Every year the emphasis on recruiting five-star players makes headlines and gives football fans a false sense of hope and expectations.
From 2002 until 2010, Scout and Rivals have agreed on 27 five-star prep running backs according to their research and player evaluations.
Scout has been "star-happy" since 2002 in praising 49 prep running backs as five-star recruits. Rivals only handed out 31 five-star ratings to running backs in its annual rankings. This year Marcus Lattimore, Michael Dyer, Lache Seastrunk, and Dillon Baxter were given the dubious honor.
Now it is time to evaluate the recruiting rankings and ask the question, are five-star running backs worth the expectations? Only players given five stars from both Scout and Rivals were considered.
2002: Lorenzo Booker (Florida State), Ciatrik Fason (Florida), Gerald Riggs Jr. (Tennessee), Michael Johnson (Virginia)
2003: Demetris Summers (South Carolina), Kregg Lumpkin (Georgia)
2004: Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma)
2005: Antone Smith (Florida State), Marlon Lucky (Nebraska), Jonathan Stewart (Oregon), Kevin Grady (Michigan)
2006: Beanie Wells (Ohio State), Stafon Johnson (USC), C.J. Spiller (Clemson), James Aldridge (Notre Dame)
2007: Joe McKnight (USC), Marc Tyler (USC), Noel Devine (West Virginia)
2008: Darrell Scott (Colorado), Jermie Calhoun (Oklahoma)
2009: Bryce Brown (Tennessee), Trent Richardson (Alabama), Christine Michael (Texas A&M)
2010: Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina), Michael Dyer (Auburn), Lache Seastrunk (Oregon), Dillon Baxter (USC)
Most Five-Star Recruits by School: USC (4), Oklahoma (2), South Carolina (2), Florida State (2), Oregon (2), Tennessee (2)
Top Five of the Five-Stars (Lived Up to the Hype)
1. Adrian Peterson
Peterson is the only player on this list to receive Heisman consideration and make an immediate impact in the NFL. He's a three-time NFL All-Pro for the Minnesota Vikings and was the 2007 NFL Rookie of the Year. In three years with the Sooners, Peterson scored 42 touchdowns with 4,045 rushing yards.
2. C.J. Spiller
After being drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the analysis on Spiller's professional career will come in time. We placed Spiller at No. 2 due to the balance of his game. With 120 receptions for 1,362 yards in his four-year career with the Tigers, it helped him reach over 4,500 career all-purpose yards.
3. Noel Devine
As a returning senior, Devine has a year left to march his way up this list. Devine has run for 3,381 yards and 23 touchdowns in his three years with West Virginia. His 6.5 yard per carry average leads this group of five-star running backs. It is still unknown how his speed and size will be evaluated come draft day 2011.
4. Jonathan Stewart
Stewart and Peterson have turned out to be the best NFL players from this group. After running for 2,891 yards and 27 touchdowns at Oregon, Stewart has continued his success by gaining 1,969 yards in two seasons with the Carolina Panthers.
5. Beanie Wells
Wells was drafted in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals. His situation with the Cardinals could give him the opportunity to become a steady Pro Bowl running back for years to come. Wells gained 3,382 yards on 585 carries in three years with the Buckeyes.
Bottom Five of the Five-Stars (Should Have Been One-Star)
1. Michael Johnson
120 carries for 654 yards in four years at Virginia.
2. Darrell Scott
110 carries for 460 yards in two years at Colorado. A returning junior for the Buffaloes, he still has time for redemption.
3. Marc Tyler
Forty-one carries for 270 yards in three years at USC. Tyler made the mistake of choosing to play for a team loaded with talent at running back. 2010 could be the opportunity he has been waiting for.
4. Kevin Grady
200 carries for 783 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Michigan Wolverines.
5. James Aldridge
255 carries for 979 yards and three touchdowns during his time at Notre Dame. He switched to fullback as an upperclassman.
Different Opinions (Notable Running Backs Who Received One Five-Star Ranking)
1. Reggie Bush, USC
Rivals made Bush a five-star prep recruit in 2003. Since then he has won a Heisman, Super Bowl, and was selected as an early first round draft pick. Currently with the New Orleans Saints.
2. LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh
Scout appointed McCoy with five stars in both 2005 and 2006. Currently with the Philadelphia Eagles.
3. Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois
Scout gave Mendenhall, along with seven other prep running backs, five stars in 2006. Currently playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers.