Ghosts of Recruiting Past: Big 12 Slumpers Colorado and Texas A&M
Big 12 also-rans Colorado and Texas A&M get first draw in this series. Both programs are not longstanding national powers, but did find tremendous success in the '80s and '90s, recruiting and producing great athletes. That success is now long gone, however. Let's look at their recruiting decline after the jump.
The Colorado Buffaloes were among the elite of college football under coach Bill McCartney between 1982 and 1994. In that time, they reached the 11-win mark three times, including a split of the 1990 national championship. At the root of that success came an explosion of great players like Eric Bienemy, Alfred Williams, Mike Pritchard, Jay Leeuwenberg, Darian Hagan, Joel Steed, Greg Biekert, Chad Brown, Leonard Renfro, Deon Figures, Lamont Warren, Charles Johnson, Kordell Stewart, Ted Johnson, Christian Fauria, Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam and Michael Westbrook.
McCartney successors Rick Neuheisel and Gary Barnett still found decent success, including three more 10-win seasons. However, neither reached his heights and dragged the program down amid several personal and recruiting scandals. Dan Hawkins, a great success at Boise State was brought in after 2005 to change things, but so far has been unable to revive Colorado's talent pool.
Only twice in the last nine years has Colorado ranked among the top 25 programs in Phil Steele's consensus recruiting rankings, 17th in 2002 and 18th in 2000. They did land five-star back Darrell Scott last year, luring him away from Texas among other suitors. However, he was outrushed last season by little-known Rodney Stewart in the same recruiting class.
Just 10 Buffaloes have been chosen in the last five NFL drafts. Recently, they'd have some success pulling in talented linemen like Ryan Miller and Max Tuioti-Mariner who are likely NFL guys, but there just haven't been any front-line quarterbacks or receivers making their way through. Receivers Jeremy Bloom and D.J. Hackett were recent draft picks but not program changers and themselves played under suspect quarterbacks.
Texas A&M's recruiting drop is less severe, but still noticeable. As late as 1999, the Aggies had a consensus No. 3 recruiting class. Since then they've finished 23rd, 18th, 21st, 11th, 14th, 14th, 18th and 23rd.
Playing football in Texas is a blessing and a curse. There's tons of talent, but unless you're on top of it, the pick of the litter tends to end up at Texas and Oklahoma. Both programs are now annually atop college football but not long ago Texas A&M trumped both under R.C. Slocum and their "Wrecking Crew" defense. Slocum ruled from 1989 to 2002, but peaked between 1990 and 1995 never losing more than three games including four straight 10-plus win seasons.
Slocum left wisely, a few years into the hires of Mack Brown at Texas and Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. The Aggies have not been the same since. Mind you, they've snuck in a win over hated rival Texas here and there, but rode secretive coach Dennis Franchione and his ground-based offense out of town. Quiet, uncharismatic Mike Sherman is the new sheriff, promising a pro-style approach that may entice recruits but has had minimal collegiate success anywhere but the most talented of programs.
There are no longer names like Richmond Webb, Quentin Coryatt, Kevin Smith, Sam Adams, Aaron Glenn, Greg Hill, Ray Mickens, Leeland McElroy and Dat Nguyen running around campus, and it shows. Five-star tailback Christine Michael is the latest savior, but the last time an elite tailback hit campus -- Michael Goodson -- he never quite materialized as a dominant player. The Aggies have had some big-time quarterback recruits of late, among them Stephen McGee and Reggie McNeal. They've produced a decent handful of NFL defensive linemen as well including Ty Warren. However, the overall level of talent has simply dropped or not found its way onto the field. Chalk that up to the rise of Texas and Oklahoma, without an effective counter.