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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Top Georgia recruit misses

By David Ching

ATHENS, Ga. -- The feel-good stories in recruiting are the two-star prospects who go on to earn all-conference honors and work their way into the NFL, but there is obviously a flipside to that coin, as well. Every signing class features players who arrive at college as well-regarded prospects who don’t pan out for any assortment of reasons.

Let’s examine five Georgia players since 2006 who were heavily hyped, but for whatever reason did not manage to perform up to the expectations that accompanied their signing with the Bulldogs.

1. Israel Troupe: The receiver from Tifton, Ga., is Georgia’s highest-rated recruit who didn’t pan out since ESPN entered the recruiting business in 2006, as we rated Troupe best among Georgia’s signees and 27th overall in the class of 2007.

Aside from an enormous 50-yard touchdown catch that sparked a comeback against Auburn in 2009, Troupe accounted for little production between 2008-11, totaling 12 catches, 177 receiving yards and only that one touchdown catch.

2. Akeem Hebron: Hebron’s resume as a recruit was impressive as the 2006 U.S. Army All-American also earned All-America honors from Parade Magazine and USA Today and ranked as ESPN’s No. 49 overall prospect. And yet injuries and early disciplinary issues derailed his promising college career.

After redshirting at Georgia in 2006, Hebron spent the next year at Georgia Military College after Mark Richt dismissed him over a pair of offseason arrests. Hebron returned to the Bulldogs in 2008 and promptly missed half a season with a dislocated ankle. He played in 16 games in the 2008-10 seasons and totaled 10 tackles and two tackles for a loss.

3. Richard Samuel: Blame it on injuries and his switching from tailback to linebacker and back to running back in the middle of his career, but Samuel’s UGA tenure did not match the immense expectations he carried into college. He was the No. 35 overall prospect of 2008 and No. 5 running back in a group that included Clemson’s Andre Ellington, Alabama’s Mark Ingram, Texas A&M’s Cyrus Gray and Oregon’s LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner, with his ESPN scouting report saying that Samuel "has the same type of presence as Adrian Peterson does because of his size and galloping style."

Samuel created a lasting memory with his hard-nosed running in the fourth quarter -- including the game-winning touchdown run -- against Florida in 2011, but his career otherwise landed on the disappointing side with 214 career carries for 833 yards (3.9 ypc) and four touchdowns.

4. Carlton Thomas: Thomas was a member of the same 2008 recruiting class as Samuel and as the No. 50 overall prospect and No. 8 running back ranked higher than all of the aforementioned backs except Ellington. But Thomas also produced largely underwhelming numbers with 159 career carries for 725 yards (4.6 ypc) and four touchdowns after ESPN's prospect evaluation called him "a cross between Joe Morris and Barry Sanders in terms of size, style and production."

He was Georgia’s second-leading rusher in 2011 and posted the only 100-yard game of his career that season with 127 against Auburn, but he was also suspended three times that fall and announced his intention to transfer last spring before starting what would have been his senior year.

5. Trinton Sturdivant: Another player who simply could not overcome the injury bug, Sturdivant can claim perhaps the most tragic story of these five who didn’t quite pan out. ESPN’s No. 95 overall prospect and No. 8 offensive tackle in the 2007 class, Sturdivant started all 13 games at left tackle and earned Freshman All-America honors for a 2007 Bulldogs team that finished second nationally.

But that was the bright spot in a career that featured one crushing blow after the next. Sturdivant lost the 2008 and 2009 seasons to separate season-ending knee injuries before returning in 2010 to play in 12 games and start seven. He decided to return for his senior season, but suffered yet another ACL tear in April 2011 and eventually decided against attempting to play football at Georgia again.