SEC Football: Former Big-Time Recruits Running Out of Time to Live Up to Hype
Recruiting is a science, but it's not always an exact science.
Sometimes, the 5-star recruits that are considered can't-miss prospects at the next level don't pan out the way that coaches and fans had planned.
The reasons for misses on the recruiting trail vary from injuries to poor scouting to poor coaching to bad luck.
Ahead, SEC lead blogger Barrett Sallee gives his top five SEC players that are running out of time to live up to their recruiting hype.
5. Richard Samuel: Georgia Bulldogs
Richard Samuel finds himself on this list for the best possible reason: He's the ultimate team player. During his time at Georgia, he has bounced around from tailback to linebacker to tailback to fullback and back to tailback.
The senior carried his team to a win over Florida in last season's World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, but the former 5-star recruit in the class of 2008 has only 196 career carries, 768 yards and four touchdowns during his career between the hedges.
Samuel finds himself in a good position now.
After moving to fullback this offseason, he was switched back to tailback after Isaiah Crowell was dismissed on felony weapons charges. He may not have an All-SEC season as a part of the Bulldog running back committee, but the 6'2", 243-pounder will get some work on goal-line and short-yardage situations.
4. Andre Debose: Florida Gators
Andre Debose came to Florida as the "next Percy Harvin."
The former 5-star recruit from the class of 2009 carried that tag due to his elusiveness and track-star speed.
While the rising junior has shown flashes of brilliance, injuries and system changes have hampered his progress as a wide receiver. Following his first two seasons in Gainesville, Debose has 26 catches for 528 yards and four touchdowns.
While he hasn't had the start to his career that many Gator fans hoped, he is an accomplished special teams performer, returning 40 kicks for 1,082 yards and three touchdowns during his first two seasons.
That may not matter now, since the new kickoff rules will take away many return opportunities that Debose took advantage of in the past.
Debose should thrive in new offensive coordinator Brent Pease's system. With two seasons of eligibility left, there's still plenty of time for him to live up to the hype.
3. Darius Winston: Arkansas Razorbacks
Not far behind Debose on the 2009 Rivals100 is Arkansas cornerback Darius Winston, who was ranked as the nation's No. 24 prospect.
During his three years in Fayetteville, Winston has started 12 games, tallied 47 tackles, recovered two fumbles and picked off one pass.
Respectable, but clearly not as much as Arkansas had in mind when they signed the former Central High School star in West Helena, Ark.
He made a point to put some weight on to be able to go up against the top-flight wide receivers in the SEC, and according to Chris Bahn of ArkansasSports360.com, he has succeeded.
A more aggressive defense with first-year defensive coordinator Paul Haynes should benefit Winston, and having up-and-comer Tevin Mitchel lining up at the other cornerback spot should help Winston live up to the hype in 2012.
2. Marlon Brown: Georgia Bulldogs
Marlon Brown came to Georgia as the heir apparent to former Bulldog wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and as a complement to then-Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green.
That didn't happen.
The former 4-star recruit and nation's No. 53 player in the 2009 Rivals100 has amassed just 382 receiving yards and four touchdowns during his first three seasons between the hedges.
The door is open for him in 2012.
Tavarres King is Georgia's unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver, but last season's freshman phenom Malcolm Mitchell will be playing cornerback for at least the early part of the season.
Brown looked good during the early part of fall camp. If the 6'5", 220-pounder can emerge as a threat, it might be all that Georgia needs to go from good to great this season.
1. Russell Shepard: LSU Tigers
Russell Shepard's career in LSU started with question marks. The former 5-star recruit in the 2009 Rivals100 bounced around from quarterback to running back to wide receiver during his first two seasons in Baton Rouge.
Shepard was the nation's No. 7 overall recruit in the class of 2009 as a quarterback. However, since his arrival, he has never attempted a pass. Instead, he has caught 52 passes for 478 yards and five touchdowns and rushed 84 times for 555 yards.
Not bad—especially considering he's bounced around from position to position—but he's certainly not up to the hype that comes along with being the seventh-best recruit in the country.
There's time left.
Now as a full-time receiver, Shepard has a chance to close out his career on a high note with Zach Mettenberger—a legitimate downfield threat—at quarterback.