The 2008 signing class will go down as one of the best in Alabama history. It brought Alabama its first Heisman Trophy winner and a third overall pick in the NFL draft. Overall, three players signed in '08 were first rounders.
After next season's NFL draft, Alabama could have as many as six first-round draft picks in this one class, with several more going to the league in lower rounds.
But not everyone found stardom.
Jarrell Harris was one of the most heralded of recruits to sign. He spurned favorite Auburn to sign with the Tide, setting off years of bitter conflict between the fan bases. All this for a player who has yet to start more than a few games. The story may not be over yet, however. This fall, Harris has one last chance to become a full-time starter, and he still has massive potential. This spring, his play was promising.
Offensive lineman John Michael Boswell, a 4-star recruit from just up the road in Northport, found significant playing time as a true freshman and even started several games. At the time, I'm sure he felt it would be the first of many playing opportunities. As the talent around him exploded, Boswell could get no higher than second string, and playing opportunities have been scarce.
Robby Green seemed to get his things backwards. He was a co-starter at safety for the 2010 Championship team, but since then has been suspended from the team repeatedly for team violations, something you expect from younger players more than seasoned veterans. It is unlikely he will ever suit up again in Crimson.
Another offensive lineman, Tyler Love, was a 5-star can't-miss recruit out of Mountain Brook. At 6'7" and 285 pounds with athleticism, how could he not become a star. Four years later, he has not started a game and is struggling to hold on to his second-string job.
At least these guys have made a career at Alabama. Twelve signees did not make it that far.
Kicker Corey Smith from West Virginia was adept at both kicking and punting. He quit the team a year later and transferred to West Virginia, where he failed to win either starting job, but is listed as a punter.
Devonta Bolton was an amazing athlete. At 6'4", 220 lbs., the Norcross Georgia product was expected to play either wide receiver, linebacker or safety. His athletic skills were clear, but his grades were not. He signed with Alabama but went to junior college. After several years of trying, he never did qualify to play Division I football.
Talented wide receiver Melvin Ray never reported to Alabama, opting instead to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization after being drafted by them in the 33rd round of the major league draft. Ray has remained in the minor leagues in Arizona, where he batted .269 in 2010
Destin Hood, also a wide receiver, also went the baseball route when he was drafted in the second round by the Washington Nationals. Hood signed for $1.1 million spread out over five years. He also remains in the farm system in the Carolina League.
While both these guys had to make a decision on what sport to play, their toiling days of minor league ball might seem out of the limelight compared to their classmates who held up the national championship trophy on national TV, several of whom are about to make 1.1 million over five years look small.
Marcel Dareus was drafted third overall in the 2010 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills, but his brother Damarius Dareus also signed with Alabama that day. He was not expected to qualify, and did not. He went to Southwest Mississippi Community College, where he did not stand out.
Wide receiver Chris Jackson started fast at Alabama and looked promising, but quit the team after a year. He transferred to Georgia Tech but was dismissed from that program for academic reasons. A recent article on www.ajc.com states Jackson may be able to return to the football team if his grades continue to improve this summer.
Alonzo Lawrence was a highly recruited cornerback out of Lucedale, Mississippi. After a year in the program, Lawrence's scholarship was not renewed. He left Alabama and went to Southern Mississippi.
There, his tenure was even shorter. Finally, Lawrence found some success at Mississippi Gulf Coast where in 2010 he helped them to a league championship and the Mississippi Bowl. In their victory, Lawrence returned a fumble for a touchdown.
Running back Jermaine Preyear also was dismissed from the team the following year and transferred to Alabama State, where he played sparingly that year and did not appear on the roster after that.
Running Back Ivan Matchett was injured and had to give up football.
The class's only quarterback was Star Jackson. Star was a raw prospect with a big upside. For a season, he served as Alabama's No. 2 quarterback, throwing for 116 yards. Late in the season, freshman AJ McCarron overtook Jackson, and after a spring in which he could not outpace the talented freshman, he transferred to Georgia State where he remained a backup.
Possibly the most surprising bust was Burton Scott. The super athletic player was well suited to both wide receiver and defensive back. Scott originally played as a true freshman at wide receiver but could not translate that aestheticism to production.
Scott took a red shirt in his second season to learn the defensive back position. He emerged as a starter the following spring at corner, only to lose that spot to true freshman Demarcus Milliner. Inexplicably, he also slid behind Dequan Menzie and Phelon Jones in the pecking order and barely saw the field. Scott had had enough, and he transferred to South Alabama.
Defensive End Glenn Harbin was a project player. At 6'6" 250, Alabama tried to make a jack linebacker out of him but it didn't take. Harbin never threatened to play. After the 2010 season he quit football to play baseball for the Tide. As of this writing, he is not listed on the baseball roster.
Alabama's 2008 class has accounted well for itself. One has to wonder how things would have been if some of the busts listed were able to reach their potential. The formula and circumstances that lead one young man to success while another becomes a footnote to history is a mystery to us all.