Since 2002 there have been three years that the state of Texas has had at least five receivers that were ranked in the top 20 nationally at their position by Scout.com. 2004 was one of those years.
There were no five star players in the group but there were four impressive looking four-star prospects. The early part of the decade produced some big time receiver prospects, but this group (along with a weak running back class) really signaled how far the spread offense had come in the Texas prep ranks.
Leading the way for the class was Arlington Grace Prep's Lance Leggett, who was the state's top receiver and ranked No. 6 nationally by Scout.com thanks to his long frame, speed, and big play potential. Like Leggett, Dallas South Oak Cliff's Lendy Holmes (No. 13) and Houston Westbury's George Walker (No. 19) were big framed, fluid receivers who headed to Oklahoma and Texas to be the future of the passing games at their respective schools.
Walker was part of a trio that inked with the Longhorns that all on the 40 Acres thought would follow in the footsteps of Roy Williams, Sloan Thomas, and B.J. Johnson as the next trio of great Texas receivers. Joining Walker were fellow four star prospects Nate Jones of Texas High and Burnet's record setting receiver Jordan Shipley. The Longhorns also reeled in two more three star prospects with Houston Strake Jesuit's Chris Ogbonnaya and Round Rock McNeil's Myron Hardy, giving the Longhorns a stellar group of receivers for their 2004 haul.
Oklahoma nabbed another big bodied receiver, Austin High's Fred Strong (ranked No. 54 nationally), while Texas Tech came away with their own pair of three star prospects as Ennis' Anthony Jenkins (No. 57) followed Graham Harrell to Lubbock along with Danny Amendola (No. 84) of The Woodlands.
Waco High's Torey Degrate (No. 52), Beaumont Central's Ivory Williams (No. 84), Corsicana's Clarence Robinson (No. 101), DeSoto's Patrick Williams (No. 104), and Fort Bend Austin's Michael Jones were all nationally ranked by Scout.com, but of the group only Degrate and Ivory Williams received three star ratings.
Seven tight ends from the state were ranked among the top 30 nationally, led by Longview's Tate Casey who signed with Florida as the state's top prospect and the No. 7 overall tight end in the nation.
How They Look at the End:
There might not have been a group of players in recent memory that featured more busts and simultaneously more overachievers than this group of pass catchers.
85 catches for almost 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns would be a great season for most receivers, but that is hardly the career production expected of Leggett when he got to Miami. He showed flashes of big play ability at times, but was inconsistent largely due to injuries and instability at the quarterback position during his time with the Hurricanes. He signed an NFL free agent contract with the Cleveland Browns.
The Texas trio never even came close to the production of their predecessors. Jones was the most productive of the group thanks in large part to a 70 catch, nearly 800 yard, five touchdown senior season. He finished his career with 99 catches and signed a free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Walker has to be considered arguably the biggest bust of the class as he never made even the slightest impact in Austin. Shipley's career is finally coming alive after missing his all of 2004 and 2005 with injuries. He enters his senior this fall but is expected to be back for 2009 with a sixth year of eligibility.
Hardy had a minimal impact at Texas as well as off-the-field issues caused him to be removed from the program. Ogbonnaya developed into a solid role player as a jack-of-all-trades as he will see time at running back during his senior season.
Strong never finished his eligibility at Oklahoma and was never a role player. Holmes found a home in the defensive backfield but he was declared academically ineligible before Oklahoma's Fiesta Bowl date with West Virginia and spent the spring trying to get back in the good graces of the Sooners' coaching staff.
Degrate and Robinson both failed to qualify academically and Williams decided to focus on track, as did San Antonio Taft's Otis McDaniel, a TCU signee. Patrick Williams will be one of the Buffs' top receivers this fall and Jones will be the leader of the receiving corps at Arizona State.
While Anthony Jenkins floundered at Tech, Danny Amendola flourished. Amendola was a three-time all-Big 12 selection and was an outstanding slot receiver for the Red Raiders. The Dallas Cowboys are hoping Amendola can become the next Wes Welker as the Cowboys recently signed Amendola to a free agent contract. Amendola was one of three notable overachievers in this class, along with Arlington Sam Houston's Jarrett Dillard and Houston Cypress Falls' Terrence Nunn.
Dillard was an unranked, two star prospect when he signed with Rice but he went on to a stellar career at Rice. He was a two time all-American and as a junior he was tabbed as a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. He finished as the school's all-time leader in receptions, yards, and receiving touchdowns. Nunn, like Dillard, was a two star prospect who signed with Nebraska. He left school sitting at No. 2 on the school's all-time list for receptions and receiving yards.
Casey has been solid for the Gators and seems primed for a big 2008 after redshirting last season, but the star of the tight end group has turned out to be Tyler Lee's Brandon Pettigrew. Pettigrew had an all-Big 12 season in 2007 with 35 catches for 545 yards and four touchdowns. He is thought by some to be the top tight end prospect available for the 2009 NFL Draft, but like most of the class, Pettigrew may become an off-field casualty. In January he was arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer and in March he pled not guilty to a felony charge of assault and battery. To date, Pettigrew does still remain a member of the Oklahoma State football team.
None of the other tight ends from the class have been more than minimal to average role players during their college careers.
Head of the Class:
I'll take Dillard as the top receiver in the class all things being equal, but Jordan Shipley can claim this spot because he showed flashes of brilliance last season and still has two years left. However, based on his merits, the two-time all-American deserves the honor followed by Amendola and Nunn.
For the tight ends Pettigrew has by far been the most productive player and is emerging as one of the top players in the class, but his legal issues are putting a big cloud over the remainder of his career.
One can only imagine where to begin because this group is filled with players that received high praise coming out of high school and failed to make an impact. Walker however is the biggest bust of the group and one of the biggest of the entire 2004 class and that is not a stretch judging by the fact that he had only one catch for 22 yards as a Longhorn.
While the quarterback class can lean on Graham Harrell and the running back class was basically Adrian Peterson by himself, the receiver class does not have that one big name that even came close to reaching their ceiling to hang their hat on. The only saving grace could be if Jordan Shipley stays injury free and becomes a top notch receiver at Texas, otherwise it will go down as a group that came to college as studs and left their mark as a group of duds.