National Signing Day has passed and a sense of optimism is contagious; as programs across the country believe players in the most recent recruiting class will bring wins and championships to their schools. Regardless if you have the #1 class in the country or the #50 class in the country; fans & coaches will tell you that every player has the potential to be the next college football superstar.
Now whether that player has the potential or was completely overrated by analysts; the truth remains that most players will not win the heisman, but these players will lay the foundation of your program for 3-4 years into the future. You could have the next 3-star turned Heisman winner (Johnny Manziel) or you could have totally whiffed on a 5-star that had no real potential (Ryan Perrilloux).
Even the best programs in the country have recruited one of the best prospects in the current recruiting class and that player end up transferring and never playing a down in that uniform. We aim to cover some of these players here and highlight some of the most notorious busts in college football recruiting since 2010. As college football fans we all hope our team is not featured on this list in another 10 years, but the odds are not in our favor.
Jaelan Phillips (2017; Defensive End; 5-star; #1 ovr)
The college football world was put on notice when UCLA landed the #1 player in the country in 2017. Somehow the Bruins convinced Phillips to stay home over going to a national powerhouse, such as Alabama. The excitement was short-lived in Los Angeles when Phillips was diagnosed with multiple concussions over his time at UCLA, which limited him to 6 games his freshman year and 4 games his sophomore year. After 2 years and 10 games, Phillips announced he was medically retiring from football. That retirement did not last long, as Phillips entered the transfer portal and committed to the University of Miami this past year. A redshirt year was taken, since Phillips was not immediately eligible to play and it expected to contribute in the 2020 season. A strong final two years can remove Phillips from this infamous list, but so far into his career he has not lived up to his 5-star billing.
Ben Davis (2016; Linebacker; 5-star; #10 ovr)
When a player appears on an ESPN magazine issue before he even steps on campus; every coach and fan expects immediate contributions from said player. Add that to your father (Wayne Davis) being the school leader in total tackles, expectations are not even realistic. Ben Davis has done anything other than contribute in his time at Alabama. In his 3 years (Excluding his redshirt freshman year) in Tuscaloosa, Davis has totaled 3 tackles. His final year in Tuscaloosa is approaching and Davis is not projected to start for the Crimson Tide in the 2020 season, due to the return of Dylan Moses. The 2019 season provided a big opportunity to contribute, since the defensive unit was ravaged by injuries but Davis did not seize the chance. Regardless of his performance in the upcoming season; Davis will go down as one of the biggest recruiting whiffs in Saban’s legendary tenure in Tuscaloosa.
Byron Cowart (2015; Defensive End; 5-star; #3 ovr)
I honestly do not think anyone saw this coming from Byron Cowart, who many experts deemed as a future NFL 1st-round pick, when he signed to Auburn in 2015. Cowart shocked the world by taking his talents to Auburn over Florida and the drama continued as his coach blocked his National Letter of Intent from sending. Cowart totaled 12 tackles in his 2 years on the Plains and struggled breaking into the rotation throughout his time at Auburn. Cowart decided to leave Auburn and wound up at Maryland after a quick stop in the junior college ranks. His one year at Maryland yielded 38 tackles & 3 sacks, but Cowart never lived up to the hype in his college career. The “can’t-miss” prospect has found a home in the NFL on the New England Patriots, but he finds himself on this list because his college performance left much to be desired.
Brandon Williams (2011; Running Back; 5-star; #12 ovr)
Brandon Williams was a threat to score everytime he touched the ball coming out of high school. Armed with 4.4 speed and the size (6’1 200 lbs) to be the next legendary running back in Norman. Williams put up just over 200 yards in his freshman year, but decided to transfer closer to home and wound up at Texas A&M. After sitting out the entire 2012 season due to transfer rules; the stage was set for Williams to light college football on fire. Williams never cracked 500 yards rushing in a season, which is a huge disappointment for a Top-15 player coming out of high school. For a player deemed as a home-run threat, Williams only totaled 5 touchdowns over his college career. The what-if’s are numerous, but the truth is that Williams probably never reached a third of his true potential.
Michael Dyer (2010; Running Back; 5-star; #8 ovr)
If you do not follow Auburn or Louisville football, then you probably were not expecting this name to appear on this list. The average college football fan last remembers Michael Dyer sprinting down the sideline to set up a game-winning field goal for Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers in the 2011 National Championship. After this legendary season for Dyer, the whole foundation Dyer built came crumbling down. After starting his Auburn career with two straight 1,000 yard seasons; Dyer failed a drug test and left the Plains. Dyer transferred to Louisville and never had another season over 500 yards. Dyer was eventually suspended for academic issues, which ended his college football career and created one of the most disappointing stories in college football. Many of these busts never have their defining moment or opportunity, but Dyer won a championship and was on track to be the leading rusher in Auburn history (He was on pace to pass Bo Jackson). Dyer will go down as one of the biggest “what-if” stories in college football history and will consistently find himself on these lists.
Isaiah Crowell (2011; Running Back; 5-star; #6 ovr)
Another running back that had all the potential in the world, but failed to make the most of their college career. Crowell was a consensus Top-10 recruit and every program in the entire country coveted his talent, but Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs landed this elite recruit. A rash of injuries struck the Bulldogs running back room and playing time opened up for Crowell early. Crowell put up over 850 yards rushing in his freshman year and earned All-Freshman Conference honors, but then everything came crashing down. Crowell was arrested on felony weapons charges and Richt dismissed him from the team after just one year in Athens. After a transfer to Alabama State, Crowell found his groove and rushed for over 1,000 yards in his senior year. Crowell finished his career nicely, but his performances did not live up to his lofty expectations coming out of high school. Discipline issues cost Crowell millions of dollars and an opportunity to be the next legendary running back in Athens, which is why you find him on this list.
Eddie Williams (2012; Safety; 5-star; #17 ovr)
This story will be one of the more tragic stories on this list. Williams came to Tuscaloosa and was projected to be the next legendary defensive back under Nick Saban. After redshirting his freshman year, Williams and a teammate were charged with mugging another student on campus in February of 2013. Williams was charged and plead guilty to the charges and received 5 years of probation, but was released from the team before he ever played a down in Tuscaloosa. After the legal situation cleared up, Williams headed to Garden City Community College in Kansas. Williams wound up winning a championship in the junior college ranks, but never fully lived up to his potential due to decisions he made off the field.
Max Browne (2013; Quarterback; 5-star; #11 ovr)
Max Browne signed with USC in 2013 and was projected to be the next quarterback to lead the Trojans to the National Championship. Browne put up over 12,000 yards passing and 144 touchdowns in high school, which had experts calling him a guaranteed superstar. The Trojans had Browne for 3 years and he delivered 2 total touchdowns. Browne decided to transfer and took his talent to Pittsburgh, but the change of scenery did not help Browne live up to the hype. In his final year in college football, Browne threw for under 1,000 yards and only had 5 touchdowns. The expectations of the #1 quarterback is much higher than 7 total touchdowns in four years, which is why Browne is one of the biggest quarterback busts in college football history.
Levonta Taylor (2016; Cornerback; 5-star; #7 ovr)
Signed: Florida State
Levonta Taylor was the consensus #1 cornerback in the 2016 recruiting class and had the speed (4.4) to have scouts dreaming about his potential. Injuries have plagued Taylor throughout his Seminole career, including this past season where he racked up 37 tackles and 1 interception. His potential showed up his sophomore year, but consistency was a huge issue for Taylor throughout his career. Taylor racked up less than 100 tackles & only 4 interceptions throughout his time in Tallahassee, which is not enough to keep him off this list. Taylor heads to the NFL Draft this spring and his potential can be realized in the league, which is possible based on others in this list (Byron Cowart).
Demetris Robertson (2016; Wide Receiver; 5-star; #13 ovr)
Robertson was a highly touted recruit out of Savannah, GA and many experts were predicting Georgia or Alabama to land the valuable signature of this kid, but Cal swooped in and stole the 5-star out of Georgia. A highly productive freshman year had coaches dreaming of the next 2-3 years and the outrageous numbers that were projected. Instead a devastating injury and a medical redshirt was the defining moments of the 2017 season and Robertson left the team to return home to Georgia. As a Bulldog, Robertson has been average at best; only racking up 300 yards receiving and 3 receiving touchdowns. Going into his final year as a Bulldog, Robertson has yet to be the primary wide receiver in Athens and George Pickens will be returning for the 2020 season. Robertson has not played up to the standard of a #1 rated receiver coming out of high school and he only has one season to prove that he is not a complete bust. It would be interesting to see how Robertson’s career would have turned out if not for his injury in the 2017 season.