Re-Ranking the 2004 Class

Aaron Kelly a two-star prospect? Mike Hamlin rated three-stars? goes back four years and re-evaluates the top 10 players in the 2004 recruiting class.

"Hindsight is 20-20," they always say.

Nowhere is that evident more than recruiting rankings, where often times two-star prospects turn into first round draft picks and five-star prospects turn into busts.

It happens on all levels of all sports. Heck, even the professional scouts don't have it all figured out. Nobody does.

In 2004, the Clemson Tigers signed a recruiting class that was at the time not given much thought by any recruiting service. For the most part, it was viewed a "middle of the pack" class at best- a bunch of average players on what was at the time, mostly an average team.

However year, that class produced a handful of All-ACC players, including second-team quarterback Cullen Harper, second team safety Mike Hamlin and first-team wide receiver Aaron Kelly.

Not bad, right?

In fact, went back and re-ranked all schools in the 2004 rankings, and Clemson was listed No. 7. By comparsion in 2004, ranked the Tigers No. 40 overall.

So with all of that in mind, we take it even further by re-issuing stars to the top 10 players (as they would be ranked today) in Clemson's 2004 class.

A "best of the rest" is also provided below.

Note: Many of the prospects that were ranked as two-stars in 2004, would be three-stars in 2008 due to additional players lower in's national rankings receiving three stars. In other words, it was more difficult to get to three stars or higher in 2004.

Updated 2004 Top 10
#1. Aaron Kelly - THEN: NOW:
Hard to believe one of the top receivers in the country returning in 2008 was rated two-stars coming out of high school, but that's what Aaron Kelly was at the time. His final three schools in the recruiting process? How about Clemson, Duke and Wake Forest? After setting single-season school records for receptions and touchdown catches as a junior, Kelly deserves five-star status and could be the most underrated prospect Clemson has ever signed in football.

#2. Cullen Harper THEN: NOW:
It took him four years to crack the starting lineup but once he did, he performed at a higher level than any other first-year starter in Clemson history after throwing for 27 touchdowns and almost 3,000 yards. Who would have thought a year ago Cullen Harper would be a legitimate first-day target in the 2009 draft? That would be one person- Cullen Harper.

#3. Phillip Merling THEN: NOW:
Merling was ranked as the No. 34 tight end in the nation coming out of Fork Union four years ago, but there was little doubt he would be headed to defensive side of the ball at Clemson. Outstanding at stopping the run and exceptionally quick, Merling left Clemson after his junior year and was taken with the first overall pick of the second round by the Miami Dolphins. Finished the 2007 season fifth on the team in total tackles (78) including a team-best 17 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

#4. Mike Hamlin THEN: NOW:
Hamlin redshirted his first year before moving onto the scene as a starter midway through his second year in the program and he's been getting better ever since. Hamlin finished second on the team in tackles last season with 97, including three for loss. He was also named as a second team All-ACC performer and could be a first-day draft pick in 2009.

#5. Barry Richardson THEN: NOW:
Richardson emerged on the recruiting scene late in the process and ended up starting halfway through his freshman year at Clemson, despite the fact he graduated high school a full year early. He was an All-ACC performer in his final two seasons, but he had the ability to do so much more during his career and should have been drafted higher as a result. For that, we give him just four stars.

#6. Dorrel Scott THEN: NOW:
Scott, along with Rashaad Jackson, will give the Tigers one of the top interior defensive lines in 2008. He's also a legitimate target to get selected within the top four rounds of the 2009 draft next year. Finished the 2007 season with 50 total tackles, including five for loss and three sacks.

#7. Rashaad Jackson THEN: NOW:
Jackson was viewed as a project by some schools coming out of Union, but not Clemson. Four years later, he is one of the top defensive tackles in the league and was one of the keys to Clemson's Top 10 defense in 2007 after making 37 stops, including seven tackles for loss and one sack.

#8. Chris Clemons THEN: NOW:
Finished third on the team in tackles last season with 94 and started all 13 games. Not bad for a former unknown two-star running back who has turned into a two-plus year starter in Clemson's secondary.

#9. Cortney Vincent THEN: NOW:
Vincent was a solid contributor during his Clemson career, which was cut short a season after he violated team rules several times. While not the most talented linebacker on the team, he made up it with his vocal leadership and enthusiasm for the game. Finished the 2007 season sixth on the team in total tackles (68) to go along with seven tackles for loss and two sacks.

#10. Akeem Robinson THEN: NOW:
Serviceable tight end who can be a devastating blocker at times. In's new ranking system, he would have likely been a three-star prospect in 2004. Not much of a receiver but does a lot of the dirty work in Rob Spence's offense.

Best of the Rest:
Cory Lambert: THEN: NOW:
- Cory still has two years to regain his four-star status, and very well may get there at some point. A good place to start would be to hold on to his starting tackle position during preseason camp- which may not be easy with a host of younger players ready to battle him for playing time.

Cory Groover: THEN: NOW:
- Waffle House incidents aside, Groover was a productive player during his two-years at Clemson.

Jacquez McKissic: THEN: NOW:
- McKissic is now on offense as a tackle after playing on the defensive side of the ball his first three years on the field.

La'Donte Harris: THEN: NOW:
- Harris had his moments at Clemson, including returning a blocked punt for a touchdown last year against South Carolina. He's now working with Clemson's coaching staff and hopes to become a graduate assistant sometime soon.

Bobby Hutchinson: THEN: NOW:
- Backup lineman who has seen an increased role in the last year.

Alex Pearson: THEN: NOW:
- Saw the field for three years, graduated and moved on. Decent blocker and also caught a touchdown pass against Temple in 2006.

Durell Barry: THEN: NOW:
- Hasn't lived up to expectations as Clemson's best pass-catching tight end. Has one more year to prove himself.

Tribble Reese: THEN: NOW:
- Saw limited time the last two seasons as a third stringer and has transfered from the program.

Elsmore Gabriel: THEN: NOW:
- Career fourth teamer who is no longer on the team.

Xavier Littleberry: THEN: NOW:
- Transfered to S.C. State.

Taylor Tremel: THEN: NOW:
- Rarely played and transferred.

Andrew Diomande: THEN: NOW:
- Rarely played and transferred.

Brandon Croley: THEN: NOW:
- Career third-teamer who left the team after the 2006 season.

Tony Willis: THEN: NOW:
- Redshirted in 2004 and never re-enrolled in school. Top Stories