It's a simple reality of college football recruiting: Every season dozens of hyped recruits step onto campus for the first time and are never heard from again.
Webster's defines “hype” in this context as “publicity, especially of an extravagant or contrived kind.” That seems a perfect way to describe all of the nonsensical announcement “press conferences” so many unproven 18-year-old kids manage to have televised on ESPN on national signing day.
Still, for all of the failures each and every season, there are a few shining examples of highly-touted recruits who actually live up to the hype. While there are no guarantees, we're putting our faith in a select few members of the recruiting class of 2013 to do just that.
Greg Bryant is a running back out of Delray Beach, Florida. Unlike so many speedsters from the south, Bryant isn't sticking around the warmth of SEC country, but instead headed to snowy South Bend to join Brian Kelly's Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
Bryant, a 5-star recruit listed as Rivals.com's No. 3 running back (and No. 19 overall recruit) had 1,447 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in his senior season at American Heritage School along with 308 receiving yards and three catches for touchdowns.
At 5'11” and 197 pounds, Bryant is big enough, strong enough and most importantly fast enough to be a versatile player for Notre Dame. In fact, that versatility will serve him well in the offensive schemes drawn up by Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin, and Bryant's impact will be felt for years in South Bend.
O.J. Howard is next in what has become a growing line of next-generation tight ends. At 6'6” and 220 pounds, Howard can be a very effective blocker on the line, but his size and surprising speed has us thinking he'll be more like a Tyler Eifert receiver than a Barrett Jones blocker.
Howard sat a good portion of his senior season with a knee injury. But despite missing four games, he still hauled in 12 receptions for a touchdown in 2012.
Howard has committed to Alabama, where there's little doubt he'll mature into one of the nation's premiere tight ends. Remember that speed we mentioned? Howard has been clocked with 4.49 speed—almost unheard of for a 220-pound tight end. Add in a vertical of nearly three feet and you can start to see why this 5-star recruit found himself as the top tight end prospect in the nation according to Rivals.com.
Some of the nation's top stars from recent years have come on the defensive side of the ball, and Jonathan Allen has the look of a defensive end ready to burst onto the national stage.
Allen—a 6'3”, 255-pound end with 4.5 speed—is committed to Alabama where he'll join a host of current and former fellow 5-star recruits.
Listed as the No. 2 defensive end recruit and No. 11 overall prospect by Rivals.com, Allen selected the Crimson Tide over other SEC programs like Auburn and Florida as well as other national powers like Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma. Alabama certainly doesn't need to get any better on defense, but with Allen heading to Tuscaloosa, it's clear that Alabama wants to get better.
Scary thought for the rest of the nation...
Derrick Green is listed as Rivals.com's No. 1 running back prospect, and is also the No. 8 overall recruit in the class of 2013. And just in case you needed more convincing that the University of Michigan is putting renewed emphasis on the things that made it the only program with 900-or-more all-time wins—like a stellar run game—the addition of Green to Brady Hoke's squad should be the last bit of proof necessary.
Green is a big guy at 6'0” and 220 pounds, especially when you consider his 4.4 speed. During his senior season at Richmond (VA) Heritage, Green amassed 1,350 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, all the more impressive when you consider he rarely played past halftime.
With the Big Ten's focus on the run and Michigan's renewed emphasis on classic Big Ten football, expect Green to become a big contributor for the Maize and Blue.
Somewhat surprisingly, Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze has put together one of the top 2013 recruiting classes, ranked ahead of powerhouses like Oklahoma, South Carolina, Florida State, Oregon and Texas on Rivals.com's 2013 recruiting team rankings (as of February 4). And Freeze isn't doing it by simply snagging the best recruits from the deep south, either.
Laquon Treadwell, a 5-star wide receiver, is ranked as the top wideout in the nation by Rivals.com, and is also the No. 5 overall recruit.
Treadwell, from Crete Monee High School in Crete, Ill., led his team to a state championship in 2012 with 83 receptions for 1,450 yards and 23 touchdowns. He is also capable of sub-4.5 times in the 40-yard dash, and his powerful frame moves down the field effortlessly.
Defenders might also be fooled by his 195-pound, 6'3” frame. Treadwell is incredibly difficult to tackle as his raw power is more than most single corners can handle. He's also capable of laying some punishing blocks downfield with squat power that well exceeds 400 pounds.
With Ole Miss rebuilding, expect blue chip recruits like Treadwell to get their fair share of game time early in their careers.
Jaylon Smith is the nation's No. 1 linebacker prospect and No. 3 overall prospect according to Rivals.com, and he's not straying far from his Fort Wayne, Indiana home to attend college.
Notre Dame may have lost Manti Te'o to graduation, but there's plenty of room for hope on the horizon for the Irish's linebacking corps. Smith looks every bit as impressive as Te'o did coming out of high school, and the Notre Dame coaching staff wasted no time in securing a commitment from Smith (who verbally committed back in June).
Just how good is Smith? As a four-year varsity player at Bishop Luers High School, Smith guided his team to four state titles.
You can't do any better than that.
Smith also impressed in the 2013 US Army All-American Bowl where his 4.4 speed and amazing closing ability was on full display. Smith also has tons of upside. His 6'3”, 210-pound frame still has room to develop even further.
The state of Florida is a hot bed of college football recruiting, so when you're the top Rivals.com prospect from the Sunshine State, there's little doubt about your potential.
Vernon Hargreaves, III is just such a player. Not only is he the top Florida recruit, he's also the No. 2 recruit nationally.
This 5'11”, 185-pound corner has the makings of a future franchise player at his home-state university of choice: Florida. Will Muschamp's penchant for building a suffocating defense seems to be continuing unabated with the commitment from Hargreaves, a stellar deep-cover corner.
But what really sets Hargreaves apart is his ability to pretty much do it all on defense. Even if he were to move to safety in college, there's little doubt he would also excel, eventually becoming one of the nation's top defensive backs at either position.
He has the speed to close the gap on any wideout in the country and the power to provide excellent run support.
He was the defensive MVP at the Under Armour All-America Game with several critical pass breakups and a victory-preserving interception in the fourth quarter.
Just because you're the No. 1 overall prospect in the nation doesn't mean you're guaranteed success in college. But when you look at Robert Nkemdiche, a guy who amassed 43 sacks in his high school career, it's hard to see how success won't follow in the defensive-minded SEC.
Nkemdiche is the top prospect in the class of 2013 according to, well, pretty much everyone: ESPN, Rivals.com and Scout.com. He's also still undecided as to where he's going to play college football (although it's going to be somewhere in the SEC).
LSU and Ole Miss are the top two on Nkemdiche's list right now, but Florida still has an outside chance of landing this soon-to-be superstar. But no matter where he lands, this man-child is sure to be a game-changer. His ability to disrupt any offensive play is unmatched, and there are few offensive linemen—even in the SEC—that will be able to contain this 6'5”, 260-pound one-man wrecking crew.
Strength and speed is a deadly combination and Nkemdiche has both. Plug him into an already dominant defensive unit and there's definite championship implications.