football Edit

Former five-star recruits who need big college seasons

Trevon Grimes
Trevon Grimes (AP Images)

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.

Former five-star recruits are always under scrutiny from the moment they step on campus, and there are many who are looking to break through and have big years this year after a few seasons of frustration. Here are some to watch.

FARRELL 50: Nos. 1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25 | 26-30 | 31-35 | 36-40 | 41-45 | 46-50

MORE: 10 best recruiting programs in the past five cycles | Farrell's Three-Point Stance

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals100 | Position | Team | State

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Rahshaun Smith – Maryland

The skinny: Smith initially became an early commitment to Clemson, but then backed off and took a closer look at LSU, Oregon and Auburn. However, he then re-committed to the Tigers a few days before National Signing Day. Smith was never able to reach his potential at Clemson, totaling 28 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack in 17 career games. He made the decision to transfer after the 2018 season and found a new home in his home-state, Maryland, where he will be starting this season for the Terps.

Farrell’s take: It’s surprising to me that Smith wasn’t a star at Clemson, because out of high school this was a big, aggressive linebacker who could play inside or outside and get after the passer. I guess it speaks to the talent level at Clemson, in some ways. Maryland could use him as a breakout player and team up with Keandre Jones (below) and be a dynamic duo.

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Keandre Jones – Maryland  

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The skinny: Jones initially committed to home-state Maryland, but after taking an official visit to Ohio State in January he flipped to the Buckeyes. In a situation very similar to Rahshaun Smith’s, Jones never met expectations in Columbus. After totaling only 29 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack in 16 career games, he also made the decision to transfer to Maryland. He will join Smith as a starter this season in College Park as both hope to reignite their collegiate careers.

Farrell’s take: Jones doesn’t surprise me as much as Smith because he was a bit of fringe five-star and I wasn’t as high on him, but the fact that he did nothing really at Ohio State is still puzzling. I wonder how his career would have panned out if he stuck with his Maryland commitment originally. Now we will get to see if he can turn it around with Smith in College Park.

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Baron Browning – Ohio State  

The skinny: Browning was heavily considering Ohio State, Florida State, Alabama, TCU and UCLA, but after an official visit to Columbus for the Buckeyes’ game against Michigan - and a follow-up in-home visit from coach Urban Meyer - he committed to Ohio State. While Browning earned playing time during his first two seasons, including three starts in 2018 after Tuf Borland went down with an achilles injury, he will again be a backup to begin the 2019 season. Since it is unlikely that he will supplant Borland it will be interesting to see how his situation unfolds in the coming months.

Farrell’s take: Browning was a big, active and athletic linebacker coming out who looked like he couldn’t miss, but he could become the next Curtis Grant at Ohio State and struggle to make a huge impact. This is very surprising because of the talent level he showed in high school, but the same can be said about Grant. Ohio State is always loaded with talent and sometimes it takes time to make an impact and it will be interesting to see what Browning does this year or if he ends up in the transfer portal.

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Trevon Grimes – Florida  

The skinny: While he also considered Florida, Miami, Florida State, Alabama and Georgia, Grimes was considered an Ohio State lean since the start of his process. He finally put an end to any speculation with a commitment to Ohio State in late August. Grimes totaled only three receptions for 20 yards in 2017 before returning to the Sunshine State to deal with family issues. In December, he decided to leave Ohio State and transfer to Florida. In his first season with the Gators he totaled 26 receptions for 364 yards and two touchdowns, and then added one reception for 10 yards during Florida’s season-opening victory over Miami last weekend. While it has only been one game, Gators’ coaches and fans are expecting a higher production level from Grimes this fall.

Farrell’s take: Grimes was one of the most talented wide receivers I’ve seen in the last few years because he had size, great hands and downfield speed, so waiting for him to break out has been confusing. Of course, his transfer slowed things down a bit and the quarterback situation at Florida is erratic with Feleipe Franks. So ,we’ll see if he has a big year this season.

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Hunter Johnson – Northwestern  

The skinny: Johnson initially was an early commitment to Tennessee, but then flipped to Clemson at the end of his junior season after taking a visit to Death Valley. With the Tigers, Johnson got caught up in a numbers game. After redshirting in 2017 and watching Kelly Bryant lead the offense the arrival of Trevor Lawrence on campus in 2018 led to his transfer. Finding a new program closer to home, Northwestern, Johnson has battled T.J. Green all off-season to win the starting job in Evanston in hopes of proving that he truly is a five-star.

Farrell’s take: Johnson has a ton of skill and upside and had it not been for Lawrence and his amazing ability we’d be talking about him as a star at Clemson. Northwestern is a good fit for him athletically and the offense suits him, so he should have success there. The big question: Can he play like a five-star with less talent around him?

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Tyler Shelvin – LSU  

The skinny: Shelvin avoided any recruiting drama by committing early to in-state LSU. While Nebraska was the most persistent with its efforts to try and flip him, but in reality he was always solid with the Tigers. After redshirting in 2017 and then playing in only four games in 2018 due to injuries Shelvin is at that point where he needs to begin to prove himself. He has responded with an impressive off-season that has him listed as the first-team nose tackle. True freshman Siaki Ika has pushed him through the spring and summer, so Shelvin will have to perform like a five-star to stay on the field.

Farrell’s take: The weight question was always the issue with Shelvin, and he came very close to losing his fifth star because of it at the end. But if he can stay focused and play at a weight that doesn’t slow him down he can be a huge asset for LSU and the NFL will love him. But this is a huge year for him.

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Jordan Anthony – Michigan

The skinny: Anthony considered Michigan, Penn State, Maryland, Auburn and Oklahoma, but after his first visit to Ann Arbor the Wolverines were considered the heavy favorite. He ended his process with a commitment to Michigan in December. Anthony redshirted in 2017 and then only played in four games at linebacker in 2018. While there was some transition at the position, there has also been a great deal of talent to compete against for Anthony. He seems to have done enough during the off-season to become a regular part of the rotation, but he will also need to continue to prove his worth in order to increase his reps.

Farrell’s take: This one surprises me a bit, because while Anthony wasn’t the biggest or longest linebacker he was a hitter and very instinctual out of high school and showed his athleticism playing running back as well. He always had a great motor, so work ethic can’t be the issue. I thought he would be the next Jabrill Peppers hybrid at Michigan, but it hasn’t worked out yet.

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Aubrey Solomon – Tennessee  

The skinny: Solomon initially committed to Michigan, but then re-opened his process during the summer leading into his senior season. After taking closer looks at Georgia, Alabama and USC he re-committed to the Wolverines on National Signing Day. Solomon showed a great of promise as a true freshman, totaling 18 tackles in 13 games. However, a knee injury last season limited him to only six tackles in five games. In December, he decided to transfer, landing in Tennessee, where he recently learned that he received his NCAA transfer waiver to play immediately. Solomon has practiced throughout the summer, so expectations are very high that he will be able to play a vital role in the Vols’ defense this fall.

Farrell’s take: It might be too soon for Solomon to be on this list due to the injury, but expectations are so high in Tennessee and the Vols have had too many five-star busts recently to not include him. He has tremendous athleticism for a big man and can chase the passer, and I was always impressed with his ability to change direction or curl back and get back into a play out of high school. I think he’s going to be very good for the Vols.

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Levonta Taylor – Florida State  

The skinny: Taylor had offers from many of the top programs in the country, but after spending three days in Tallahassee during the spring he committed to the Seminoles a few days later. In his first two seasons Taylor saw plenty of playing time, but 2018 was hampered by injuries. The off-season saw him make a move to strong safety, where he has earned the starting job. He has the athleticism and natural instincts to make an impact at his new position, but now is the time for him to also make a consistent impact on the field.

Farrell’s take: Taylor has been good and has shown flashes of the five-star we saw out of high school here and there, but he hasn’t been consistent enough. Now he’s playing a position we never thought he’d play, but it could be just the trick for him. He always had excellent ball skills and could break on the ball and he’s an aggressive tackler, so time will tell if this is his big season.

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Ben Davis – Alabama  

The skinny: With both of his parents being Alabama alumni, and with his dad having played for the Tide, everyone assumed that Davis would follow suit. While he did eventually commit to Alabama, several schools, mainly Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Notre Dame, put up a serious fight. Surprising to many, Davis has yet to make any serious impact in Tuscaloosa. Expectations were limited coming into summer camp, but his performance has moved him into a backup role behind Anfernee Jennings. It will be interesting to see if he can take advantage of his time on the field.

Farrell’s take: This one is as stunning as Rahshaun Smith at Clemson, perhaps more so. But with Dylan Moses going down and the linebacker group depleted a bit, Davis might have to show his versatility and step up, and it could be his opportunity. We had a ton of five-star linebackers in his class and he was the one I was sure would pan out.

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