Can Clemson join Noles, Trojans, Gators with historic recruiting class?
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
With the latest release of the Rivals100, the Clemson Tigers have the nation’s No. 1 and No. 3 prospects already committed and are in the mix for a few others in the top 10. Only a few times in Rivals.com history has a program signed three top-10 players in the same cycle. Here is a look back at those special years.
FLORIDA STATE, 2002
The first time the Seminoles achieved this impressive feat was also Rivals’ first year on record. Davis enjoyed a productive, yet unspectacular collegiate career, which was followed by a short stint in the NFL. Booker became an important part of the Florida State offense, both in the running and passing game, before spending six seasons in the NFL. Washington proved to be the most successful of the trio. A strong career in Tallahassee was followed by nine seasons in the NFL. When he retired from the league he had the most career kickoff returns for a touchdown with eight, plus the NFL record for most kickoff returns for a touchdown in a game with two. He also rushed for 2,271 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Farrell’s take: Davis is the big surprise as he was a superior athlete and a can’t-miss kid despite transitioning from high school quarterback to a different position. Booker was perhaps over-hyped, especially lacking great size, and Washington could have been an elite cornerback if he wanted to. Washington had the big success of the three at the pro level, but all were a bit disappointing based on ranking and hype coming out of high school.
There is an interesting blend of success with this USC trio. After being selected in the second round by Cincinnati, Maualuga spent eight seasons with the Bengals before being waived earlier this year. He is currently a free agent. Sanchez followed up a fantastic collegiate career by experiencing immediate NFL success with the New York Jets. However, the last five years have been a struggle for him as he has bounced around the league. Turner’s career never met expectations, both at USC and in the NFL. After finishing with 138 receptions with the Trojans, Turner struggled in the league and finished with only 10 career grabs.
Farrell’s take: Turner was a true can’t-miss to me. Some argue that if he stayed close to home and played with the Vols, he would have had a monster career, but his focus was lacking regardless of destination. He was a tall, dominant receiver who was exactly what college football and the NFL coveted at the time but never showed the desire needed. Maulaluga had a very nice career in college and the NFL and Sanchez was a top-end quarterback who lost all confidence with the Jets after a great early start.
The second time the Trojans accomplished this feat in three years occurred in 2007. While this trio experienced varying degrees of success on the field, it is McKnight’s untimely death that will be most remembered. McKnight, who was shot and killed during a road rage incident late in 2016, enjoyed success at USC and then bounced around the NFL and CFL for several years. Johnson never lived up to his expectations and last played indoor football in 2016, while Griffen has proven to be the most successful of the trio with 48 careers sacks, including 18.5 in the last two seasons.
Farrell’s Take: Many had McNight No. 1 in 2007 and felt he would be the next Reggie Bush and I felt the same way, so his career was a disappointment. Griffen was an absolute beast and has been awesome in the NFL, while Johnson never panned out despite his two-way ability. Two out of three of these guys disappointing is surprising.
Powell, the No. 1 ranked recruit in 2010, actually has proven to be the least successful of this defensive trio. Plagued with injuries in Gainesville, Powell was drafted by New Orleans in the fifth round in 2014 but has only accumulated two tackles in the league to this point. Floyd’s successful collegiate career led him to be selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft by Minnesota, where he showed great potential until a knee injury derailed his 2016 season. He is currently dealing with nerve damage related to the knee surgery, which has raised questions about his playing future. As with Floyd, Easley was also selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by New England. He experienced a limited amount of success before being waived in 2016. He played last season with the Los Angeles Rams, where he is currently still under contract.
Farrell’s take: Two first-rounders here and Powell would have been the third had he not been injured. This was Urban Meyer’s best recruiting year ever. It would have been fun to see Powell have a healthy career because he was a freak of nature and could have been a great defensive end or tight end.
FLORIDA STATE, 2012
This trio is highlighted by Winston, who dominated in college, became the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft and has quickly become one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL. Goldman also enjoyed success in Tallahassee, but his NFL career is still a work in progress. After being selected in the second round and having a successful rookie season in Chicago, Goldman struggled due to injuries in 2016. Edwards was also selected in the second round, and as with Goldman, has dealt with his fair share of injuries through his first two seasons. He's totaled 42 tackles and two sacks to this point and has shown a great deal of potential during his time on the field.
Farrell’s take: A freaky defensive end in Edwards, a dominant defensive tackle in Goldman and a franchise quarterback in Winston, this is one of the top trios on this list. While Edwards perhaps didn’t dominate as much as expected (some had him No. 1 overall), he still flashed so much talent that he went near the top of round two. Goldman was a bit more effective, at least to me, at a tougher position, and of course Winston is the only Heisman winner on any list here.
FLORIDA STATE, 2017
Not only was 2017 the third time that the Seminoles picked up three top-10 recruits during the Rivals era, it was also the first time that all three were actually rated in the top five. Obviously a great deal will be expected of all three, but look for Akers to have the most immediate impact for the Seminoles. While this was already expected with the void at the running back position after the departure of Dalvin Cook to the NFL, his impressive performance at the spring game only intensified the excitement.
Farrell’s Take: Time will tell on these guys, and pulling Wilson away from LSU was the cherry on the top of this class. Akers already looks like a star, and the way FSU develops defensive linemen Wilson and Kaindoh should do just fine as well.