In college football there are many quarterbacks that are recruited with dreams of Heisman trophies and BCS championships in their heads. Many are highly touted by ESPN and scouting report companies. However, in football, as in life, there are no guarantees.
A great number of players who are barely recruited go on to become superstars—i.e. Collin Klein—and just as many hotly recruited prospects see their college careers go down in flames—see Matt Barkley.
Let's analyze the top four busts based on initial recruiting estimates and the top four steals, according to the 2012 season.
1. Matt Barkley, Senior, USC Trojans, 2009 ESPN 150 Rank No. 1
Matt Barkley has never really lived up to the hype that was so heavily heaped upon him coming out of high school. Barkley did endure a coaching change from Pete Carroll to Lane Kiffin, as well as a variety of sanctions against the program during his time at USC.
However, the Trojans are expected to dominate the PAC-12, at the least. Matt managed a 1-7 record against USC rivals Stanford and Oregon, which is hardly a ringing endorsement of his leadership on the field.
I would find it very difficult to see Matt Barkley succeed at the next level. If you can't dominate at USC, it doesn't bode well for the pros and I think that many fans in L.A. would agree with me.
2. Aaron Murray, Junior, Georgia Bulldogs, 2009 ESPN 150 Rank No. 13
Aaron Murray was another can't-miss prospect entering college. He has been a three-year starter, and until his senior season, the Bulldogs had produced underwhelming results on the field. The Georgia teams around him have been stacked with talent, good defenses and a consistent coaching staff.
The running theme seems to be lack of leadership and the ability to step up in the big game. Against South Carolina, Murray had just 105 yards passing, no touchdowns and an interception; hardly the statement game that the Georgia faithful were expecting.
In the SEC championship against Alabama, Murray finally showed signs of life in a big game and led a final drive that looked promising, but did not manage the clock well leaving the Bulldogs to wonder, "What if?" "What if?" seems to be the overriding question of Aaron Murray's tenure in Athens. At this point, Murray seems to be doing too little, too late.
3. Tyler Wilson, Senior, Arkansas Razorbacks, 2008 ESPN 150 Rank No. 81
Tyler Wilson's skills were well-regarded, and Coach Bobby Petrino was just the type of coach to help him ascend to the next level. Wilson had a great 2011, and was poised to elevate his game to elite status when his coach took his famous motorcycle ride.
As unfair as it is to Wilson, the team entered 2012 with BCS Championship aspirations and quickly devolved from there. Tyler Wilson was unable to make a statement this year based upon coaching changes, injuries and again, lack of control on the field.
Wilson will enter the NFL draft wondering what happened this year. Hopefully he can find the right team to help him grow and move past the nightmare season he endured in 2012.
4. Landry Jones, Senior, Oklahoma Sooners, 2008 ESPN 150 Rank No. 122
Landry Jones stepped into the shoes of Sam Bradford and was expected to continue to carry the torch in Norman. Unfortunately, Sooner fans have had to endure a bumpy growth process—and an awful mustache—while Jones got on his feet.
Jones is an enigmatic character. He has the arm and the ability to dominate a game, and then at times he completely falls apart and looks lost on the gridiron. This was evidenced in the Kansas State game where Jones fumbled snaps, threw interceptions and generally could not get anything right.
Landry's lack of dominance in big games against Notre Dame and Kansas State made Sooner fans cringe this year. I'm assuming that NFL scouts did the same thing. Potential is just that, and is never a guarantee.
1. Ryan Nassib, Senior, Syracuse Orange, 2008 ESPN 150 Not Rated
Ryan Nassib was not well-recruited out of college and landed at Syracuse under Doug Marrone. Nassib's elusiveness and ability to make something out of nothing has allowed Syracuse to become relevant again in the Big East.
Nassib sat behind Ron Paulus in 2009 as the Orange endured their fifth consecutive losing season. Once Ryan took the helm in 2010, the Orange have had two winnings seasons and two bowl appearances.
Ryan's knack for making plays and ability to make the players around him better should be desirable traits for scouts from the next level.
2. Nick Florence, Senior, Baylor Bears, 2009 ESPN 150 Not Rated
Nick Florence was thrust into the starting position as a true freshman and both quarterbacks ahead of him went down with injury. These early lessons in 2009 allowed Florence to gain composure in the pocket and experience in a big game.
Florence was forced to take a front row seat as 2011 Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III put together some of the greatest two years that any quarterback in college history has completed. In 2012, Florence took on the daunting task of replacing RGIII with great composure.
Florence systematically dismantled the Kansas State Wildcats pass by pass and in doing deflated any dreams of a BCS Championship berth. Florence has a strong arm and sense for making big plays. Any NFL team should be happy to give this young man a look.
3. Collin Klein, Senior, Kansas State Wildcats, 2009 ESPN 150 Not Rated
Collin Klein was a wide receiver and special teams player in 2009 and 2010 despite wanting to be behind center. During his first two years, the Wildcats were a mediocre team in a competitive Big 12.
In 2011, Klein was given the chance to prove himself, and during the past two years Collin Klein has dominated the college football landscape. Collin's ability to run and throw has kept the opposition on its heels and allowed Kansas State to reach top 25 rankings in 2011 and 2012.
Klein's dominance did not go unnoticed and he was named as a 2012 Heisman finalist. His leadership and determination in big games—such as against Oklahoma—have shown his focus and that he plays the game with purpose.
4. David Fales, Junior, San Jose State Spartans, 2012 ESPN 150 Not Rated
David Fales was not a well-sought after quarterback coming out of high school. Fales went to Nevada his freshman year and redshirted, but realized he was stuck behind the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick in 2009.
Fales decided to leave Nevada and honed his skills in junior college for two years before transferring to San Jose State as a junior in 2012. The Spartans have been fortunate to have found such a talent. The pocket passer nearly led his team to victory of Stanford, but still managed to engineer a 10-2 season behind center.
Fales is the type of player that proves that initial scouting is often flawed. A quarterback may go to the wrong program, get blocked by another quarterback—or develop late—but often times, great players can emerge from such circumstances; Fales is a perfect example of such things.