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College Football Recruiting: Ranking the 10 Most Hyped Recruits of All Time

Edwin Weathersby


It can sometimes work in a player's favor and sometimes it can set a player up for failure.

Throughout the years of college football recruiting, we have seen and heard of some players that are supposed to be the next big star. Every program in the country wants them, they have all the talent to become dominant all-time greats and will be the next big thing.

Whether they lived or are living up to the hype is always fun to debate, speculate, recall and remember. It was tough to whittle this list down to just 10, but here are the 10 most hyped recruits of all-time.

Hype this up, by the way.

10. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State

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Pryor enters his senior year on suspension for the first five games of the season and many say his suspension is a result of him being told he was the next big thing since he was a kid. At 6'6", 230 pounds, Pryor was hyped coming out of high school as a cross between Vince Young and Michael Vick.

Debate all you want on whether he has lived up to the hype or not, but he was a Heisman front runner for a portion of the 2010 season. I remember in high school  hearing about how Pryor would revolutionize the QB position by possessing amazing size, a cannon arm and a running back's running ability.

He was so hyped that he didn't announce his decision on National Signing Day—he waited weeks later for a NSD of his own, committing to Ohio State.

9. Lorenzo Booker, RB, Florida State

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I played against Booker in my early years in high school in a summer passing tournament and while he didn't shake your's truly out of his cleats (I didn't play defense), he got one of my teammates—bad.

Booker was the No.1 overall recruit in his senior campaign and had offers from every program in the country. It was a big deal when he announced his final 10 schools—not final five, final 10!

He was a 5'11", 190-pound running back that was like Barry Sanders and Marshall Faulk coming out of high school. He was extremely sudden, quick, fast and had a lot more strength than given credit for.

It came down to Notre Dame, Florida State, Washington and hometown USC. Booker committed to Notre Dame right before he was to announce his decision, then had a change of heart as he approached the podium, broke down into tears and said "I gotta go to Florida State, I just gotta."

8. Matt Barkley, QB, USC

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Barkley is a player I first heard about and watched as a freshman at powerhouse Mater Dei (CA). He was hyped coming into high school, as not just anyone can start as a freshman at Mater Dei, former high school of Trojan greats Matt Leinart, Matt Grottegoed and former Notre Dame fullback Mike McNair, among some of the top high school players in California history.

At 6'2", 230 pounds, Barkley improved every year and by his senior year, he was the No.1 overall player in the country.

He won Gatorade National Player of the Year honors as a junior. When Mark Sanchez left USC, many felt Aaron Corp would step in but Pete Carroll became immensely and increasingly infatuated with Barkley and even added to Barkley's hype himself during spring ball.

Barkley has done a very solid job in his two years at the helm at USC and NFL scouts say he has first round pick potential. In Barkley's senior year, NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. predicted that when Barkley became eligible for the draft, he would be the No.1 overall pick. Last time Kiper said that about a high school player was Matt Stafford, who went No.1 to the Lions after he left Georgia.

7. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

When you have college coaches saying your size, speed and athleticism are all at an NFL level, then you know you are a good football player. When you have college coaches saying that about you in high school, then you're great. But when you hear that when you are a sophomore in high school, that's amazing.

Jadeveon Clowney is the top player in the 2011 recruiting class and Gamecock nation will be expecting big things from him immediately. At 6'6", 250 pounds, Clowney is a great pass rusher who will likely develop into a complete defensive end like a Michael Strahan, Julius Peppers or Mario Williams.

He's expected to start almost immediately in Columbia and should be a top five NFL Draft pick when he's eligible. Observers have claimed Clowney as the best player to come into college football in years.

6. Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma

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There were many observers who went and saw Peterson play in Texas during his high school days and came away saying he could play in the NFL. No, not in a few years, but right then and there. He was a 6'2", 220-pound man child with 4.3 speed and racked up production that equaled to three running backs. Talk was that he was better than Eric Dickerson coming out of high school.

Peterson chose Oklahoma over Texas and USC and was an instant star in Norman, becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist as a true freshman.

He carried the load for three years before leaving for the NFL Draft and becoming a top 10 pick to the Vikings. Today, Peterson is among the very elite running backs in the NFL and a multiple-time Pro Bowler, including his rookie year.

He's the epitome of a recruit that has lived up to the hype and produced everywhere he's been.

5. Peyton Manning, QB, Tennessee

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When Manning was in high school, people kept hearing about how Archie Manning had a son who was a fine player in his own right. Then, when they went and watched him play in person, it was "Peyton's going to be better than his dad."

At 6'6", 230 pounds, Manning was the top overall recruit his senior year in 1993 and the Gatorade National Player of the Year.

He created a stir by choosing Tennessee over Ole Miss, where Archie went, but went on to become the best QB in Vols history.

By the time Manning was a junior, he was in the same position as Andrew Luck. He was a lock for the No.1 pick, but stunned many by returning for his senior season and eventually became the first pick for the Colts.

Although he couldn't beat Florida at Rocky Top, Manning is one of the greatest QBs in history, bar none. His work ethic and film study habits are legendary and he is regarded as the smartest QB in modern history.

4. Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky

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Couch was said by Tom Lemming to be the greatest QB recruit since Brett Favre. He had a 75 percent completion percentage and threw 133 touchdowns in high school in Kentucky. Couch, 6'4", 220 pounds, was also one of the top high school basketball players in the country too, averaging 36 points per game.

He chose to stay home and play at Kentucky and had a so-so true freshman year in a run dominant offense. The Wildcats then hired Hal Mumme who installed his "Air Raid" passing attack and Couch's numbers took off, en route to setting numerous college football records.

Before his junior season, the Cleveland Browns quietly told Couch that if he came out, they'd make him the No.1 pick, which they did.

Yet, Couch is one of the biggest Draft busts in NFL history. He struggled with the Browns, frequently getting benched, and ultimately was not re-signed. He had a stint with the Packers but it was short-lived. Today he is an SEC analyst for Fox Sports. 

3. Chris Simms, QB, Tennessee

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Simms first committed to play at Tennessee, then after awhile chose, to head to Austin to play for Texas.

He was a sure fire, can't miss prospect that stood 6'4" and weighed 225 pounds. He had a great arm, athleticism and accuracy. He was the 1998 USA Today National Player of the Year.

Simms never really lived up to his billing in Austin. He was constantly flip-flopped with Major Applewhite, but you got the sense that the Texas staff kept waiting for him to take the job over once and for all, only he never did. 

He had four turnovers in the 2001 Big 12 title game and Texas re-inserted Applewhite who thought he would be the man heading into the 2001 season. He did throw for over 3,600 yards and 26 scores as a senior.

Simms became a third round pick for the Buccaneers and developed into a competent starter but suffered a spleen injury and never was the same. He has bounced around with Tennessee and Denver as a backup.

2. Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame

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Clausen was called the LeBron James of high school football during his junior year at Oaks Christian. He came from good bloodlines as his brothers Casey and Rick were star QBs in the metro Los Angeles Valley area and went on to start at Tennessee.

I saw Clausen play in person in high school and thought he was pretty good. Even college QBs who had worked out with him and his QB coach said he was already better than them.

Legend has it that when he was a kid, he thought he was a linebacker and at one of his brother's games he was seen throwing a football across the field by Steve Clarkson, who demanded he be allowed to tutor Clausen at QB.

Clausen chose to go to Notre Dame in a controversial announcement at the CFB Hall of Fame and started as a true freshman. He had a solid career in South Bend and was taken in the second round by the Panthers, but went though a tough rookie year. His future is cloudy in Carolina.

1. Ron Powlus, QB, Notre Dame

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Powlus was the 1992 Parade All-American Player of the Year and labeled as the perfect QB. At 6'2", 225 pounds, he had a golden arm, accuracy and the smarts to be the prototype at the signal caller spot. To even enhance his hype, he signed with Notre Dame and chose to wear No. 3.

Beano Cook told everyone Powlus would be the first player since Archie Griffin to win multiple Heisman Trophies to go along with multiple national titles in South Bend. Powlus never even came close to any of what he was expected to do.

While he was solid, Powlus is a case where the hype was simply too much to ever match. He never really had a chance to match it and it may have played a role in why he didn't play well, besides suffering two broken bone injuries in his arm.

Today, Powlus has enjoyed a rising coaching career and is the QB coach at Akron.


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