Looking Back at the Class of 2009: Part Two
By Joey Accordino
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Of the 33 prospects that earned a five-star rating in the class of 2009, 21 committed to schools in the ACC or SEC.
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 two 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”.
#13—Ray-Ray Armstrong, S, Miami
The File: Armstrong garnered offers from every high major school in the country, and as a quick, hard-hitting safety from Seminole High in Florida, he deserved to. Miami won the recruiting battle, hoping they’d landed their next Ed Reed. Armstrong played as a true freshman and earned second team All-ACC honors as a true sophomore, with momentum building toward his junior campaign. But Armstrong was part of the Miami group suspended in the Nevin Shapiro scandal, and he was forced to sit out the first four games. He was suspended again for tweeting about hanging out with a public relations person that represents pro athletes. Moreover, his play on the field was lackluster, as he tallied just one interception and seemed a step slow.
The Future: Up in the Air. Armstrong is being projected as a high draft pick in 2013, but he has a lot to prove before he can get to that point. Firstly, he must prove that he can stay out of trouble with the NCAA, but perhaps more importantly, he must be consistently explosive on the gridiron. If he does, he could be a multi-year starter in the NFL.
#15-Jacobbi McDaniel, DT, Florida St.
The File: McDaniel wasn’t just a five star football recruit in high school; the Milwaukee Brewers picked him in the 33rd round of the 2009 MLB Draft. McDaniel elected to pursue football, and impressed as a true freshman and sophomore, tallying 56 total tackles. He earned preseason all-ACC honors from multiple outlets, but dislocated his ankle just a few games into his junior season, forcing him to the sidelines for the rest of the year.
The Future: Now or Never. McDaniel has some promise, but he will have to bounce back strong this year. McDaniel is missing spring ball as well as he recovers from the ankle surgery, but if he is back to full health in the fall he could re-emerge on the national radar.
#16-Donte Moss, DE, UNC
The File: For Moss, what a difference a year makes. Moss played sparingly his freshman year but broke out his sophomore season, piling up 13.5 TFL and 7 sacks. He was widely considered to be a first round draft choice entering last year, but everything went wrong. He couldn’t get to the passer and lost his starting job early in the year. After the Music City Bowl, he went on a Twitter rant about how “horrible” his coaches were. Memo to players: NFL teams don’t like that. Perhaps unwilling to deal with those horrible coaches any longer, Moss (now Paige-Moss) declared for the Draft. He went undrafted.
The Future: The Opposite of Bright. At the time of this article, Paige-Moss has still not been picked up by an NFL team. There are certainly NFL turnaround tales out there, but back in the real world, the chances of Paige-Moss finding gridiron success are highly doubtful.
#17-Janzen Jackson, DB, Tennessee
The File: It is only fitting that Janzen Jackson and Bryce Brown both began their collegiate journeys at Tennessee, because their stories are strikingly similar. Janzen decommitted from LSU, citing a desire to play for Monte Kiffin at Tennessee. During his year with Kiffin at Tennessee, Jackson excelled on the field, earning SEC All-Freshman team honors. However, Jackson was also charged with armed robbery that year, and his extracurricular troubles would turn out to be more of a harbinger for his future than his on-field success. Jackson had another stellar season as a sophomore at UT, but was dismissed from the football team for unspecified reasons. He transferred to McNeese State and put up modest numbers as a junior, and proceeded to declare for the NFL Draft. He went undrafted but was picked up by the New York Giants as a free agent.
The Future: Who Knows? Jackson may play some safety in the NFL, and his fearless style is well suited at any defensive backfield position. It is always beneficial to go to a successful franchise, and if Jackson starts behaving off the field, he could make an impact on it.