Authors Note: This piece is the first of three installments taking a look back on Alabama's 2005 recruiting class
Recruiting is nothing if not an inexact science. So-called can't-miss stars become busts and no-name recruits turn into quality football players at higher rates than many believe. And for all of the hand-wringing over who signed the best classes, in reality the only way to know for certain regarding the quality of a recruiting class is to let the careers of its members unfold and then analyze it all after the last player plays his last snap. With that in mind, with their collegiate careers all finished, let's take a final look at the 2005 recruiting class:
Eryk Anders: A 6'2, 200 pound defensive tackle -- yes, you read that correctly -- out of San Antonio, Anders received no Division 1-A offers coming out of high school and did not sign with anyone on National Signing Day. Several months later he was slated to walk-on at Ole Miss under Ed Orgeron, but when his high school coach gave a copy of his game film to then Alabama offensive line coach Bob Connelly at a coaching clinic in Tuscaloosa that summer, Anders received a late offer from the Tide after a few other signees became academic casualties. Through three completely unproductive seasons in Tuscaloosa, nearly everyone questioned Anders' legitimacy as an SEC caliber player, but he surprised everyone by becoming a valuable edge rusher on passing downs in 2008, and in 2009 he took over the starting job at Jack linebacker and was easily Alabama's best pass rusher in the front seven. He closed his career at Alabama with a sack-fumble of Texas' Garrett Gilbert to clinch the Tide's thirteenth national choice.
Jimmy Barnes: Considered by some 'Bama homers as the next Joe Namath -- aren't they all? -- Barnes came to Tuscaloosa with the build of a traditional pocket passer, a big arm, and with a resume that included gaudy passing statistics in his father's pass-happy spread attack while leading a powerhouse prep program. In reality, the California native wasn't the prospect many fans hyped him to be, hence his unanimous three-star rating from the recruiting "experts" and his rather unimpressive offer list. Neither of the major in-state schools pursued him, despite both USC and UCLA signing two quarterbacks in that class -- headlined by Mark Sanchez for the Trojans and Ben Olson for the Bruins. He loved to name drop major programs like Notre Dame and Miami, but the Hurricanes did not sign a quarterback that season and didn't show much interest, and despite some interest from the Fighting Irish they ultimately chose to take Evan Sharpley instead of Barnes. In reality, despite all of the hype from 'Bama homers, Barnes wasn't recruited very heavily and signed with 'Bama mainly over Colorado State and North Carolina State. When he arrived in Tuscaloosa he was quickly beaten out by John Parker Wilson, and while he ascended the #2 on the depth chart in 2006, his flaws were apparent from the beginning, namely a slow release and pocket mobility that rivaled that of Lady Liberty. He blew out his knee in Independence Bowl practices in December of 2006, and transferred shortly thereafter, bashing Saban and Alabama publicly on the way out. He ended up at Weber State the following year where he managed to blow out his knee again and post some more terrible stat lines. Finally he transferred back into Division 1-A at Arizona State but never saw any playing time. The last anyone saw of him he was showcasing his lack of singing ability on YouTube.
Rodney Brisbon: A big lineman out of Montgomery, Brisbon was a teammate of Antoine Caldwell and largely due to his raw size he received a look from most SEC schools, but in the end he was recruited lightly by the major powers. He signed with Alabama but did not qualify academically, and then went on to a two-year stint at Northwest Mississippi Community College. Alabama did not recruit him out of junior college, and he ended up signing with Baylor after Art Briles left Houston.
Sam Burnthall: A lanky safety prospect out of Decatur, Burnthall grew up a lifelong Tide fan and committed to 'Bama shortly after getting an offer. Some people questioned his athleticism and thought he would eventually have to make a move to outside linebacker, and others thought 'Bama just signed him in an attempt to get Jerraud Powers, his high school teammate who went on to spurn the Tide and have a successful career at Auburn. Both major recruiting services had him as a two-star prospect, and ultimately he ended up spending three years in Tuscaloosa before transferring prior to the 2008 season without ever being a meaningful contributor.
Evan Cardwell: A short, stocky center prospect out of Killen, Cardwell was the first commitment of the 2005 recruiting class. Notre Dame showed some interest in him, but he was not offered by Auburn nor did he generate any significant interest from most other SEC schools. At Alabama, Cardwell started a handful of games in the 2006 and 2007 seasons due to injuries and suspensions, but he was undersized and struggled to hold his own at the point of attack. Some thought he had a shot at the starting center job after Antoine Caldwell graduated, but William Vlachos took over the position and Cardwell went on a medical scholarship prior to his senior year, with degree in hand, after fighting through recurring back injuries throughout most of his career.
Glen Coffee: A lightly recruited tailback out of Fort Walton Beach, Coffee grew up an Auburn fan and wanted to sign with the Tigers, but they never offered. He put together a string of impressive performances in the state playoffs of his senior year, sending his status higher and higher, but ultimately signed with the Tide after drawing no real interest from either Auburn or LSU. He played as a true freshman in 2005, but missed all of 2006 due to a sports hernia and a knee injury. He returned to have a very unimpressive campaign in 2007, but then shocked everyone by exploding onto the scene as a junior in 2008 as one of the most productive tailbacks in the country while fighting some ball security issues. He shocked everyone again with his decision to skip his senior year -- a decision that, in hindsight, had more to do with Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson than anything else -- and then managed to shock everyone once again two years later when he unexpectedly retired from the NFL in training camp to work in the ministry.
Marlon Davis: A big interior lineman out of Columbus, Davis impressed many with his size and his success in the classroom (a 4.0 student). The usual schools for Columbus prospects -- namely Auburn and Georgia -- looked at Davis but never offered, and in the end he picked 'Bama over Clemson. He looked to be in line for playing time as a true freshman in 2005 before an injury derailed his season, but took over a starting job for good in 2006. Despite starting, he never really played at a high level in either 2006 or 2007, but had a very good senior campaign in 2008 where he turned into a productive road grader at the right guard position.
Brandon Deaderick: A highly-recruited four-star defensive end prospect out of Kentucky, Deaderick had offers from just about every school in the SEC and in the end picked 'Bama over Auburn and home state Kentucky. He started slowly at Alabama, redshirting in 2005 and playing sparingly at defensive tackle in 2006, but took off when Nick Saban arrived with his 3-4 scheme, adding bulk that turned him into a stout defender against the run. His versatility made him a key player, he saw significant playing time in 2007 and was ultimately a starter on the 2008 and 2009 teams that combined to go 26-2, missing no playing time despite being shot in a failed robbery attempt mere days before the 2009 opener against Virginia Tech. It was also his destruction of a Texas offensive lineman that keyed Marcell Dareus' interception return for a touchdown in the 2009 BCS National Championship Game. He was drafted by the New England Patriots and now plays at defensive end for Bill Belichick.
Scott Deaton: An offensive line prospect out of Mountain Brook, Deaton was the son of a former Alabama player and was a recipient of the Bryant scholarship. In recruiting terms, though, he was a two-star prospect recruited by few BCS conference programs, and in actuality was more of a glorified walk-on than a legitimate SEC caliber prospect. He spent a couple of years in Tuscaloosa but ultimately gave up football without seeing any meaningful playing time.
Brandon Fanney: A three-star prospect coming out of high school, Fanney caught the eyes of many fans with his impressive 6'5 frame and solid athleticism off the edge. And furthermore, despite being only a three-star, Fanney was recruited hard by Alabama, Virginia, and Virginia Tech. A lifelong Alabama fan, despite growing up in Tennessee, Fanney signed with the Tide in 2004, but failed to qualify academically. He spent a year at Hargrave, where his stock really took off (he was largely considered a four-star after his tour of duty there), and he re-signed with Alabama. Despite that, Fanney was largely unimpressive in his first three years at the Capstone, but by his fourth year he did take starting job at Jack linebacker as a redshirt junior in 2008, where he proved to be a capable defender against the run. Unfortunately, Fanney was not the answer for the Tide as an edge rusher at the hybrid end-linebacker position, and after being suspended for much of Spring practice in 2009, he left the program before the Tide embarked on a national championship run. He finished his career at North Alabama.
Antonio Forbes: An impressive physical specimen out of Norcross, Forbes impressed 'Bama coaches on the summer camp circuit and had an impressive senior year. He was a three-star prospect, but was pursued heavily by 'Bama, Arkansas, and Louisville. He signed with the Tide but did not qualify academically, and to the best of my knowledge he never made it out of the JUCO ranks.
Mike Ford: One of the most hyped tailback signees in modern UA history, many made Ford out to be the second coming of Shaun Alexander. In hindsight, though, you can add him to the list of prospects where reality never legitimately justified the hype from the hometown homers. He was a good athlete and a highly-touted recruit by the self-proclaimed "experts," but none of three major Florida schools really recruited him -- always a tell-tale sign -- and in the end he basically chose Alabama over Auburn and South Carolina. He had major academic and character issues, and he failed to qualify out of high school. He did a tour of Hargrave, but once again failed to qualify academically. He finally qualified academically at South Florida, but he was largely a bust for the Bulls. He showed flashes of brilliance at times, but his career was consistently derailed by a poor work ethic, struggles in the classroom, and several run-ins with various police officers. Almost five years to the day after originally signing with Alabama, Ford was dismissed from South Florida for the ever-so-popular violation of team rules. Hindsight 20 / 20, his career went about as should have been expected given all of the off-field baggage that he carried from the start.
Bobby Greenwood: A three-star recruit out of Prattville, Greenwood had a great frame and decent athleticism, and was recruited heavily Alabama, Auburn, and Florida State. Greenwood had an impressive season in 2005 as a true freshman. A sophomore slump followed in 2006 when he reportedly butted heads with his position coach, but he proved to be the perfect fit for a Nick Saban player in his final two seasons in Tuscaloosa. He bulked up to play defensive end and personified Saban's blue collar mentality. Greenwood started all fourteen games his senior season in 2008, and was a key cog in the Tide's 12-0 run that year. He now plays in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Prince Hall: A solid linebacker / fullback recruit out of Moreno Valley, California, Hall had a fairly impressive offer list and was recruited by some quality programs. Ultimately, he committed to "Alabama University" before ever vising the Tuscaloosa campus, and in hindsight that should have been a sign. A bit short for the linebacker position, Hall had a pudgy build -- Joe Kines always joked of him being one biscuit away from being moved to defensive end -- but had an impressive showing as a true freshman in 2006 while starting at middle linebacker. When Nick Saban arrived in 2007 though, with this previous unheard of notion of imposing discipline on players for off-field transgressions, Hall permanently moved into the proverbial doghouse with a string of suspensions, and was beaten out by other players for playing time -- Darren Mustin in 2007, Dont'a Hightower in 2008. Finally, after yet another suspension, Hall transferred to Central Washington before his senior season, finishing his career by pounding heads in the mighty Great Northwest Athletic Conference while his former teammates in Tuscaloosa were on their way to Pasadena.
Patrick Hanrahan: A fullback prospect out of Springville, Hanrahan had the typical build of a fullback but was recruited by almost no one. He was largely unheard of until the summer following National Signing Day when he announced his plans to sign with Alabama with a greyshirt offer, but in all honesty most thought Hanrahan was little more than a preferred walk-on. He ultimately spent a couple of seasons in Tuscaloosa without ever being a meaningful contributor, and finally transferred to Mississippi State where he finished up his career as a solid role player under Dan Mullen.
Cole Harvey: A surprise commitment out of Tallahassee, Harvey was the teammate of Mr. Everything wide receiver recruit Fred Rouse -- who 'Bama recruited heavily but who signed with Florida State (where he became a major bust with more arrests than meaningful catches, including one incident where he burglarized a teammate's apartment) -- and many thought Alabama signed him in an attempt to get Rouse. Despite being a technically sound player, Harvey was an undersized lineman who drew only limited interest from BCS conference schools, and in actuality most of his recruitment consisted of following Rouse around wherever he went. When Rouse went to FSU, Harvey greyshirted at 'Bama, and upon arrival that spring he was moved to tight end and later saw some time at fullback. Eventually he gave up football a couple of years later after making no real contribution.
Charles Hoke: Arguably the smartest player 'Bama has signed in recent years (a 4.4 GPA and a 31 on the ACT), Hoke was a standout tight end at Briarwood Christian due in large part to his massive 6'7 frame. He was one of the more heavily-recruited players in the state of Alabama, and was pursued by Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, and several ACC schools. He signed with 'Bama, but for whatever reason just never took off as a player. He saw some time as a back-up tight end in blocking situations, usually in blowout games, but never became much of a significant contributor. We moved him to the offensive line in the spring of 2008, but he went on medical scholarship after suffering a shoulder injury in the A-Day game. The last mentioned of him was that he was pursuing his MBA at Alabama.
Baron Huber: A do it-all prospect out of the greater Knoxville area, Huber was a productive player in the Tennessee prep football ranks with his legitimate 6'4 frame. Unfortunately, overall athleticism and mobility weren't exactly his game, and most thought he couldn't add the bulk necessary to play on the line, hence why he was really only recruited by Alabama and Navy. At the time of his signing, Huber was arguably most famous for off-the-record comments that then Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer made about him signing with the Tide -- Fulmer had assembled a class that many felt was the best in the country, but one that would ultimately play a large role in getting him fired four years later -- something to the effect of how Alabama could never win big signing kids like Baron Huber. That may have been partially true, and in all fairness Huber never became a standout player by any stretch, but he managed to spend five years in Tuscaloosa and had a role in Alabama's short-yardage and special teams packages on the 2009 national championship team. A superstar he was not, but give him credit for out-lasting Phil Fulmer.
Desmond Jennings: Arguably the best athlete in the state of Alabama in the 2005 class, Jennings was lightly recruited because of academic issues and his skills on the baseball diamond. He was a throwaway signee late -- largely just in case baseball did not pan out -- but he was drafted highly in the MLB Draft and has gone on to a successful career in the Tampa Bay Rays farm system. He is expected by many to be the starting left fielder for the Rays this season.
Jimmy Johns: An undisputed legend in his own unique way, Jimmy Johns was considered by many to be the top prospect in the state of Mississippi, where he starred as quarterback for Brookhaven. Most 'Bama fans were certain they had a superstar on their hands when he signed, but much like Jimmy Barnes the underlying reality with Johns did not always support the hype. He was dubbed a three-star recruit by the self-proclaimed recruiting "experts," and despite being recruited heavily by Ole Miss and Mississippi State (two of the worst teams in the conference at the time), none of the major players in the conference ever really showed him any significant interest. In reality, Johns was a good athlete who didn't have a position; too short and too raw to play quarterback, too lanky and lacking an explosive burst to play tailback, and unwilling to play linebacker where he was most naturally suited. He spent about three days at quarterback in Tuscaloosa before he was moved to tailback, where he saw some time as a true freshman. He did have an impressive sophomore campaign in 2006, but unfortunately saw limited carries thanks to Mike Shula's insistence upon playing an overweight, out-of-shape, and ineffective Ken Darby.
When Nick Saban arrived in 2007, Johns quickly moved into the doghouse of the disciplinarian, saw very little meaningful playing time, and largely ended his career at tailback with a key fumble late in the Louisiana-Monroe debacle. The following spring he finally embraced the move to linebacker when he saw that Saban was never going to play him at tailback, but later that summer he was arrested after selling cocaine to undercover police officers on several occasions, including at least one sale that took place in the parking lot of the UA athletic department. Making matters worse, it also came to light that he was using his name and likeness as an Alabama football player to sell pitbulls online, an obvious NCAA rules violation. Saban immediately kicked him off the team, and the last we heard out of Johns is that he avoided prison time and was trying to turn his life around. He is undoubtedly one of the most unforgettable 'Bama signees in recent memory, just not in the way most originally imagined.