Texas #32 Johnathan Gray puts his horns up after scoring a touchdown against California during the football game against California at Darryl K Royal stadium on Saturday, September 19, 2015. Shelby Tauber / AMERICAN-

Football

Looking back at our 2012 Fabulous 55: Five years later, just how fab were they?

Posted January 27th, 2017

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Story highlights
  • Nine of the top 10-rated recruits in the nation in 2012 ended up playing in the NFL. The one who didn't? Texas running back Johnathan Gray.
  • If we could re-rank our 2012 Fab 55 again, we'd go Nos. 1-5 with Corey Coleman, Malcom Brown, Emmanuel Ogbah, Mario Edwards Jr. and Devonte Fields.
  • Twenty four recruits on our Fab 55 didn't finish their college careers with the school they signed with, including six of our top 10.

Recruiting giddiness is swelling to a harsh decibel as national signing day approaches.

Everything will be official on Wednesday. Prospects no longer can toy with social media hints of where they might sign. All problems for your favorite teams will have solutions. Whew, no need to peruse message boards to see who may or may not have committed.

Here at the pragmatic American-Statesman, we’re asking you to tap the brakes just a bit. It’s our annual exercise in recruiting hindsight as we scrutinize how accurate our own Fabulous 55 list of the state’s top prospects turned out to be.

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As always, we give the recruits five years to craft their competitive résumé, then regrade.

So 2012, it’s your turn.

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 26: Head coach Mack Brown of the Texas Longhorns celebrates with Desmond Jackson #99 of the Texas Longhorns and Josh Turner #5 of the Texas Longhorns after the Longhorns beat the TCU Horned Frogs 30-7 at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 26, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, TX – OCTOBER 26: Head coach Mack Brown of the Texas Longhorns celebrates with Desmond Jackson #99 of the Texas Longhorns and Josh Turner #5 of the Texas Longhorns after the Longhorns beat the TCU Horned Frogs 30-7 at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 26, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

First, let’s set up the recruiting landscape. Texas’ Mack Brown was a year-plus away from resigning. Kevin Sumlin was trying to keep Mike Sherman’s class together and add some players after moving from Houston to Texas A&M two months before signing day. The Aggies also were seven months from their SEC premiere season.

Baylor was riding the momentum of Robert Griffin III’s magical Heisman win. TCU’s Gary Patterson was selling his program as a soon-to-be-official member of the Big 12. And Tommy Tuberville was forming what was to be his final class at Texas Tech.

Nationally, Alabama was dominating recruiting after shutting out LSU in the BCS title game. The most prolific recruiting programs were the Crimson Tide, Texas, Florida State, Florida and Ohio State.

The hottest recruit in Texas was Denton Ryan’s Mario Edwards, the top-rated player on the Fab 55, a defensive end with an enviable pedigree. His father had played for Florida State, then the Dallas Cowboys. The younger Edwards signed with Florida State and followed his father to Tallahassee.

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01: Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. #15 of the Florida State Seminoles attempts to block a pass by quarterback Marcus Mariota #8 of the Oregon Ducks during the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA – JANUARY 01: Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. #15 of the Florida State Seminoles attempts to block a pass by quarterback Marcus Mariota #8 of the Oregon Ducks during the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Five years later, Edwards still was one of the top players that the state produced that year. He became a first-team All-ACC selection in 2014. He left school a year early and became the 35th overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft.

But if we could do it all over again, Richardson Pearce’s Corey Coleman would be our No. 1 player. He was 15th that year coming out of high school. The Baylor star won the Biletnikoff as the nation’s top receiver in 2015 and was a first-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2016 draft.

Brenham defensive tackle Malcom Brown, who signed with Texas, was No. 2 on the 2012 list behind Edwards. We’d still keep him No. 2 on the Fab 55 redux. Brown fulfilled those blue chip projections, earning All-American honors in 2014 when he also was a finalist for the Nagurski and Outland trophies. Brown, who’ll be playing in Super Bowl LI for the New England Patriots next Sunday, was the final selection of the first round of the 2015 draft.

But the rest of our 2012 top 10 was a disappointment for starkly different reasons.

Aledo’s Johnathan Gray, at No. 3, was a five-star, can’t-miss running back. On paper, the Gatorade national player of the year was the perfect tailback to run from those single-back sets perfected by uptempo offenses. He signed with the Longhorns and started 23 games, gaining 2,607 career yards. But an Achilles injury thwarted his elite potential.

Texas signed three more members of the Fab 55’s top 10. DeSoto guard Curtis Riser, who was ranked seventh, played in only four games for the Longhorns, all as a reserve. He ended up transferring to Sam Houston State. Offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle, at No. 9, started nine games but was dismissed by new Longhorns coach Charlie Strong one month into the 2014 season. And Athens receiver Kendall Sanders, who was 10th, started seven games but was dismissed from school in 2014 after being charged with sexual assault.

Sanders ended up being acquitted. But he didn’t come back to UT. He transferred to Arkansas State, where he led the team in receptions last fall.

Texas A&M picked up two signees from that year’s top 10. Spring DeKaney tailback Trey Williams, who was No. 5, led the Aggies in rushing in 2015. But then he unexpectedly declared for the 2016 and wasn’t selected.

Dallas Skyline’s Thomas Johnson — the Fab 55’s highest-rated receiver, at No. 6 — abruptly disappeared from Texas A&M’s team in November 2012, just two days after the Aggies upset top-ranked Alabama. He caught three passes from Johnny Manziel that day.

Police found him near his home in Dallas three days later. But he never played football again. In October 2015, Dallas police said Johnson confessed to using a machete to murder a man jogging by a lake. The victim’s devastated wife committed suicide two weeks later. Johnson has been found unfit to stand trial.

Baylor signed two players from the top 10 — No. 4 Javonte Magee, a defensive tackle from San Antonio, and No. 8 Brian Nance, a wide receiver from Euless Trinity. Neither ever started a game and both left the team.

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Most of the best players in that 2012 class, however, didn’t make anyone’s top 50.

No one really was paying attention to Cameron Yoe star Dede Westbrook. Yet the Oklahoma Sooner became a Heisman finalist and Biletnikoff winner in 2016. However, Westbrook took a circuitous route to football fame. He initially took a year off school, after ESPN ranked him as only the 97th best receiver prospect in the country, and signed with Blinn College. He transferred to OU for his final two seasons.

Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah, from Richmond Bush, was a two-time winner of the Big 12’s defensive lineman of the year award because of his talent at sacking quarterbacks. He was the first pick of the second round in last year’s draft. Yet he was only rated as a three-star in high school.

And Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez, who played for Fort Worth Central, became a three-year starter who signed with the Sooners as a three-star prospect. He was a freshman All-American in 2013 and a second-team All-American in 2015. He gave up his final year of eligibility and was a fifth round draft choice last April.

So fans, it’s cool to crow about your favorite team’s recruiting efforts. But as you sift through the names and admire the stars, remember that the ratings don’t have much staying power beyond national signing day.

RANKPLAYERPOS.HIGH SCHOOLCOLLEGECOMMENT
1Mario EdwardsDEDenton RyanFlorida St.The son of a former Cowboys, Florida State star. All-ACC in 2014, drafted 35th overall.
2Malcom BrownDEBrenhamTexas2014 All-American was a 2015 first-round pick. Was a Nagurski, Outland finalist.
3Johnathan GrayRBAledoTexasCareer was mired by leg and foot injuries, but his 2,607 yards ranked 12th all-time at UT.
4Javonte MageeDTS.A. HoustonBaylorMissed the 2013 season due to personal issues, then left the program after 2014.
5Trey WilliamsRBSpring DekaneyTexas A&MPlatooned in college, rushed for 1,343 yards, 18 TDs. Left early, but wasn’t drafted.
6Thomas JohnsonWRDallas SkylineTexas A&MMysteriously left the team after during 2012 season. Arrested in 2015 on murder charges.
7Curtis RiserOGDeSotoTexasPlayed in four games as a backup in 2013, but never played for UT again. Ended up at SHSU.
8Brian NanceWREuless TrinityBaylorPlayed as a backup for two seasons, then left the Baylor program.
9Kennedy EstelleOTPearland DawsonTexasNine starts, but was dismissed from the team in September 2014. Signed with West Alabama.
10Kendall SandersATHAthensTexasUT kicked him out after sexual assault charges in 2014; twice led Arkansas State in receptions.
11Bralon AddisonWRF.B. HightowerOregonEnded up with 146 career catches and scored three special teams touchdowns for the Ducks.
12DeVante HarrisCBMesquite HornTexas A&MHad 173 tackles, 4 INTs in 45 career games. Made the Saints roster as an undrafted free agent.
13Adrian ColbertSMineral WellsTexasStarted four games at UT, then transferred to Miami his last season, where he started twice.
14LaDarrell McNeilSWilmer-HutchinsTennesseeWas a four-year starter for the Volunteers, but nonetheless went undrafted in 2016.
15Corey ColemanATHRichardson-PearceBaylorWon the 2015 Biletnikoff as the nation’s top receiver, was drafted in first round by the Browns.
16Cayleb JonesWRAustin HighTexasTransferred to Arizona in 2013 after an assault charge at UT. Led Wildcats in catches two years.
17Michael StartsOTWaco La VegaTexas TechTexas Tech’s highest-rated signee on the Fab 55 abruptly quit the team during spring of 2013.
18Corey ThompsonSFort Bend ElkinsLSUBecame a part-time starter, and may seek a sixth year from the NCAA because of 2016 injury.
19Hassan RidgewayDEMansfieldTexasMoved to DT at Texas, started 18 career games. A fourth-round pick in 2016 (Colts).
20Devonte FieldsDEArlington MartinTCUThe Big 12’s defensive freshman of the year (2012) was kicked off in 2014, landed at Louisville.
21Dominique WheelerWRCrockettTexas TechStruggled with the Red Raiders and ended up transferring to Lamar.
22Duke ThomasATHCopperas CoveTexasStarted 35 career games for Texas, signed a free agent deal with the San Francisco 49ers.
23Matt DavisQBKlein ForestTexas A&MDavis never ended up playing for the Aggies. He transferred to Tyler J.C., then to SMU.
24Kiante GriffinWRLewisville HebronBaylorSwitched to playing DB in college. Played on special teams, transferred to Sam Houston State.
25Ford ChildressQBHouston KinkaidWest VirginiaHad a DUI in the spring of 2012, was suspended in 2014 and transferred out of WVU in 2014.
26Mike MatthewsCFort Bend ElkinsTexas A&MEnded up starting three years for the Aggies, then signed as an undrafted FA with the Browns.
27Peter JinkensOLBDallas SkylineTexasHad an up and down career with the Horns, but did earn first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2015.
28Jonathan WilliamsRBAllenArkansasHad an injury-plagued career in college, but was drafted in 2016’s fifth round by the Bills.
29Edward PopeATHCarthageTexas A&MBecame a key backup for the Aggies who caught 51 career passes for 658 yards and 4 TDs.
30Camrhon HughesOTHarker HeightsTexasStarted six games at UT before leaving the program in 2015 with two years of eligibility left.
31Danielle HunterDEKaty Morton RanchLSUStarted two years for the Tigers, was drafted in the 2015 third round by the Minnesota Vikings.
32Greg BrantleyOTCarthageOklahoma St.Left the OSU program for personal reasons in August 2012 before his career ever started.
33Michael RicharsdsonDEDeSotoTexas A&MSuffered a 2012 spinal injury, and was fired as a student assistant after the 2014 Liberty Bowl.
34Germain IfediOGHouston WestsideTexas A&MWas a three-year starter and continued A&M’s string of first-round OL draft picks in 2016.
35Daniel BrooksATHPort Lavaca CalhounOklahomaWas a career backup RB for the Sooners, gave up football last fall because of concussions.
36Polo ManukainiuDEEuless TrinityTexas A&MRedshirted his freshman season. He and a friend were both killed in a car accident in July 2013.
37Daje JohnsonATHPflugerville HendricksonTexasOn and off suspension issues, but had 17 starts and played RB, WR and returned kicks.
38Marcus JohnsonWRHouston Clear SpringsTexasHad 18 career starts, including a couple of big performances in the Oklahoma game.
39Tim WrightRBLa MarqueNever signed. Ended up at Navarro College, was a second-team All-American in 2013.
40Trevor KnightQBSan Antonio ReaganOklahomaEarned Sugar Bowl MVP honors in 2014, then transferred out to Texas A&M.
41Hiva LutuiOGEuless TrinityUtahWas a key backup lineman, but had to quit football before his senior season with a knee injury.
42Justin ThomasCBWest Orange-StarkUtahBecame a four-year starter for the Utes at both cornerback and nickel back.
43Caleb BluiettDEBeaumont West BrookTexasPlayed in 44 career games, starting 12, as both a defensive end and a tight end.
44Dalton SantosILBVanTexasInjuries stalled his UT career. Transferred to Louisiana Tech, started three games in 2016.
45Tyrone TaylorDEGalena Park North ShoreTexas A&MPlayed in 10 career games with the Aggies, but left the program after the 2013 season.
46Kenneth MarshallSSouth HoustonTexas A&MOff-field issues derailed his college career. Left the program after a 2013 marijuana arrest.
47Reginald DavisATHTenahaTexas TechEnded up catching 96 career passes over his four years in Lubbock.
48Alex NormanDTDallas Bishop DunneTexasPlayed only eight games in his UT career. Was dropped from the roster in spring 2016.
49Alex De La TorreOLBDenton RyanTexasMoved from defense to offense. Earned second-team All-Big 12 honors as a fullback in 2015.
50John Michael McGeeOGTexarkana TexasOklahomaTemporarily quit football in summer 2012, then later resurfaced with Henderson State.
51Jordan RichmondOLBDenton RyanTexas A&MLeft the program after a 2012 arrest, ended up back home playing at North Texas.
52LaDarius AnthonyRBKilgoreTCUAnthony signed with the Horned Frogs, but never played for the Horned Frogs.
53Timothy ColeOLBBrenhamTexasEnded up starting seven games for the Longhorns, with 65 career tackles.
54Trent MomonWRHempsteadWas pledged to Texas A&M, but never signed. Ended up playing at Trinity Valley C.C.
55Taiwan JohnsonDEManvelArkansasWas hardly a Mr. Irrelevant. Ended up starting 39 straight games for the Razorbacks.

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