Curb your enthusiasm this Signing Day, I mean REALLY curb it … Plus, showing my work: full analysis of’s top 100 busts from 2006-09

NORTHWESTERN COMMAND – Dear reader and prospect enthusiast, let me save you some time and emotional investment Wednesday: don’t get too wrapped up in who your program signs.

Yes, I know you know that recruiting is an inexact science. But I doubt you know just how inexact it is.

My story on why so many of the best prospects fail began with this question: ‘what is the bust rate is for the best of best prospects, the bust rate from the top 100 lists?’

ESPN national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said a program would do well to “hit on” 60 percent of its overall class. Using that number, I figured maybe a quarter of the top 100 would be busts. Surely, you can’t miss too often on the best of the best. Can you?

Actually, you can. The million-dollar leaders of our football factories miss quite often.

If you are a high school senior you have a 0.0004% chance at being a top 100 prospect.

While hard to fathom a whopping 42.3 percent of top 100 players from a four-year analysis became busts.

I was shocked to  learn through an analysis of’s top 100 lists from 2006-09 (I used those years because they were the most recent years of prospects to have completed eligibility) that two out of five of the top 100 prospects fail.

(Bust criteria: failed to record one above average season (or) start in 20 games (or) play in 40 games)

Even when picking from the best players, it’s essentially a coin flip success rate for college coaches.

At press conferences across the country Wednesday we’ll hear about how coaches love their classes and how they believe they “hit on all their signees.” The truth is the success rate in this game is akin to a dart toss … by a monkey (see below).

More accurate: recruiting top 100 rankings or dart-throwing monkeys?

Top 100 prospects are three times more likely to be bust than to to be a first- or second-round pick.

So, yeah, curb your enthusiasm.

Yes, it will always be inherently difficult to evaluate high school prospects. For starters, these are 16- , 17- and 18-year olds that folks are trying to evaluate and they can be difficult to project on and off the field. That’s true. College staffs also don’t have separate scouting staffs like the NFL.

But the evaluation system can be better.

What’s interesting is most top 100 busts do not fail because they lack a physical trait, they fail because they lack mental makeup (work ethic, #want, character issues). Sometimes these issues are hard to dig up, friends, family, teachers, coaches  at the school might want to protect the kid. I get that. But what’s baffling is that red flags, when known, are often ignored by college coaches.

Said Lexington High coach Scott Earley:

“You can tell college evaluator that a player is lazy,” Earley said, “and they’ll take them anyway because they think they can fix it.”

Coaching hubris plays a role.

Intangibles must be weighed more heavily by more coaches and more recruiting services.

The five-star rating system is essentially limited to physical attributes, on-field production and physical projection. Character and worth ethic largely do not come into play, though to be fair ESPN dropped Bryce Brown below Trent Richardson in 2009 due to makeup concerns. But more often than not star ratings are simply about physical traits.

I’ve said before there needs to be a sixth star for intangibles.

We can also question the credentials of analysts attaching star rankings on players, but by and large the top 100 lists do make up the top athletic talents in the country. Every school typically wants these players. They are obvious physical talents. Everyone knew AJ Green could run, Jadeveon Clowney could sack people and Matt Stafford could throw. We know that. We also need to better get in their heads. We need to better know why Bryce Brown failed.

Star ratings might also engender entitlement and complacency, but if you have the right mental makeup as a prospect you should not be susceptible to these pitfalls.

The process of evaluation can be improved by focusing on #want, worth ethic and character, but that said, I doubt it will ever be very accurate. Why? We’re human.

Consider the work of Philip Tetlock, who found “expert” forecasters’ odds at being correct were no better than that of a dart-throwing monkey

“By the end of the study, in 2003, the experts had made 82,361 forecasts. …Tetlock got a statistical handle on his task by putting most of the forecasting questions into a “three possible futures” form. The respondents were asked to rate the probability of three alternative outcomes: the persistence of the status quo, more of something (political freedom, economic growth), or less of something (repression, recession). And he measured his experts on two dimensions: how good they were at guessing probabilities (did all the things they said had an x per cent chance of happening happen x per cent of the time?), and how accurate they were at predicting specific outcomes.

The results were unimpressive.

On the first scale, the experts performed worse than they would have if they had simply assigned an equal probability to all three outcomes—if they had given each possible future a thirty-three-per-cent chance of occurring. Human beings who spend their lives studying the state of the world, in other words, are poorer forecasters than dart-throwing monkeys, who would have distributed their picks evenly over the three choices.”



STARS (15)

CJ Spiller

Matthew Stafford

Eugene Monroe

Percy Harvin

Tim Tebow

Josh Freeman

Jake Locker

Jared Ordick

Brandon Spikes

Jermaine Gresham

Demarco Murray

Lesean McCoy

Knowshon Moreno

Lamarr Houston

Taylor Mays

BUSTS (37)

9.LB Allen Bradford USC *Limited until rotation member as a junior. 6th round pick

10. Mitch Mustain QB Arkansas *Now trying his hand at pitching

17. Robert Rose DE Ohio *Six career sacks

18. Stephon Johnson RB USC *Just 239 carries. Injury shortened college career. Never a full starter

23. C.J. Gable RB USC *Never had more than 111 carries in a season (that came a sa freshman)

24. Brandon Warren TE Florida State *Caught 28 passes as a freshman then transferred twice

29. Antine Perez DB USC *Did not start until senior, transferred to Maryland

30. Daron Rose  OL Florida State *Left FSU in wake of academic scandal

33. Jamere Holland WR USC *Limited time, then transferred

37. Marcus Bell LB Florida State *Transferred after two uninspiring seasons

39. Carlos Brown RB Michigan *Never had more than 82 carries in a season

40. Josh Tatum LB USC * Transferred

42. Adron Tennell WR Oklahoma *Never had more than 24 catches in a season

47. Jarred Fayson ATH Illinois  * Never had more than 35 catches in a seaosn

49. Tim Hawthorne WR Auburn *Transfer

52. Deantwan Whitehead LB Louisville *Spinal injury ended career

54. Demetrius Jones QB ND * Transferred from ND

56. Tervaris Johnson DB Miami * Backup at Miami

57. Vondrell McGee RB Texas *35 games, 7 starts

58. Antonio Logan-El OL Penn State * Transfer

62. Derek Simmons DE USC *Reserve player

63. J’Marcus Webb T Texas *Transferred

64. Justin Boren OL Michigan *Transferred

6.5 Akeem Hebron  LB Georgia * Reserve player, limited by injury

66. David Ausberry WR USC

69 Damon McDaniel WR FSU

70. Emmanuel Moody WR USC *Transferred to Florida

72 J.B. Walton Penn State *Limited impact

75 NaDerris Ward WR UGA * Transfer

75. Marcus Sims RB/LB FSU *Injured transfer

79. Charles Deas DT LSU

81. Konrad Reuland TE Norte Dame *Transfer

82 Derrick Odom LB LSU *Transfer

84. Anthony Lewis LB TAMU

87. Terry Grant RB Alabama *Backup injury

88. Raymond Small WR Ohio State

91 Adam Patterson DT Michigan *Career backup

94. Jeremy Ricker QB Maryland *Transfer

97. Jared Mitchell WR LSU

98. Early Alexander


STARS (14)

Joe Haden

Eric Berry

Jimmy Clausen

Brian Price

Arrelious Benn

Dwight Jones

Tyord Taylor*

Rolando McClain

Marcus Gilchris

Dez Bryant

Anthony Davis

Bryan Bulaga

Derrick Morgan

Jahvid Best

BUSTS (40)

7 . Everson Griffin DE USC *Started fewer than 20 games/role player

8. Ronald Johnson WR USC *One sold season but often a role player

9.  Torrey Davis DT Florida *Left team after making 15 tackles over two years

17. Marc Tyler RB USC

18. Chris Donald LB Tennessee Left team in 2009

28. Cam Newton QB Florida *Transfer (Bust for Florida, not for Auburn)

30. Enrique Davis RB Ole Miss *Career reserve

31. John Chiles ATH Texas *Career reserve

33. Doug Wiggins DB Miami *Transfer/career reserve

34. Duval Kamara WR Notre Dame *Career reserve/injuries

37. Jerimy Finch DB Notre Dame *Transfer

40. Dionte Allen DB Florida State *Transfer

41. DeAngelo Benton DB LSU *Dismissed/Transfer

44. Aaron Corp QB LSU *Career backup

46. Austin Box LB Oklahoma *Death

53. Chris Strong DE Ole Miss *Left school

54. Matt Rommine OL Notre Dame *Transfer

56. Kerry Murphy DT Alabama *Academics/injury

57. Lennon Creer RB Tennessee *Transfer

58. Sidell Corley Georgia *Transfer

60. Eugene Clifford Ohio State *Transfer

62. Micheal Keck Missouri *Transfer

64. Antwane Greenelee OL Florida State *Transfer

71. Lamar Brown RB Kansas State *Transfer

72. Andre Jones DT Texas *Arrested, transfer

74. Miles Wade DT Oregon *Transfer

75. Martin Coleman OL USC

78. Gary Gray DB Notre Dame

79. Chaz Powell ATH Penn State *Career role player

80. Malcolm Williams WR Texas *Left program

81. Caleb King RB Georgia *Arrested

82. Mike Paulus QB UNC *Limited playing time

83. Mike Ragone TE Notre Dame *Transfer

85. Raymond Carter UCLA *Transfer

86. Mike McNeil Auburn *Arrested, dismissed

88. Ben Wells Texas *Transfer

91. Toney Clemons Michigan *Transfer

92. Marshall Jones DB USC

98. Willy Korn Clemson *Transfer

99. Qunton Richaordsn  South Carolina *Transfer

100. Brandon Gibson WR Alabama *Reserve


STARS (15)

Da’Quan Bowers

Julio Jones

AJ Green

Patrick Peterson

Blaine Gabbert

Tyron Smith

Kyle Rudolph

Jonathan Baldwin

Michael Floyd

Brandon Harris


Janoris Jenkins

Barrett Jones

Mark Barron

Andrew Luck

BUSTS (52)

6 Darrell Scott Colorado *Transfer

7 Marcus Forston DT Miami *Injury

10 Will Hill Florida *Left early, All-SEC freshman

12 RJ Washington LB Oklahoma *Reserve

19. Jamie Calhoun RB Oklahoma *Transfer

23. Arthur Brown LB Miami *Transfer, cited in NCAA investigation

24. Richard Samuel RB Georgia *Career backup

25. Dayne Crist Notre Dame *Transfer

28. Burton Scott  ATH Alabama *Transfer

29. Stephen Good OL Oklahoma *Arrested, two career starts

30. Tyler Love OL Alabama *Career reserve

31. Blake Ayres TE USC *Transfer

33. Lamaar Thomas WR Ohio State *Transfer

34. Jerrell Harris LB Alabama *Injury, backup

35. Alonzo Lawrence DB Alabama *Transfer

41. Darryl Stonum WR Michigan *Transfer

42. Armond Armstead DE USC *Suing school over painkillers injury

44. Boubacar Cissoko Michigan *Arrested, dismissed

45. DeAngelo Tyson DT Georgia *Reserve

48. DJ Monroe RB Texas *Reserve

49. Dan O’Neil OL Michigan *Transfer

50. Jarvis Humphries DT Texas *Kidney ailment

52. Jameel Owens WR Oklahoma *Transfer

53. DeSeah Hales RB Texas *Quit football

54. AJ Harmon OL Georgia *Transfer

57. Kavario Middleton DE Washington *Dismissed

58. Aldarius Johnson WR Miami *Suspended

61. Ramon Buchanan DB Miami *Injury reserve

62. Lynn Katoa  LB Colorado *Arrested dismissed

65. Marcus Robinson LB Miami *Backup

66. Devoe Torrence *Transfer

67. Jordan Futch LB Miami *Reserve

69 Joshua Jarboe WR Oklahjoma *Arrested, dismissed

70. Chris Tolliver DB LSU *Injury

72. Jonas Gray RB Notre Dame *Reserve

73. Brenden Beal LB Florida *Transfer

75.  Jarmon Forston WR Florida State *Dismissed

79. Brice Butler WR USC *transfer

81. Brandon Beachum RB Penn State *Injury

82. T.J. Bryant DB USC *Injury reserve

85. Toby Jackson DE Georgia *Transfer

88. Stacey King DT Oklahoma *Career backup

91. Ryan Bass RB Arizona State *Transfer

93. Derrick Hall ATH Texas Am *Transfer

94. De’Anthony Curtis DB Arkansas *Career backup

95.  Dan Buckner WR Texas *Transfer

96 D.J. Shoemate USC *Limited time

97 Uona Kavienga USC *Transfer

98 Bryce Givens OL Colorado *Transfer

99 Kemonte Bateman New Mexico State *Transfer

100 Nick Moody LB FSU *Injuyy


STARS (10)

Tajh Boyd – ACC POY

Trent Richardson

Matt Barkley
Rueben Randle

Dre Kirkpatrick

Manto Te’o

Aaron Murray

Jarvis Jones

Stephone Gilmore

Alshon Jeffery

BUSTS (36)

1.Bryce Brown RB Tennessee *Transfer

7. Russell Shepard QB LSU *Position change

6 Devon Kennar USC *Injury, production

13. Ray Ray Armstrong S Miami *Dismissed

16. Donte Paige-Moss DE UNC *Early entry, limited production

18. Garret Gilbert QB Texas *Transfer

22. Gary Brown Florida *Dismissed

24. Darius Winston QB Arkansas *Injury, backup

25. Chris Davenport LSU *Transfer

31. Corey Brown Ohio State (U) *Position change

33. Dorian Bell Ohio State *Suspended, transfer

34. Willie Downs Florida State *Transfer

39. Randall Carroll UCLA *dismissed

42. Nick Kasa DE Colorado *Career backup

43. Gabe Lynn DB Oklahoma

30 games played, 12 started

48. Jheraine Boyd WR UNC *Limited time

50. Patrick Patterson WR Mississippi *dismissed

53. Marlon Brown WR Georgia *Backup

55. Calvin Hall DT Texas *Arrested, left team

56. Jamal Berry RB Ohio State *Transfer

59. Michael Ford RB LSU *Left early, too few games

60. Tyrik Rollison QB Auburn *Transfer

67. Tana Patrick LB Alabama *Backup

68. Nu’Kese Richardson Tennessee *Dismissed

69. Garrett Porter Texas *Career backup ,37 games

70. Demonte McAllister DT Florida State *Career backup

73. Justin Chastaine Oklahoma *Withdrew

74. Jamie Wood Ohio State *Injury

75. Bryce McNeal WR Clemson *Transfer

78. Kevin Brett Oklahoma *Transfer

79. Jordan Askey Tennessee *Transfer

85. David Barnett  Michigan State *Injury

89. Corey Adams *Career backup

95 Abry Jones Georgia *Injury

96. Morrell Pressely UCLA *Arrested, dismissed

97. David Uko Tennessee *Transfer

98 Bryan Moore USC *Bust

8 thoughts on “Curb your enthusiasm this Signing Day, I mean REALLY curb it … Plus, showing my work: full analysis of’s top 100 busts from 2006-09

  1. Another good blog, Travis. Makes me wonder if Grobe, Davis, et al are particularly adept at evaluating that 6th star for the intangibles in their recruits.
    BTW, being a stat geek hopefully you have discovered Just from the main dashboard on Clemson ( I’m sure you could get several article ideas. For example, Clemson lost the 3rd quarter battles this year (-5 pts for the season). Why?
    Happy hunting…..

    • Thanks Hill, and thanks for the link. I’ll check it out, because I am a stats geek. …. My guess is Grobe would have an eye for the sixth star, it also helps that he typically redshirts the majority of his signing classes

  2. In the NFL when similar studies have been done it showed a pattern with position. Does the same hold true with college? What about by state? Are states without HS football media focus under rated? It’s a shame we can’t also do a regression by SAT scores.

    • Matt,

      It would be interesting to go through the signing lists and see if that holds true, off the top of my head it seemed like there were a lot of WR, RB, DL and QB busts.

      There’s no doubt that recruits in very rural areas where there is less media attention can be undervalued, like perhaps T.J. Green in Clemson’s class this year.

      I agree would be fascinating to do a regression based upon SAT scores. I know in the NFL college seniors who graduate tend to have better careers, and teams like the Patriots intentionally target such players.

  3. As always, excellent blog. I would offer this observation/question: I note many of the busts come from what many would consider an elite program and many of the successes from borderline programs (good, not necessarily great). Would you see that as a contributing factor in that 5 stars that sign with LSU are competing with an entrenched group of 5 stars whereas 5 stars at Clemson are competing with a lot of 3 stars? I would think that character flaws such as that sense of entitlement surface more readily when a freshman 5 star faces the reality of competing with nothing but other 5 stars. Just a thought.

    • JDM,

      Thanks! I think you hit on what is a fair criticism of this study, each program and competitive situation is different. It’s harder to impact at USC than Minnesota if you’re a top 100 player. USC had a whopping 22 busts (and only produced four 1st- or 2nd-round picks in this study) in this four-year study and some of that is in part because they had so many good players.

      But as a counter argument, even the best teams’ classes are typically made up of less than 40 percent of top 100 players. I’d argue these top 100 players are physically gifted enough to contribute regardless of where they sign — they fail because they get out-worked and out-focused by other 3-star players, etc.

      Still, it’s not a perfect study.

  4. Do you think, just maybe, that the reason for this bust rate is because of the infatuation with black athletes? Rivals and Scout are obviously biased against white athletes and have an agenda. 3 white receivers went over 1,000 yards in the NFL, yet NONE in the top 100 this year, and I am sure this was the case the year before and the year before that. Runningbacks are ignored, even if they break the state rushing record (Toby Gerhart, 3rd in high school history, 4.47 hand timed speed, only 1 team wanted him as a halfback). Look at how few defensive linemen are even in the top 300, yet they have stars like JJ Watt, Jared Allen, or linebackers like Luke Kuechly, Clay Matthews….this is just in the NFL, elite guys. I am sure there are tons of more white athletes that could do well in college alone. Defensive backs like Eric Weddle (shut down Calvin Johnson in a bowl game where he played corner) and Harrison Smith. No white defensive backs in the list.

  5. You have Konrad Reuland on this list- bust? You need to review NFL stats for Niners and Jets. He never dropped a target within 5 feet of him, best pre-season receiver for niners- no camp nor intro time and learned 3 positions for jets in 2 weeks! Has never dropped a pass with them either and his QB is Sanchez! Holy Smokes, give the kid a break. For whatever reason his stats show him less than JJ Watts yet he is bigger- we saw them both standing in So Cal beach and could not believe stats versus real life! Guy has huge reach, doesn’t drop a target and is team player yet he needs to have a real QB pass to him.

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