Recruiting: Stars Don't Ensure Stardom

Reflecting on the big visit weekend at Auburn (Jan. 13-15), Inside The Auburn Tigers takes a look back at another big recruiting weekend four years ago and tracks what happened to yesterday's bluechippers and sleepers.

Auburn, Ala.--Last weekend Auburn had one of its biggest recruiting weekends in terms of numbers since Tommy Tuberville has been head coach the Plains. A total of 21 prospects, including some considered "can't miss" type of prospects were in the group of 21 visitors.

Out of 23 prospects who visited Auburn back on the weekend of January 18, 2002, several became standout college football players and some even have a future in the NFL. Others never got to college, were injured, or never panned out on the next level. Here's a look back at Auburn's visitors that weekend.

Kedric Golston announces he will be a Georgia Bulldog on Countdown to Signing Day.

The names at the top of the list are some who SEC football fans are very familiar with based on their performances in recent seasons. Rated as the nation's number three defensive tackle that year, Kedric Golston visited Auburn that weekend, but signed with Georgia. Unfortunately for the big lineman, injuries kept him from reaching his potential as a collegiate player. He played in 43 games while at Georgia and finished with 88 tackles, seven and a half tackles for a loss and two and a half sacks for his career.

Deljuan Robinson was one rated as one of the nation's top defensive linemen from Hernando, Miss., and signed with Mississippi State after his visit with the Tigers. Ranked eighth in the country at his position, Robinson has accumulated 70 tackles and one sack in three seasons after enrolling at MSU for the 2003 season. He will be a senior next fall.

Ranked as the number 13 offensive line prospect in the country, Marcus McNeill from Georgia's Cedar Grove High has lived up to that billing and more. Starting 39 games in his Auburn career, McNeill was an All-American as a senior and was also a finalist for the Outland Trophy as the nation's top lineman. He will likely be a first-day selection in this year's NFL Draft.

The nation's number 13 ranked tight end, big Justin Bruce from Linedale, Ga., visited Auburn and eventually signed with the Tigers. That was the high point for him though as neck and back problems forced him to give up the game before he even started. Still in school, he'll get his degree from Auburn this year.

Tommy Jackson points out that he was 4-0 vs. Auburn's in-state rival, the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Thought to be too short to effectively play the defensive line by some, Opelika's Tommy Jackson visited Auburn as the number 16 rated defensive tackle prospect in the nation. He had a great career for the Tigers with 125 total tackles in four seasons. Jackson also earned All-SEC honors and received his degree prior to his senior season.

Number 26 among defensive ends and a visitor that weekend was Christopher Browder from Wilcox Central High. Although he eventually signed with Alabama, Browder attended a junior college before signing with Auburn in 2004. He redshirted one year at Southwest Mississippi Community College and has one year remaining to play after two years with the Tigers.

Ranked as the 29th tight end prospect in the country, New Orleans product John Doucette visited Auburn and eventually signed with Memphis. A four-year starter for the Tigers, he leaves as one of the school's leading career receivers at the position.

The 34th-ranked offensive lineman in the country, Jay Kirkland, visited Auburn as he traveled from New Albany, Miss., and was heavily pursued by most of the schools in the SEC. He eventually signed with Ole Miss over LSU, Auburn and others. He left the team as a freshman and never played for the Rebels.

One of the nation's top defensive line prospects out of Memphis, LaRon Harris, visited as the number 35 prospect that year. He chose Tennessee and redshirted as a freshman. Eventually academic problems put an end to his career as a Vol following the 2004 season.

Ranked as the 37th defensive tackle in the country, Athens, Ga., Clarke-Central's Randall Swoopes visited Auburn before eventually signing with hometown Georgia. After several run-ins with the law that included charges of stealing a teammate's clothing, Swoopes quit the team before the 2004 season.

The number 39 linebacker in the country, Kevis Burnam, visited and eventually signed with Auburn. A physical player, Burnam suffered a pair of knee injuries and eventually gave up the game after seeing limited action for the Tigers.

One of the biggest success stories from that weekend is Will Herring. Rated as the number 60 quarterback prospect in the country, Herring signed with Auburn and redshirted in 2002. Since that time Herring has started 36 games and has 178 tackles with six interceptions as a free safety. He earned second team All-SEC honors as a junior.

Will Herring has started 36 consecutive games for the Tigers.

Tyrone Martin was rated 68th in the country for linebackers out of Benjamin Russell High in Alexander City. A very physical player who could have been a mainstay for the Tigers in the middle, Martin suffered a neck injury that put an end to his AU career after playing sparingly as a true freshman. He left school and later tried to play at Miles College.

Defensive back Darnell Williams from Many, La., was rated 71st in the country and eventually signed with LSU, but never played a down for the Tigers. The same is true of offensive lineman John Hall from Chatsworth, Ga. He visited Auburn before eventually signing with South Carolina, but never played a down for the Gamecocks. He was ranked as the number 110 offensive lineman in the country.

Athlete Chansi Stuckey from Warner Robins, Ga., was also in town that weekend for a visit. Ranked 73rd in the country as a receiver, Stuckey eventually chose Clemson and, after playing sparingly as a quarterback his first season, has been dominant for the Tigers. With one year left he has 89 receptions for 1,051 yards and four touchdowns.

A teammate of Devin Aromashodu's at Miami Springs, Fla., High, wide receiver Lamart Barrett was unranked coming into his visit over the weekend. After considering Auburn and almost teaming up with Aromashodu, he chose N.C. State. He played one season at a prep school before joining the Wolfpack. In three seasons in Raleigh he has caught 50 passes for 604 yards.

Also an unranked prospect but one well known in Alabama was Ben Grubbs from Elmore County High. A big middle linebacker, Grubbs was recruited to play defensive line by most everyone on his list. Since then he's become a standout offensive guard for the Auburn Tigers and likely has a future in the NFL following his senior season in 2006. After starting as a defensive lineman and moving to tight end, he has started the past two seasons at guard for the Tigers.

Courtney Taylor has excellent hands, excellent speed and can make catches in traffic.

Just like Grubbs, Courtney Taylor was known throughout Alabama late in the recruiting process for being a standout athlete, although many thought he was a better basketball player than football player. A one-star rated prospect, Taylor chose the Tigers over Alabama and following a redshirt season he has been a mainstay in Auburn's passing game at wide receiver. In three seasons he has 99 receptions for 1,394 yards and seven touchdowns and will be one of the SEC's best receivers entering the 2006 season with pro potential.

Terron Pullen was another visitor that weekend. Unranked, he was named Georgia's Class A Defensive Player of the Year, but later academic shortcomings forced him out of Georgia Tech after playing as a freshman.

Kurt Quarterman came to Auburn along with fellow lineman Troy Reddick for a visit that weekend. Teammates at Westover High in Albany, Ga., and both unranked, the duo split up for college with Quarterman going to Louisville and Reddick staying at Auburn. Reddick started 40 games in his career for the Tigers and is expected to play on the next level. Quarterman was a two-year starter for the Cardinals at guard and could also have a chance to play in the NFL.

The final unranked player in that weekend was defensive lineman Luis Rivas from Coral Park High in South Florida. Eventually winding up at Rutgers after not getting an offer from the Tigers, Rivas had a solid career with the Scarlet Knights and finished his collegiate playing days in the school's first bowl game in more than 30 years.

This list shows that recruiting is in fact an inexact science. Looking back four years on what was considered a huge recruiting weekend at the time shows that you can't always judge a prospect's college potential by the stars next to his name.

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