Ah, recruiting: Nearly half of the state's top recruits ended up transferring somewhere else, and the state's best player didn't even make the list.
Posted February 2nd, 2018
Robbie Rhodes sported a vibrant blue-chip recruiting résumé in 2013.
The wide receiver from Fort Worth Southwest tied a national record back in October 2011 when he caught eight touchdown passes in a 66-21 victory over Arlington Heights. His stat line — 10 receptions for 394 yards. No receiver in the state of Texas ever had more yardage and he enjoyed the stat-prolific game as a junior.
So why wouldn’t Rhodes, who also was a basketball standout and such a speedster that he won a combined five gold and silver medals at the UIL state track meet, be the most celebrated recruiting sensation in the state on the first Wednesday in February 2013?
Rhodes topped the American-Statesman’s Fabulous 55 list of the state’s top recruits that year. He was wooed heavily by Texas and also considered TCU, Oklahoma and Texas A&M. But he signed with Baylor, giving the Bears their first No. 1-ranked player on the annual list that started in 1989 since quarterback Odell James back in 1996.
Baylor was riding into heady times in February 2013; Robert Griffin III had won the Heisman Trophy in 2011 and the Bears would win Big 12 titles in 2013 and 2014.
The good, bad and ugly of recruiting
Rhodes, however, proved to be a cautionary tale on how having an extraordinary skill set doesn’t guarantee college success. College fans who follow recruiting probably should remember these sort of sobering blue chips-gone-wrong tales next Wednesday on national signing day, as the final prospects sign their national letters of intent around the country.
Rhodes was kicked off the Baylor team the summer before his sophomore season. He transferred to Bowling Green, which at the time was coached by Dino Babers, a former Baylor assistant who was running a similar high-octane offense. But Rhodes was dismissed from that school, too.
In just about every football way possible, Rhodes was a bust, possibly the biggest in Fab 55 history. In his career, he played in 17 games, caught a benign 13 passes, rushed the ball once and returned seven kicks.
Every year, the Statesman looks back at its Fab 55 from five years before to see how our original rankings stood up after those prospects fared after signing day. That 2013 group was a mixed bag — overall, 20 of the 55 players later transferred from the school in which they signed; eight of them were kicked off their team or teams; five ended up quitting football; and four ended up giving up football to play another sport.
At least seven players from that year’s list are playing in the NFL. And perhaps the best player from that year’s class — an under-recruited 3-star quarterback who had to walk on twice at different schools but went on to win a Heisman Trophy — didn’t even make these type of statewide lists.
And the lack of stars in that class may be the reason why state flagship programs Texas and Texas A&M have been struggling.
Rhodes had legal issues at Baylor. In May 2014 he was arrested for suspicion of marijuana possession and tampering with evidence following a traffic stop. Charges never were filed, but former Bears coach Art Briles dismissed him weeks later, telling the media “we’ve parted ways for undisclosed reasons.”
After transferring to Bowling Green, Rhodes sat out the 2014 season. The next year, he touched the ball only 10 times — with only one play coming over the final 10 games. He then was dismissed for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Only three other No. 1-ranked players on the Fab 55 ended up transferring or leaving their schools because of non-football reasons. Wide receiver Mike Miller, who signed with Notre Dame in 1991, ended up getting dismissed by the Fighting Irish because of legal issues. Texas quarterback Shea Morenz, who signed in 1992, left football in 1995 when he was drafted in the first round of the MLB draft by the New York Yankees. And Garrett Gilbert, the top player on the 2009 Fab 55, left Texas and transferred to SMU.
Rhodes was only a symptom of what turned out to be a sickly Fab 55 that year. Take a look at the top 10. Four players transferred, including fifth-ranked Darius James, a 5-star offensive guard who was Texas’ top-rated signee.
Texas A&M’s Isaiah Golden, a defensive tackle who was ranked No. 7, was sentenced to prison for armed robbery.
Receiver Derrick Griffin, ranked No. 8, seemed headed for Miami. But he didn’t qualify academically. He ended up playing both football and basketball at Texas Southern. He was dismissed from football in 2016.
Quarterback Cody Thomas, who was rated No. 9 and signed with Oklahoma, eventually gave up football to concentrate on baseball. He’s now in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm system, one of three Fab 55ers from 2013 who gave up football for baseball.
Linebacker Mike Mitchell, who ranked 10th, signed with Ohio State, transferred to Texas Tech, then left for Southeastern, where he was a reserve player.
Effects on Horns, Aggies
Back in 2013, A&M’s Kevin Sumlin was putting together his first real Aggies class with a surge of enviable momentum. Johnny Manziel was fresh off winning the Heisman and A&M finished 2012 at 11-2, including a regular-season win at Alabama and a Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma.
Nationally, the Aggies’ group of 31 players, including 14 off the Fab 55, ranked ninth. Ricky Seals-Jones, the No. 2 player in the state, was A&M’s top signee. He left school after three seasons and made the St. Louis Rams’ roster as an undrafted free agent. Ten other members off that Fab 55 quit the team. Quarterback Kohl Stewart never made it to College Station after being drafted in the first round by the Minnesota Twins.
In Austin, that 2013 class turned out to be Mack Brown’s final one at Texas. The Longhorns signed only 15 players and the group was listed as the 17th best in the country, one spot behind Oklahoma, which signed the best class in the Big 12.
Nine members of the Fab 55 signed with the Longhorns. Only three posted double-digit starts. Five transferred.
But it’s not like the state didn’t produce brilliant talent in 2013. It’s just that the recruiting gurus and college coaches got it so wrong.
We give you Baker Mayfield, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner who was woefully under-recruited. According to 247Sports’ composite rankings, Mayfield was only the 1,029th best prospect in the country that year.
Mayfield, after hoping for a scholarship offer from TCU, accepted a walk-on invitation at Texas Tech, then transferred to Oklahoma in 2014. He led the Sooners to three Big 12 titles, two national playoff spots and was invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony two times.
The 2013 Fabulous 55: Five years later
|RANK, PLAYER||POS.||COLLEGE||HOW HE PANNED OUT|
|1. Robbie Rhodes||WR||Baylor||Played 10 games, then was dismissed from team. Booted from Bowling Green, too.|
|2. Ricky Seals-Jones||ATH||Texas A&M||Left A&M after his redshirt sophomore year. Undrafted, but now an Arizona Cardinal.|
|3. A'Shawn Robinson||OT||Alabama||2-year starter, 2014 Outland Finalist, 2nd-round pick (Lions)|
|4. Keith Ford||RB||Oklahoma||Transferred to A&M in 2015, finished with 1,665 career yards.|
|5. Darius James||OG||Texas||Redshirted, then was hurt in 2014. Transferred to Auburn, started 2 years.|
|6. Kent Perkins||OT||Texas||Started 34 career games at RG and RT. Undrafted by signed with Bengals.|
|7. Isaiah Golden||DT||Texas A&M||Pleaded guilty to a 2014 robbery, went to prison, finished up at McNeese State.|
|8. Derrick Griffin||WR||Unsigned||Ended up at Texas Southern. Was kicked out of football, ended up playing basketball.|
|9. Cody Thomas||QB||Oklahoma||3 career starts, eventually quit football for baseball.|
|10. Mike Mitchell||OLB||Ohio State||Transferred to Texas Tech in 2014, quit the Red Raiders in 2015. Ended at Southeastern.|
|11. J.T. Barrett||QB||Ohio State||Had a great Buckeyes career, breaking a couple dozen school/Big Ten records and won a title.|
|12. Justin Manning||DT||Texas A&M||Ended up playing only 5 career games, had to retire from football after the 2015 season.|
|13. Dontre Wilson||RB||Ohio State||Never made an impact: 12 starts, played RB and WR, 53 catches.|
|14. Maurice Smith||CB||Alabama||Played 3 years, then transferred to Georgia, where he became a team captain.|
|15. Daeshon Hall||DE||Texas A&M||Played DE opposite Myles Garrett. Drafted in the 2017 third round (Panthers).|
|16. Jake Oliver||WR||Texas||19 career games, 4 starts. Quit football early in February 2016.|
|17. Laquivionte Gonzalez||WR||Texas A&M||Transferred to Kansas after 2 years. Had 62 catches in 2016 for KU, then was kicked off the team in 2017.|
|18. Andrew Billings||DT||Baylor||All-American, co-Big 12 defensive player of the year in 2015. Drafted by the Bengals.|
|19. Gary Moore||WR||Texas Tech||Played 29 career games at Tech with 4 starts, then finished his career at Tarleton State.|
|20. Kohl Stewart||QB||Texas A&M||Never played football. Was a 4th-round pick in the 2013 MLB draft, got a $4.54 million signing bonus.|
|21. Jake Raulerson||C||Texas||Started 4 games in his 3-year UT career, then transferred to Arkansas and became a starter.|
|22. Ishmael Wilson||OT||Texas A&M||Redshirted, then transferred to Baylor. Started as a junior, then kicked off the team in 2017.|
|23. Eldridge Massington||WR||UCLA||Finished his Bruins career with 65 catches for 883 yards, 5 TDs.|
|24. Kameron Miles||S||Texas A&M||Redshirted, then booted from A&M. Ended up at Boise State, but was kicked off after a 2017 arrest.|
|25. Durham Smythe||TE||Notre Dame||Played 3 seasons with setbacks by knee and shoulder surgeries, but started every game as a senior.|
|26. Maurice Porter||OT||Baylor||Went the JUCO route, but played 2 years at Baylor. Started at LT last fall.|
|27. Rami Hammad||OG||Texas||Left UT after a year, transferred to Baylor, then eventually was booted after legal troubles.|
|28. Kyle Hicks||RB||TCU||Finished his career with nearly 3,000 total yards and 23 TDs.|
|29. Dac Shaw||OLB||TCU||Never played for the Horned Frogs.|
|30. Tyrone Swoopes||ATH||Texas||Started 14 games, his 24 rush TDs ranking No. 3 all-time among UT QBs. Playing TE for the Seahawks.|
|31. Torrodney Prevot||DE||Oregon||Made 92 tackles in 3 years, but was suspended 2 seasons for violating school's code of conduct.|
|32. Kyrion Parker||WR||Texas A&M||Reshirted, then left for Central Missouri, then logged time at Riverside Community College in 2015.|
|33. Montrel Meander||WR||Texas||Kicked out of UT in 2014 after legal issues. Charges were dismissed, but he transferred to Grambling.|
|34. Cody Hayes||OT||Texas Tech||Left Tech, transferred to Navarro and ended up playing at Tarleton State.|
|35. Hardreck Walker||DT||Texas A&M||Was a career key reserve for the Aggies: 66 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble.|
|36. Kenny Hill||QB||Texas A&M||Broke Manziel's single-game passing record in his first start. Ended up at TCU, where he started 2 years.|
|37. Deoundrei Davis||OLB||Texas||Never played for UT. Ended up at Sam Houston State in spring 2017, but wasn't on that fall's roster.|
|38. Tavares Garner||CB||Texas A&M||Played 11 games for A&M, then moved on to Henderson State.|
|39. Kerrick Huggins||DT||Oklahoma||Never qualified academically. Played at Trinity Valley, then in Canada.|
|40. Vincent Taylor||DT||Oklahoma||All-Big 12 in 2016, led the nation with 4 blocked kicks. Drafted in 6th round (Dolphins).|
|41. Torii Hunter||WR||Notre Dame||Was the team's second-leading receiver in 2016, but then opted to quit football and focus on baseball.|
|42. Deon Hollins||OLB||UCLA||Started 2 years for the Bruins, earning 2nd-team all-conference honors his junior year.|
|43. Brett Wade||ILB||Texas A&M||Enrolled early but redshirted in 2013. Fell off the Aggies' rosters after the 2014 season.|
|44. Ke'aun Kinner||RB||Unsigned||Played 2 years at Navarro, then transferred to Kansas. Led KU in rushing, scoring in 2015.|
|45. James White||RB||Texas A&M||Got caught in a roster logjam, transferred to Lamar (140 yards in 9 games last fall).|
|46. Rennie Childs||RB||Oklahoma State||A career backup for the Cowboys. Finished with 996 yards, 13 TDs.|
|47. J'Mon Moore||WR||Missouri||Had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with 21 career TDs for the Tigers.|
|48. Devin Lauderdale||WR||Texas Tech||Was a part-time starter at Tech for 3 years. Caught 105 career passes for 1,535 yards, 13 TDs.|
|49. Kyle Fulks||WR||Baylor||Never played for BU. Wound up at Blinn, then transferred to Utah, where he played 32 games.|
|50. Fred Ross||WR||Mississippi State||Became Dak Prescott's favorite receiver. Set MSU's career record for receptions.|
|51. Adam Taylor||RB||Nebraska||Had an injury-plagued career with the Huskers. Saw the field mostly on special teams.|
|52. Dre'Vian Young||RB||Utah||Redshirted in 2013, played only 2 games in 2014 (injury), then dropped off future Utes rosters.|
|53. Antwuan Davis||CB||Texas||44 career games, 10 starts (including the last 5 games of 2017).|
|54. Ty Slanina||S||TCU||Finished his Frogs career with 89 catches for 929 yards and 3 TDs.|
|55. Obo Okoronkwo||DE||Oklahoma||Became a 2nd-team All-American, co-Big 12 defensive player of the year, and a Butkus/Bednarik semifinalist.|