One of the most important parts of building a strong team is recruiting. Big college football programs such as Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson find themselves in a dogfight over young prospects who could have an impact not only on their teams, but on the game of football. A lot of the time, these 4 and 5-star recruits are a hit, but there are cases where these highly-touted prospects can be a miss as well. The following list of players of men who could’ve been great and could’ve been stars in college and the NFL. However, once they reached the big stage, they failed to live up to their potential, leading to failed collegiate and professional careers. To kick off Top 10 Tuesdays and with the college football season kicking off in over 50 days, we look back at the ten most overhyped college football players since 2000 (via Bleacher Report):
10) WR Fred Rouse
Coming out of high school, Rouse was ranked the #6 overall player in the recruiting class of 2005. Standing at 6’3 and weighing in at 187 pounds, with a 40-yard time of 4.4 seconds, the Tallahassee native had tremendous potential.
As a freshman at Florida State, Rouse didn’t have a great impact, playing in 11 games and making six catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. He also returned 11 punts for 97 yards and six kickoffs for 107 yards. The wide receiver was dismissed from Florida State after one year and ended up at UTEP. There he had 25 catches for 379 yards and two touchdowns, but left UTEP after one season as well. He ended up at NAIA Concordia College after a stint in jail for a probation violation. Rouse never played in the NFL.
9) WR Vidal Hazelton
Hazelton was the #5 overall player in the class of 2006 and the top wide receiver prospect. This came following a strong senior season at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, where he caught 41 passes for 942 yards and 13 touchdowns. The 6’2, 200-pound star was heavily recruited and elected to play for USC.
In his freshman season, Hazelton was a reserve, making just one catch for eight yards. As a sophomore he broke out, making 50 catches for 540 yards and four touchdowns. But he was unable to build on that in his junior year, making only six catches for 38 yards. After transferring to Cincinnati for his senior season, Hazelton found minor success there, with six catches for 63 yards and no touchdowns. It was a quiet end to a college career that had so much potential.
8) QB Gunner Kiel
Kiel made a name for himself long before he reached his collegiate destination. He had originally committed to Indiana and LSU, but decommitted from both and ended up signing with Notre Dame. The 6’4, 210-pound quarterback was the #38 overall prospect in 2012 and the top quarterback in his class.
Gunner was redshirted for his first year at Notre Dame, before deciding to transfer to Cincinnati. In his college debut, he threw six touchdowns against Toledo. He had an excellent sophomore year, where he threw 31 touchdowns against 13 interceptions overall with 3,254 yards. His numbers slipped in 2015: 2,777 yards with 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Before his senior season, Kiel was benched in favour of younger players. He still found a little playing time, throwing six touchdowns, two interceptions and 804 yards.
7) QB Russell Shepard
Shepard was a dual-threat/triple-threat star at Cypress Ridge High School in Texas, where he carved up over 4,000 yards of total offense and 48 touchdowns as a senior. This led to Shepard being ranked the #4 overall player in 2008. He could’ve played either running back or wide receiver in college, but chose to commit to LSU so he could play quarterback.
Unfortunately, Shepard never had a true position at LSU. He played 90 snaps as a freshman, with 40 at tailback, 28 at quarterback and 22 at wide receiver. Shepard finished with 277 rushing yards and three touchdowns. As a sophomore, he started nine games, but none were at quarterback. He had 33 receptions for 254 yards and a touchdown, while adding 226 yards and two scores on the ground. In his junior season, Shepard caught 14 passes for 190 yards and four touchdowns, but once his senior year came around, his playing time decreased. This led to him catching just six passes for 92 yards and 161 yards and a score on the ground. Shepard managed to play as a wide receiver in the NFL.
6) QB Ryan Perrilloux
The dual-threat passer out of Louisiana had an impressive prep career at East St. John High School, accumulating 12,705 yards of offense. In his senior year alone, he put up 5,006 yards of total offense. Perrilloux was ranked the #2 overall recruit in 2005, behind current NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez. He originally committed to Texas, but flipped on National Signing Day to join LSU.
Perrilloux redshirted his first year, completing only one pass as a third-string quarterback in 2006. Despite being arrested for attempted underage gambling, he worked his way to two starts in 2007 – the SEC Championship Game, where he helped the Tigers defeat Tennessee, and the BCS National Championship Game, where LSU would beat Oklahoma. Perrilloux was kicked off the team in 2008 for violating team rules and transferred to FCS side Jacksonville State, where he played his last two seasons. As a senior, he won the Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
5) QB Christian Hackenberg
Hackenberg was supposed to be the player to help change the Penn State football program following the Jerry Sandusky scandal. He stood at 6’4″, 205 pounds and ranked as the #2 quarterback and #33 overall player in the recruiting class of 2013. Hackenberg was a pro-style quarterback who could play right away in Bill O’Brien’s offense at Penn.
He immediately thrived as a starter, throwing for 2,955 yards, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. However, things changed when Bill O’Brien went to the NFL and was replaced by Vanderbilt’s James Franklin. Hackenberg struggled under a new offense and behind a terrible offensive line, throwing for 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions as a sophomore and 16 touchdowns against six interceptions as a junior. Following this, Hackenberg declared for the NFL draft and became a 2nd-round pick for the New York Jets.
4) QB Mitch Mustain
Mustain was the nation’s top quarterback prospect, a 5-star recruit and the #10 overall player in the class of 2006. He was also the National Player of the Year as voted by Gatorade, Parade and USA Today. As a high school senior, Mustain threw for 3,817 yards and 47 touchdowns. He committed to his hometown Arkansas Razorbacks.
Mustain got off to a good start at Arkansas. He relieved starter Robert Johnson in a 50-14 loss to USC and then won his next eight games. However, after one series in a win against South Carolina, Mustain was pulled in favour of backup Casey Dick. He finished the season with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions, before transferring to USC. Mustain struggled for playing time in Southern California, playing behind Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley. He played in the CFL and Arena Football League, but never in the NFL.
3) RB Bryce Brown
Brown was ranked the top player in the class of 2009 after finishing his high school career with 7,209 yards. His family garnered attention during his recruitment process when a family friend, Brian Butler, sold updates on Brown’s college choices for $9.99 per month or $59 per month. Brown initially committed to Miami, but later flipped and signed with Tennessee.
As a backup in his freshman year, Brown ran for 460 yards and three touchdowns. However, coach Lane Kiffin, who recruited Brown to Tennessee, left to USC following the season. This led to Brown following his brother Arthur to Kansas State. He spent a season sitting out as a transfer, but ended up leaving Kansas State in 2011. Brown declared for the NFL draft and spent four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks. He did not play in the league in 2016.
2) QB Jimmy Clausen
Clausen went 42-0 at Oaks Christian High School in California and was named USA Today’s Offensive Player of the Year as a senior. He was ranked as the #4 overall prospect in the class of 2007. When Clausen committed to Notre Dame, he did so in style, arriving in a stretch Hummer limo, flashing his high school championship rings and proclaiming that he would “try to get four national championship rings on our fingers”.
Clausen became the starter in the second game of his college career, but struggled as Notre Dame went 3-9, with Clausen winning just one game in his first six starts. He threw for 1,254 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions. As a sophomore, he threw for 3,172 yards with 25 touchdowns against 17 interceptions for a 7-6 Fighting Irish side. As a junior he was better, throwing for 3,722 yards with 28 touchdowns against just four interceptions. However, Notre Dame only went 6-6. He declared for the NFL draft following that season, finishing his college career with one winning season, one bowl win, no Heisman Trophy and no National Championships.
1) LB Willie Williams
Williams gained notoriety for composing a diary of his recruiting trips in partnership with the Miami Herald. It was the first time fans were given a real in-depth look inside the recruiting process many high-touted prospects go through each year. Williams wasn’t bad on the field as well, being the #2 overall player in 2004, ahead of Adrian Peterson and Ted Ginn Jr. He committed to Miami and looked to be the next great Miami Hurricanes defender.
Williams was hit with three charges following his recruiting visit to Florida (one for felony) and was placed on probation for three years before being admitted to Miami. He redshirted his freshman year after suffering a knee injury and made 36 tackles as a redshirt freshman. Coaches were frustrated with Williams, which led to him transferring to Pearl River Community College in Mississippi and West Los Angeles Community College. He was given one last chance to play with Louisville, where he played three games before being arrested for marijuana possession, finishing his career at NAIA Union College. In 2011, Williams was arrested in Kentucky on burglary charges and is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence following his conviction.