Amara Darboh, and Jehu Chesson. Joe Bolden turned into a rock of a linebacker, James Ross turned out to be okay, and the tackle combination of Chris Wormley and Willie Henry was more than just solid.

CFN at-the-time analysis on 2012 NSD: “Now this is the class Michigan is used to bringing in. This is a class that’s the base of a special team. It’ll be a total shock if the Wolverines don’t have one of the nation’s top linebacking corps in a few years after this haul, while the speed and athleticism on the defensive front is as good as any class in over a decade. Head coach Brady Hoke has the offensive tackles for the future, while the defensive line is loaded with top-shelf pass rushers.”

3. Ohio State

Top 5 Ranked Recruits of 2012

1. DE Noah Spence
2. DE Adolphus Washington
3. DT Tommy Schutt
4. RB Brionte Dunn
5. CB Armani Reeves
Unsung Recruit Who Rocked: QB Cardale Jones

And to think what this recruiting class would’ve turned into if there weren’t any problems with Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington – the crown jewels of the Buckeye haul. Also, just think what would’ve happened if so many of the top four-and-five-star guys didn’t bust. Fortunately for OSU fans, there were a whole slew of legends coming from this group, starting with LB Joshua Perry, the top defensive recruit who worked out fine. How’s this for a formation of an offensive line? Taylor Decker, Pat Elflein and Jacoby Boren. S Tyvis Powell was just a throw in, and WR Michael Thomas was lost a bit in the shuffle, despite being a four-star recruit. And of course, there was a tall, skinny three-star recruit who made a bit of a splash – QB Cardale Jones.

CFN at-the-time analysis on 2012 NSD: “Welcome to Urban being Urban. Meyer appears to have a renewed energy, and it shows with a typically great Ohio State recruiting class. Even with almost no time to work, he’s getting just about everyone he wants from Ohio and has been able to get a few key players from outside the state. In just a short time he’s putting together a monster that’s as good as any class in the country, particularly on the defensive front where he’s loading up with the best prospects for any line in America. The skill positions aren’t being ignored, but the Buckeyes need to keep building up the defense. Meyer will go more for the offensive side next year.”

2. Alabama

Top 5 Ranked Recruits of 2012

1. S Landon Collins
2. LB Reggie Ragland
3. WR Cyrus Jones
4. S Eddie Williams
5. RB T.J. Yeldon
Unsung Recruit Who Rocked: CB Deion Belue

Two national titles, one second away from winning a third, and four SEC titles later, yeah, this 2012 class was more than just okay. Forgetting the guys who filled in the gaps over the years like Ryan Anderson and Dalvin Tomlinson on the defensive lines, and forgetting that S Landon Collins, LB Reggie Ragland and Cyrus Jones – as a returner and defensive back, instead of a receiver – ended up doing what they were supposed to, the NFL running back tandem of T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake were part of the mix. Amari Cooper was a good prospect, but a Heisman finalist? This class was worth the hype.

CFN at-the-time analysis on 2012 NSD: “The Tide loses a slew of good defensive starters, but there are more waiting in the wings. Signing Day defensive tackles Dalvin Tomlinson and Korren Kirven were the icing on an already terrific cake. The stockpiled depth after years of great recruiting classes is amazing, but it would be nice if a stud No. 1 receiver could come in and take over a big role early on. The Tide needs a boost for the receiving corps after the start of the last few classes for the defensive side, and the stars appear to be coming.”

1. Texas

Top 5 Ranked Recruits of 2012

1. RB Johnathan Gray
2. DT Malcom Brown
3. OG Curtis Riser
4. WR Cayleb Jones
5. OT Kennedy Estelle
Unsung Recruit Who Rocked: DE Hassan Ridgeway

Mack Brown absolutely crushed this recruiting class – at least according to the stars next to the names. Obviously, though, this didn’t work out like it was supposed to. Malcom Brown was great as the No. 1 defensive tackle prospect in the nation, but that was about it. Johnathan Gray was an okay running back, but certainly not the No. 2 prospect in the country, and whiff after whiff on the offensive line turned out to be a killer. There were a few nice players here and there, and the secondary got the best talents, but this relative dud of a class was the main issue Charlie Strong had to get over, and couldn’t.

CFN at-the-time analysis on 2012 NSD: “Mack Brown opens the door and gets any in-state five-star talent he wants, but considering the top five-caliber recruiting classes year after year after year, the wins have to start coming. This year’s haul has no shortage of can’t-miss prospects with the secondary getting the most talent. The safeties will be strong, but the corners will be even better a slew of prospects coming in that would be instant starters for just about anyone else.”