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October 18, 2012

Rankings of Yore: Putting it on the line


MORE: Inside the Mind of Mike

Each week, Rivals.com's national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell will take at what we got right -- and what we got wrong -- in our past player evaluations. We call it Rankings of Yore.

Putting it on the line

After dropping a huge game to Florida, the LSU Tigers rebounded with a huge home win against South Carolina.

It was highlighted by a rushing attack that totaled 258 yards on 53 carries against arguably the nation's best defensive line.

And while the entire offensive line deserves credit, former five-star La'El Collins was especially impressive. Playing left guard (he will eventually move to tackle, at least that's my belief), the nation's No. 2 offensive tackle in 2011 and No. 6 overall player helped keep superstar Jadeveon Clowney away from Zach Mettenberger (along with 2007 four-star Josh Dworaczyk) and was very effective pulling and leading running backs into gaping holes during the game and down the stretch.

Offensive linemen don't often get much credit with skill position players and defenders making many of the highlight-reel plays, but LSU won this game because of Collins and his fellow offensive linemen. Collins squared off with Clowney back in 2011 at the Under Armour All-America Game and was very effective.

When Collins was out of that game, Clowney dominated anyone else in front of him. Collins was ranked behind only Cyrus Kouandjio, a starting tackle on No. 1 Alabama, in the rankings that year, and both of them are making a huge impact on college football.

No gamble for Griffin

RGIII was once known simply as Robert Griffin from Copperas Cove, Texas, in our recruiting database in 2008, and he was ranked as the No. 4 dual-threat signal-caller behind Terrelle Pryor, E.J. Manuel and MarQueis Gray. Griffin never made our Rivals250, never received offers from anyone in-state aside from Baylor and Houston and was clearly underranked and under-recruited.

But why? As far as recruiting goes, Texas and others wanted Griffin as an athlete and he insisted on being a quarterback. He was kind of right.

Griffin was an amazing track athlete and the best hurdler in the nation in high school, perhaps one of the reasons many big schools saw a future change in position.

[ Watch: Looking back: Baylor QB Robert Griffin III ]

Most people don't remember that Griffin had committed to Houston because of his relationship with then-head coach Art Briles. However, Briles flipped to Baylor when he was offered the job, Griffin flipped with him, and the rest is history.

As far as his ranking, what was the knock against Griffin? He was considered one of the two best athletes in the quarterback class along with Pryor; but Griffin was more of a run-first signal-caller and while his arm strength was excellent, his mechanics and accuracy issues were a concern.

There was also some worry that track would get in the way of his development as a quarterback at the next level.

Now, after a Heisman Trophy, being selected as the No. 2 player in 2012 NFL Draft, and coming off a weekend where he threw for 182 yards and ran for 138 and scored three touchdowns, those concerns back in 2007 seem somewhat silly. But as we know in rankings, hindsight is 20/20.

New heights

The 2008 quarterback class has had a major impact on the college football landscape over the years, and Griffin isn't the only Big 12 quarterback to lead a program to new heights.

Loveland, Colo., signal-caller Collin Klein was ranked as the No. 21 pro-style quarterback that year and committed to Kansas State, boasting no other offers. Klein was recruited by then-head coach Ron Prince and offensive coordinator James Franklin, who is now the head coach at Vanderbilt.

[ Watch: Looking back: K-State QB Collin Klein ]

Klein was ranked as a mid-level three-star recruit, mainly because he flew under the radar in Colorado and the level of competition was not good. In hindsight, he should have been ranked as a dual-threat quarterback despite only rushing for five scores as a junior.

As a senior he rushed for 745 yards and 10 touchdowns. Klein was ranked in a pro-style group that included first-round draft picks Blaine Gabbert and Andrew Luck and future NFLers Mike Glennon, Landry Jones and Tyler Wilson.

Interestingly enough, Klein said he was excited to play for Coach Prince because he was working toward a national championship. Bill Snyder's return couldn't have been predicted, but Klein seemed to have visions of BCS glory from the start.

Where there's a Will ...

Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton was an undersized prospect named William Sutton out of Corona (Calif.) Centennial back in 2009. A sawed-off 6-foot and 248 pounds, he was so good out of high school that we still tabbed him as a top-50 player in state and as a high three-star prospect despite his lack of size.

Sutton is still undersized, now listed as 6-foot-1 and 270 pounds, but his quickness and aggressive nature have him emerging as one of the top defenders in the Pac-12.

[ Watch: Looking back: Arizona State DT Will Sutton ]

He has 8.5 sacks this season, coming off a game last week where he had two sacks and a batted pass. He's one of the big reasons why ASU's defense has been a surprise, and he could be a nice 3-4 defensive end in the NFL.

Sutton was ranked No. 42 at defensive tackle in the 2009 class, a group that was highlighted by five different five-stars, most of whom have been busts.


Mike Farrell is the national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to follow him on Twitter.



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