COLUMN: Recruiting Class Rewind

Four years have passed since the highly-touted Class of 2009 signed with LSU. Take a look back at which players lived up to those lofty expectations, and which ones failed to do so.

People say it takes four years to properly evaluate a recruiting class.

While you can rank a group of 25 high school prospects based on their potential, you can't really grade them until you see how that promise translates to the field. With any number of on-the-field or off-the-field factors playing into a kid's college career, a highly-ranked recruiting class can often become a group that failed to meet expectations.

With the 2013 class nearing completion, it's appropriate to look back four years to LSU's class of 2009 to see which players lived up to the lofty expectations bestowed upon them.

The 2009 class was one of the more highly-touted recruiting hauls in recent history. It included five five-star recruits (the most in that nation) and its eight top-100 prospects ranked second behind USC's 10. The class did win 43 games in four years, but only won one bowl game.

While several of these players never saw the field for LSU, it did produce several first-round draft picks, with plenty more to come.

Below is a breakdown of all 24 signees from that class, listed in order of their 2009 rankings, with a rundown of whether they exceeded, met or failed to live up to expectations:

Rueben Randle

2009 Ranking: Five-star prospect, No. 1 WR

Met expectations

Randle was the offensive gem of the 2009 class, the big-bodied WR that would help reestablish the LSU passing game. Randle became every bit the weapon that fans hoped he would be. He was almost unguardable near the endzone and was LSU's No. 1 WR for the last two years of his career. His numbers may not reflect it, but those stats dipped along with the inconsistent quarterback play that plagued the team throughout his three years.

Craig Loston

2009 Ranking: Five-star prospect, No. 1 S

Failed to meet expectations

Injuries have hampered Loston throughout his career, which has been one of the primary reasons he's failed to meet that No. 1 ranking. He still does have one year of eligibility remaining, and can cap off his career with a solid senior season. But even after a healthy 2012 season, he still showed inabilities in the coverage game and a tendency to draw penalties with reckless hits.

Russell Shepard

2009 Ranking: Five-star prospect, No. 2 QB

Failed to meet expectations

Shepard's high school tape made LSU fans' mouths water. His athleticism was something that was never in question, even though his QB skills were a bit lacking. Still though, fans hoped the offensive staff would find a way to use him. That never happened, as Shepard bounced from quarterback to running back to wide receiver to a rarely-used backfield option. A high-character player off the field, Shepard never reached his potential on it.

Michael Ford

2009 Ranking: Five-star prospect, No. 3 RB

Failed to meet expectations

After redshirting his first season on campus, Ford showed glimpses of promise throughout his freshman season, with a 6.0 yard per carry average and three TDs. He broke out the next year, leading the team with 756 yards rushing in a three-headed rushing attack with Spencer Ware and Alfred Blue. But Ford got lost in the shuffle in 2012, falling behind Jeremy Hill on the depth chart and getting relegated to kickoff duties. He heads to the NFL with little to show for that five-star rating.

Chris Davenport

2009 Ranking: Five-star prospect, No. 7 DT

Failed to meet expectations

Davenport never found a position at LSU. One of the nicest guys off the field, he bounced from DT to OT during his four years at LSU, and never cracked the two-deep. Davenport never started a game, and most of his action came on special teams with the field goal unit. He has transferred to Tulane with one year of eligibility remaining.

Kevin Minter

2009 Ranking: Four-star prospect, No. 4 MLB

Exceeded expectations

Minter solidified the MLB position for two years after Kelvin Sheppard left. He had a season for the ages in 2012, leading the team with 130 tackles, including games with 20 (against Florida) and 19 (against Clemson) tackles. He leaves with one season of eligibility but will head to the NFL as one of the top MLB prospects in the draft with a possible first-round selection in his future.

Barkevious Mingo

2009 Ranking: Four-star prospect, No. 6 SLB

Exceeded expectations

Though he was ranked as an OLB out of high school, Mingo spent his LSU career at DE, bringing speed and athleticism to the position. He gave SEC offensive lines fits throughout his career. He finished his final season at LSU with 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss. He has the potential to be a top-10 pick in April's draft and will fit perfectly as an OLB in a team's 3-4 scheme.

Sam Montgomery

2009 Ranking: Four-star prospect, No. 7 DE

Exceeded expectations

The tandem of Montgomery and Mingo may go down as one of the best DE duos in LSU history. Ranking behind guys like Donte Paige-Moss and Melvin Fellows in the 2009 class, Montgomery proved to be a monster on LSU's defensive line. He led the team in 2012 with eight sacks and ranked only behind Minter with 13 tackles for a loss.

Joshua Downs

2009 Ranking: Four-star prospect, No. 9 DT

Failed to meet expectations

Like Loston, injuries hampered Downs from reaching his four-star ranking. He spent most of his career as a reserve defensive tackle, but did burst into the starting lineup in 2012. He started 10 games for LSU and did show some talent getting into the backfield. But he was always overshadowed by other more-talented DTs to come through the program and he heads to the NFL with fans wishing he would have amounted to more.

Stavion Lowe

2009 Ranking: Four-star prospect, No. 13 OG

Failed to meet expectations

Lowe left the team after one season, then transferred to a junior college before reappearing at SMU in 2012.

Mike Brockers

2009 Ranking: Four-star prospect, No. 16 DE

Exceeded expectations

Brockers came into LSU as a decent DE prospect, and left as one of the top DTs in the nation. He spent three years at LSU before declaring for the NFL draft after his redshirt sophomore season. He bulked up and became an intimidating presence on the interior defensive line. Fans may have wished he stayed at LSU longer, but his breakout season in 2011 sent him to the NFL as a top-15 draft pick.

Chris Faulk

2009 Ranking: Four-star prospect, No. 21 OT

Met expectations

Faulk may have exceeded his 2009 ranking had he stayed longer at LSU. After moving to left tackle in his sophomore season, Faulk burst onto the scene earning second-team All-SEC honors. Fans expected him to be a consistent presence at LT but a season-ending injury after the first game of the 2012 season put an end to that. He surprised many by declaring for the NFL draft and left fans wishing they would have seen more of Faulk at LSU.

Drayton Calhoun

2009 Ranking: Four-star prospect, No. 24 CB

Failed to meet expectations

Calhoun transferred to Middle Tennessee State following the 2010 season, appearing in only one game for LSU. He moved to RB for MTSU, recording 270 yards rushing on 77 carries.

Akiem Hicks

2009 Ranking: Four-star prospect, JUCO DT

Failed to meet expectations

Hicks was one of the top-rated JUCO prospects in the 2009 class, but received impermissible benefits from former coach DJ McCarthy. Hicks left the program and reemerged in Canada before getting drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints.

Dominique Allen

2009 Ranking: Three-star prospect, No. 12 FB

Failed to meet expectations

Allen played one game in his freshman season, and came out of the following spring practices as the starter at FB. But a violation of team rules got him suspended indefinitely from the team, and he never returned.

Tahj Jones

2009 Ranking: Three-star prospect, No. 19 WLB

Met expectations

Jones still has one year of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2012 regular season due to academic issues. Despite that, Jones came back for the Chick-fil-A bowl and picked up four tackles. He was a consistent reserve linebacker through his first two seasons of eligibility and is in line to be a starter at one of the OLB spots in 2013. John Chavis has always spoken highly of Jones' talent, and he will likely be counted on to contribute heavily next season.

Lamin Barrow

2009 Ranking: Three-star prospect, No. 20 SLB

Exceeded expectations

If it wasn't for Minter's exceptional 2012 season, people would probably be talking more about Barrow. He started all 13 games for LSU, finishing behind Minter with 104 tackles including 7.5 for a loss. He has one season of eligibility remaining, and could move to the MLB spot to replace Minter in 2013. He will be counted on as one of the few senior leaders on a young defense next season.

Chris Garrett

2009 Ranking: Three-star prospect, No. 27 QB

Failed to meet expectations

Garrett never took a snap for LSU, transferring to Northwestern State after his true freshman season.

Carneal Ainsworth

2009 Ranking: Three-star prospect, No. 34 OG

Failed to meet expectations

Ainsworth left the team before the start of the 2009 season as he battled with personal issues.

Bennie Logan

2009 Ranking: Three-star prospect, No. 65 DE

Exceeded expectations

Logan spent two seasons as a bright spot on the interior defensive line before declaring for the 2012 NFL draft. He finished his sophomore season in 2011 with 57 tackles (sixth on the team) including 6.5 for a loss and three sacks. Logan didn't quite match that in 2012, seeing declines in all three categories, but he leaves LSU as a possible second- or third-round draft pick.

Josh Williford

2009 Ranking: Three-star prospect, No. 77 OT

Exceeded expectations

Williford will return in 2013 as jack-of-all-trades offensive lineman for LSU. Though a serious concussion cut his 2012 season short, Wllliford could be the guy to move into the LG spot if La'el Collins shifts to LT to replace Faulk. Williford has shown real promise in his time on the field, and 2013 could be a breakout season for him after a disappointing end to his junior year.

Morris Claiborne

2009 Ranking: Three-star prospect, No. 90 WR

Exceeded expectations

Claiborne came into LSU as a wide receiver, but left as one of the best cornerbacks in program history. He picked up where Patrick Peterson left off, earning the Thorpe Award in 2011 as well as numerous All-America honors with a SEC Defensive Player of the Year distinction. He departed after the 2011 season and went sixth overall in the NFL Draft.

Josh Johns

2009 Ranking: Three-star prospect, No. 96 S

Failed to meet expectations

Johns is most notably known for his involvement in the Shady's bar fight before the 2011 season. Though the charges against him were eventually dropped, Johns never recorded any stats and eventually left the team.

Derek Helton

2009 Ranking: Three-star prospect, JUCO P

Exceeded expectations

Helton came in and took over the starting role at punter for both of his seasons at LSU. He finished his career with a 42.5 yard per punt average, good for third in program history.

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