Top 5 Underperforming Recruiting Classes

Every year, recruiting outlets make their lists of the top high school recruits in the country. In addition, these same recruiting sites also put together lists of where each recruiting class stands in relation to other colleges. Every school that obtains a “top-tier” recruiting class would like each and every one of the recruits to work out, that is just not the case in the world of sports, especially in football. With the benefit of hindsight, here is a list of five recruiting classes that did not pan out well at the collegiate level:

Note: All recruiting metrics come from 247 Sports

  1. 2018 Florida State

  • National Rank: 11
  • ACC Rank: 3
  • Avg. Rating: .9091

This class certainly has not helped the Seminoles return to prominence following Jimbo Fisher’s departure to Texas A&M. This 2018 class was the first for Willie Taggart, and it was headlined by Los Angeles Chargers 2021 second-round pick Asante Samuel Jr. It also marked Florida State’s ability to get back into South Florida, where numbers had been dwindling for the Seminoles for quite some time. Many of the coveted players the Seminoles obtained commitments from are no longer with the team, and 11 of the 21 players Florida State signed in this class have either transferred or are currently listed in the transfer portal. This is a full 52% of the recruiting class departing the university. With Asante Samuel Jr. drafted after just three years with the program, only nine players remain. FSU’s record since this recruiting class was signed has not been one to write home about, going 14-20 in a three-year span with Taggart lasting just two seasons in Tallahassee.

  1. 2016 UCLA

  • National Rank: 13
  • Pac-12 Rank: 2
  • Avg. Rating: .8834

In the early-to-mid 2010s, the UCLA Bruins were known as one of the better teams in the Pac-12 with NFL-ready talent. It appeared that head coach Jim Mora Jr. just needed to inject some more talent into the team in order to get the Bruins over the hump and beat the likes of Stanford and Oregon on a consistent basis. It looked like UCLA was going to take a turn for the better with its 2016 recruiting class that ranked 13th nationally and was the second-best recruiting class in the Pac-12. This was not the case, however, as UCLA compiled a record of just 20-36 during a five-season stretch; UCLA has not had a winning record since 2015, a year before this recruiting class got to the school. The 2016 recruiting class was headlined by the likes of Mique Juarez, Theo Howard and Boss Tagaloa, but also included 2021 NFL draftees Demetric Felton, Brandon Stephens and Osa Odighizuwa, along with Green Bay Packers second-year linebacker Krys Barnes. From this class alone, UCLA lost 15 players to the transfer portal. While there were some NFL-caliber players in this class as mentioned before, some of them did not realize their potential during their time at UCLA, including Brandon Stephens, a 2021 third-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens, who made his mark as one of the top corners for the SMU Mustangs. UCLA had him playing as a running back instead of his best position of corner. This was certainly not what UCLA was hoping for when they were able to do such a good job of getting these players to come to the school.

  1. 2016 Texas

  • National Rank: 7
  • Big 12 Rank: 1
  • Avg. Rating: .9007

In the case of the 2016 Texas Longhorns recruiting class, it wasn’t transfers that made this class an underperforming one, but the fact that these talented players were unable to fulfill the high expectations that were made for them when they arrived in Austin. Not once, but twice the Longhorns were ranked opening the season and suffered tough losses to the Maryland Terrapins. This recruiting class did win every bowl game it played – however, only one of those games was a New Year’s Six Bowl. Furthermore, this recruiting class only helped Texas to one 10-win season and only one Big 12 Championship berth. When Oklahoma was at its most vulnerable, Texas was unable to take advantage of the Sooners. While this may be the best performing recruiting class of the ones on this list, looking back on it, this team certainly had the talent to be a lot better than it actually was. Devin Duvernay, the top recruit in this class by 247 Sports, was only a third-round pick when many thought he could’ve been a future first-round pick coming out of high school. Although he had a nice career at Texas, it certainly could have been better, and he is only one of many such examples in this recruiting class.

  1. 2013 Vanderbilt

  • National Rank: 26
  • SEC Rank: 12
  • Avg. Rating: .8604

Even though Vanderbilt’s 2013 recruiting class only ranked 12th in the SEC, it was the 26th-best recruiting class in the entire country, headlined by outside linebacker Zach Cunningham. The Commodores were fresh off of one of their best seasons in franchise history, and they were able to put together two consecutive 9-4 seasons. After head coach James Franklin left for Penn State, this recruiting class fell on hard times, not having a season over .500 at since. Vanderbilt has not been known as a football school, but it seemed that the Commodores had some positive momentum with the 26th-best recruiting class in the country. Vanderbilt certainly had a group of promising players to build around, but the rigors of the SEC were just too much for these players to overcome. Seven of the 26 recruits ended up transferring, with one of them being Jordan Cunningham, a wide receiver from Florida who eventually made his way to UNC after being touted as the third-best player in this class. While there are many factors that go into teams losing games, it is certainly worth noting that this recruiting class just wasn’t talented enough to overcome a tough SEC schedule year in and year out, which is probably why it ranked towards the bottom of the SEC even though it was respectable nationally.

  1. 2018 Nebraska

  • National Rank: 23
  • Big 10: 4
  • Avg. Rating: .8770

Heading into the 2018 season, Nebraska was facing a lot of changes after the school decided to part ways with head coach Mike Riley and in turn hired former Nebraska QB Scott Frost, who was extremely successful in turning around the UCF football program. Similar to Florida State, there is still time for this class to technically redeem itself, but it will certainly be tough considering the Cornhuskers have gone 12-20 since this class stepped on campus—Nebraska has yet to record a record above .500 with this class on the team. Expectations were high in the first season of the Frost era, and there were certainly plenty of flashes with the duo of freshman QB Adrian Martinez and freshman RB Maurice Washington. These two players were a big reason for Nebraska being ranked 24th to start the 2019 season; however, Nebraska hasn’t reached its full potential and Martinez was stuck in a QB battle with former Cornhusker Luke McCaffrey this past year in yet another disappointing year for Nebraska. This was not how people envisioned the Scott Frost era going so far.

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