Pack Pride takes a look back at the football recruiting class of 2002 according to Superprep magazine. We break down which prospects panned out, which ones completely fell off the map and our updated top 10 prospects from that year.
1. TE Aaron Kirkland...Jack Britt High School...Signed with Tennessee
Notes...Kirkland may go down as one of the biggest disappointments of this decade. After signing with Tennessee, his career took one wrong turn after another. In 2004 he played mostly special teams but missed the Peach Bowl because he was academically ineligible. He was dismissed from the team in 2005 after being involved in a fight at a nightclub. He would transfer to Elizabeth City State.
2. RB T.A. McLendon...Albemarle High School...Signed with NC State
Notes...When McLendon was healthy he was one of the best running backs in the nation. His tough, hard-nosed style excited the Wolfpack fan base. However, injuries and a propensity for fumbles derailed McClendon’s career and he would declare for the NFL draft after his junior season.
3. FS Calvin Lowry...Byrd High School...Signed with Penn State
Notes...Lowry started 26 of 39 games for Penn State and finished his career with 163 tackles, nine interceptions and two sacks. His 812 career punt return yards ranked him third on Penn State’s all-time list. He was drafted by the Tennessee Titans and started 11 games in 2007. Lowry has proven to be one of the real gems from the class of 2002.
4. OL Brandon Jeffries...Shelby High School...Signed with Tennessee
Notes...Jeffries signed with Tennessee and like other North Carolina players that end up in Knoxville, fell into a black hole. He never emerged as a player for UT and ultimately was released from the program. He attempted to transfer to NC State but had fallen so far behind academically that he could never achieve the courses needed for entrance.
5. QB Curt Dukes...Newton-Conover High School...Signed with Nebraska
Notes...Dukes seemed poised to battle for the starting QB job at Nebraska but inexplicably told the coach that he didn’t think he was ready for the job according to one online article. He would transfer to Duke and see some action but would never have an impact with Blue Devils. Dukes would ultimately give up football with one year of eligibility remaining.
6. LB A.J Nicholson...Mt Tabor High School...Signed with Florida State
Notes...Big-time linebacker out of high school that had a solid career with Florida State. He played in 13 games as a true freshman and earned the reputation of being a big hitter. Nicholson led the Noles in tackles as a senior with 100 stops and was named all-ACC. He was drafted in the fifth round by the Cincinnati Bengals but was cut in 2007 after an off the field incident.
7. OL Derek Morris...North Mecklenburg High School...Signed with Ohio State
Notes...Morris signed with Ohio State but never suited up for the Buckeyes. There was much innuendo about what actually transpired between OSU and Morris but nothing official was ever released. He would go on to have a decent career at NC State although he never lived up to the hype generated while in high school. Morris will likely be remembered, at least partly, for too many false starts that then-head coach Chuck Amato explained as his left tackle simply being quicker off the ball than everyone else.
8. CB A.J. Davis...Northern Durham High School...Signed with NC State
Notes...Davis made big headlines in high school when he spurned UNC for NC State on signing day. His career was derailed early by a broken leg as a freshman and it would take time before he would become a consistent contributor for State. By his senior year, he had emerged as the Pack’s most reliable cornerback. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions and is now with the Cleveland Browns.
9. OL Leroy Harris...Southeast Raleigh...Signed with NC State
Notes...Harris was a two-way standout in high school that would go on to become an offensive lineman at NC State. He would consistently develop over the years and as a senior led the team with 59 knockdown blocks. Harris was named all-ACC that year by at least one publication. He was drafted by Tennessee in 2007 and played in five games last year for the Titans.
10. LB Victor Worsley...North Edgecombe High School...Signed with UNC
Notes...Worsley was another very interesting story from 2002. Although he loved NC State, the Pack didn’t feel that he was deserving of an offer and he ultimately signed with UNC. He had a solid career although certainly not spectacular. As a senior he collected 58 tackles and 1.5 sacks. However, he’s find a niche in the NFL and was signed as a free agent with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007 where he remains today.
Rest of the Top 20
11. WR Jejuan Rankins...Bertie High School...Signed with Nebraska
12. DB Willie Davis...Laney High School...Signed with Virginia
13. LB Omar Gaither...Myers Park High School...Signed with Tennessee
14. DL Brandon Greeson...High Point Central...Signed with Nebraska
15. ATH Brandon Schweitzer...West Henderson High School...Signed with South Carolina
16. WR Mario Raley...Independence High School...Signed with Georgia
17. LB Andy Boyd...Concord High School...Signed with South Carolina
18. WR David Noel...Southern Durham High School...Signed with UNC
19. OL Dan Inman...South View High School...Signed with Georgia
20. QB Duwuan Burton...West Charlotte High School...Signed with Morehouse College
If we could rank them today
1. Manny Lawson...When all was said and done, the most talented player from 2002 combining college production and pro potential (initial ranking- No. 21)
2. Omar Gaither...Two year starter at UT who blew up with the Eagles in 2007 (initial ranking- 13)
3. Daniel Inman...tremendous career at Georgia (initial ranking- No. 19)
4. Calvin Lowry...solid college career and emerging in the NFL (initial ranking- 3)
5. AJ Nicholson...standout for the Seminoles (initial ranking- 6)
6. TA McLendon...up and down career but brilliant at times (initial ranking- 2)
7. Jacoby Watkins...may have emerged as one of the ACC’s best were it not for injuries (initial ranking- 31)
8. Josh Gattis...Had a tremendous career at Wake Forest (initial ranking- 36)
9. Leroy Harris...Solid career still establishing himself in the NFL (initial ranking- 9)
10. AJ Davis...Developed late and still hanging on in the NFL (initial ranking- 8)
The 10 Biggest Busts
1. Aaron Kirkland
2. Brandon Jeffries
3. Curt Dukes
4. Jejuan Rankins
5. Brandon Greeson
6. Derek Morris
7. TA McLendon
8. Mario Raley
9. Brandon Schweitzer
10. Duwuan Burton