Looking Back at the Class of 2009: Part Three
By Joey Accordino
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Elite high school prospects don't always live up to the hype at the collegiate level.
In 2009, Rivals.com evaluated thousands of high school football prospects, from Hawaii to Maine, from Florida to Canada. Of those prospects, 33 were deemed worthy of a five-star ranking, the highest honor bestowed on a high school senior. These athletes are the cream of the crop, future collegiate stars and first-rounders, and for these prospects, leaving school in three years for NFL glory is not an exception; It is an expectation.
Alas, gold stars and all-star game invites do not always equate to gridiron success. Of the 33 players considered to be the most elite in the class of 2009, only two managed to pull off the impressive feat of leaving school in three years to become first round picks: Trent Richardson and Dre Kirkpatrick, both Alabama products. There are far more, including Vontaze Burfict and Garrett Gilbert, that have spectacularly underperformed to this point in their careers. Besides Richardson and Kirkpatrick, 19 other five-stars committed to SEC or ACC schools. In part three of our series, let’s examine their careers so far, “The File,” and their chances of living up to their pre-college hype, “The Future”.
#20-Craig Loston, S, LSU
The File: Loston was one of nine five-star defensive backs in the class of 2009, and one of four LSU commits to earn a five-star ranking. Loston’s freshman season was delayed by the NCAA Clearinghouse, and ended when he suffered a hand injury. Loston was granted a medical redshirt and played solidly, if not spectacularly, during his redshirt freshman year and continued that level of play last year.
The Future: There for the Taking. Last year’s starter at strong safety, Brandon Taylor, moves on to the NFL, and Loston will switch from free safety to strong safety to take his spot. It will be his first year as a full-time starter, and potentially his first injury-free year as well. In an LSU secondary that has produced top six picks two years in a row, patience is a virtue. If patience pays, Loston may have a big redshirt junior season in Baton Rouge.
#21-Andre Debose, WR, Florida
The File: Teammates at Seminole High with Ray Ray Armstrong, Debose was widely considered the second-best high school receiver in the country after Reuben Randle. Debose was touted as the next Percy Harvin in Gainesville. After redshirting for medical reasons, Debose flashed Harvin-like kick return abilities during his next two years, but tallied just 528 receiving yards total. Debose was also named in the Nevin Shapiro saga but was not forced to sit out any time.
The Future: Hopefully Harvin. Four receivers were drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the first draft for which Debose was eligible. Obviously Debose was not one of them. At this point, Debose’s ceiling seems to be Percy Harvin, a former first rounder himself. Debose has comparable return skills, but he needs to increase his receiving output to be an attractive option at the next level.
#22-Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M
The File: Michael’s first season in College Station was a dream. His next two years were nightmares. Michael was Offensive Big 12 Freshman of the Year, and he seemed poised for a storied career as an Aggie. But his sophomore year was cut short when he broke his leg, and his junior season ended when he tore his ACL against Oklahoma. Though he still managed to put up respective rushing totals, he was somewhat overshadowed by Cyrus Gray.
The Future: There’s Still Hope. Michael is apparently ahead of schedule in his recovery process, and could certainly regain his status as the top running back for Texas A&M. But the time is now. Of the top four running backs in his class (Bryce Brown, Trent Richardson, David Wilson, and Michael), only Michael was not selected in the 2012 NFL Draft.
#23-Gary Brown, DT, Florida
The File: Who? If the name Gary Brown doesn’t sound familiar, you’re not alone. Just three years after Brown excelled as a multi-sport standout in high school, he has completely fallen off the football map. The only way Brown stood out in college was by his misbehavior, which is impressive considering he was just one of 30 arrested Florida players during the Urban Meyer Era. Brown was indefinitely suspended from Florida following two misdemeanor battery charges for slapping and scratching women at a party. If you gotta go out…don’t go out that way.
The Future: Turn out the Lights. By all accounts, Gary Brown is now out of football. In a 2009 class littered with disappointments, Brown is the biggest.
#24-Darius Winston, CB, Arkansas
The File: Winston was proclaimed a future “lockdown corner for years in the NFL.” (MaxPreps). This was far from the minority viewpoint, and Winston serves as a great example of why the NFL doesn’t draft players out of high school. Winston simply hasn’t been the shutdown corner that everyone envisioned, and has been lost in a rotation of other defensive backs at Arkansas.
The Future: Salvageable. Winston will never be a first round pick like fellow five-star Dre Kirpatrick, so expectations must be adjusted. He must begin by appearing in every game for the Hogs this year (he only played in eight last year), and maintaining a firm hold on a starting position. If he can do that, there is still hope for his football life after college.