Editor’s note: All recruiting rankings based on the 247Sports.com composite unless otherwise noted.
In the modern world of college football recruiting, it’s all about the stars.
Many players become household names before they even get to campus, placing extraordinary expectations and celebrity status upon the shoulders of 18-year-olds. No matter how broad those shoulders are, the pressure can be suffocating.
According to recruiting services, Texas has brought in a total of 30 five-star recruits since 2000. Which begs the question: what constitutes success for those deemed as potential program-changers?
Here are five players who came to Austin with extraordinary hype and managed to leave an imprint on the program. Not all won national awards or went on to long NFL careers, but their success is undeniable.
5. Malcom Brown
Ranking (2012): 5 stars, No. 9 overall, No. 2 defensive tackle, No. 2 rated player in Texas (Brenham High School)
Career stats (2012-2014): 165 total tackles (76 solo), 90 tackles for loss, 56 sacks
Highlight: Had 10 tackles, including 4.0 TFL and 2.5 sacks versus BYU in 2014
Accolades: Consensus All-American as junior in 2014, finalist for Nagurski Trophy (top defensive player) and Outland Trophy (top interior lineman).
NFL career (still active): Selected 32nd overall in 2015 by the New England Patriots. Through first two seasons, has started 25 games and has 6.0 sacks. Came in No. 8 on our 2016 ranking of the top Longhorns in the NFL. Playing in this weekend’s AFC Championship Game against Pittsburgh.
Why he’s on this list: Brown may not go down as an all-time great, but that is due in large part to playing on three mediocre teams. He arrived as the most heralded member of the 2012 recruiting class, contributed as a true freshman and started as a sophomore on Mack Brown’s final team. He then starred during Charlie Strong’s first season before bolting for the NFL.
4. Cedric Benson
Ranking (2001): 5 stars, No. 32 overall, No. 7 running back, No. 4 in Texas (Midland Lee High School)
Career stats (2001-2004): 5,540 rushing yards (2nd in Texas history), 64 touchdowns (2nd), 621 receiving yards
Highlight: Rushed for 283 yards, 4 TDs on 35 carries in 46-15 win at Texas A&M in 2003.
Accolades: Won Doak Walker Award in 2004 as nation’s best running back, 2004 AT&T/ABC National Player of the Year, 2004 All-American.
NFL career (2005-2012): Selected fourth overall in 2005 by the Chicago Bears. Played for Bears, Cincinnati Bengals (2008-2011) and Green Bay Packers (2012). Finished career with 6,017 rushing yards, 32 TDs.
Why he’s on this list: “Behind Ricky Williams” is not a bad place to be. That’s where Benson arrived, and where he ended his career in the Texas record books. It may surprise some that Benson was actually the lowest-rated recruit of the players on this list, but he still generated a ton of hype leading Midland Lee to three-straight Class 5A state championships from 1998-2000. He lived up to those lofty expectations, placing himself in the pantheon of great Longhorns running backs.
3. Jackson Jeffcoat
Ranking (2010): 5 stars, No. 5 overall, No. 1 strong-side defensive end, No. 1 in Texas (Plano West High School)
Career stats (2010-2013): 203 tackles (100 solo), 60 TFL, 27.5 sacks
Highlight: Had three sacks in 41-16 win over Texas Tech in 2013
Accolades: Won Hendricks Award in 2013 as nation’s best defensive end, consensus All-American in 2013, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
NFL career (still active): Went undrafted in 2014 despite a stellar senior season. Signed and played two seasons with the Washington Redskins. Landed on injured reserve after six games in 2015, signed by Cleveland Browns in 2016 then placed on Physically Unable to Perform list before start of training camp.
Why he’s on this list: Jeffcoat, the son of legendary Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jim Jeffcoat, is the Longhorns’ third highest-rated recruit of the modern recruiting era. A season-ending injury midway through his junior year limited his production, but he bounced back with a tremendous senior season. His 27.5 career sacks rank seventh in program history, and are the most by any player since 1984. Injury and size concerns hurt his draft stock, but when healthy at Texas he certainly lived up to the hype.
2. Sergio Kindle
Ranking (2006): 5 stars, No. 4 overall, No. 1 inside linebacker, No. 1 in Texas (Dallas Woodrow Wilson High School)
Career stats (2006-2009): 176 total tackles (110 solo), 43 TFL, 16.0 sacks
Highlight: Had 8 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 4 TFL in 2010 BCS National Championship Game versus Alabama
Accolades: First player ever to be named finalist for both the Butkus Award (nation’s top linebacker) and the Hendricks Award (defensive end) in the same season, named 2009 first-team All-American by Sporting News, two-time All-Big 12 selection.
NFL career (2010-2012): Selected 43rd overall in 2010 by the Baltimore Ravens. Injured before start of rookie season when he fractured his skull falling down two flights of stairs at a house in Austin. Eventually saw the field twice in 2011 and once in 2012 before he was cut. Now sells cars at Nyle Maxwell Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Austin.
Why he’s on this list: Kindle, the Longhorns’ second-highest rated recruit since 2000, took a bit longer than most of the players on this list to break through. He didn’t become a full-time starter until his junior season, but as a senior he was one of the leaders on the 2009 team that finished the regular season undefeated and made it to the national championship. Versatility was one of his staples, as he rotated between linebacker and defensive end causing problems for offenses at both spots.
1. Vince Young
Ranking (2002): 5 stars, No. 1 overall, No. 1 dual-threat quarterback, No. 1 in Texas (Houston Madison High School)
Career stats (2003-2005): 9,167 yards of total offense (2nd in program history), 3,127 rushing yards (6th, all players), 6,040 passing yards (6th), 44 TD passes (5th), 37 rushing TDs (4th)
Highlight: Accounted for 467 yards of total offense (267 passing, 200 rushing), 3 TDs, including game-winning TD to beat USC in 2006 Rose Bowl, win 2005 BCS National Championship.
Accolades: Rose Bowl Offensive MVP, 2005 Heisman Trophy runner-up, 2005 Maxwell Award (nation’s best player), 2005 Davey O’Brien Award (nation’s best quarterback), 2005 Manning Award, consensus All-American (2005), unanimous Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year (2005), Big 12 Newcomer of the Year (2003).
NFL career (2006-2011): Selected 3rd overall in 2006 by the Tennessee Titans after leaving Texas early. Named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after throwing for 2,199 yards, rushing for 552, accounting for 19 TDs, made Pro Bowl in 2006 and 2009, finished career with 8,964 passing yards, 1,459 rushing yards, 58 total TDs, 30-17 record as starter.
Why he’s on this list: This one really doesn’t need explaining. Young is one of only five players, and the only quarterback, to enter college with a perfect rating in the 247Sports composite. Only one other top-rated quarterback in that system, Jameis Winston, won a national championship as a starter.
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