Maybe the first clue that something was wrong was when Garrett Gilbert drew comparisons to Aaron Corp.
“He is similar to Aaron Corp (class of 2007) in terms of size and athleticism, but Gilbert has a bigger arm and is much further along at this stage,” was the second line of the scout’s take from ESPNU in 2009.
Don’t remember Corp? Not many do. He signed with USC and transferred to Richmond.
Of course, most still do remember Gilbert. He played 15 games, threw 23 interceptions, was benched in favor of a pair of Band-Aid quarterbacks and transferred to SMU.
For that, Gilbert, the one-time national high school player of the year, is considered the biggest bust of the Mack Brown era. Of course he wasn’t the only player to flame out in 2009. Patrick Nkwopara, Derek Johnson, Tariq Allen, Marcus Davis, Greg Timmons and Tevin Mims are all no longer with the program. That’s seven out of 20 players gone in less than three years.
On the flip side, seven players -- Kenny Vaccaro, Mason Walters, Alex Okafor, Calvin Howell, Barrett Matthews, Dominique Jones and Chris Whaley -- have either made a huge impact or been solid contributors.
So goes the hit or miss world of recruiting.
Biggest Get: Mason Walters
Walters was one of the top 30 players coming out of high school. In fact, he was the second highest rated Texas recruit in the 2009 class behind Gilbert. But where Gilbert flopped, Walters has flourished.
After recovering from a foot injury that forced a redshirt season, Walters has started 25 straight games and will be the key to the offensive line for the next two seasons.
Most underrated: Chris Whaley
True Whaley was rated in the ESPNU 150, but that was as a running back. That is not where Whaley is going to make money. And Whaley should make money in football. At least Texas coach Mack Brown thinks so. Brown singled out Whaley as a NFL player during the December bowl practices. So it is clear his best years are to come. Now as for what position they will come from, that is still up in the air.
Texas recruited him as a running back, played him at defensive end, moved him to defensive tackle and is toying with the idea of playing him at tight end. His quick feet and athleticism lend him to so many different spots that Texas just has not been able to settle on one. When the Longhorns do, look for Whaley to make an impact.
Biggest Bust: Tariq Allen
OK, let’s look beyond Gilbert for a second. This class offers a variety of busts. One could even argue that Paden Kelly, Gilbert’s high school teammate at Lake Travis, has been a bust. Kelly was the No. 2 rated tackle in the class of 2009. But while Kelly is not good enough to be a starter and most likely will not be a starter in 2012, his junior season, he has been a solid backup.
As for players who never touched the field, Tariq Allen, should be considered the biggest bust of 2009. Allen was a top-five rated inside linebacker coming into a team that was soon going to be short at that position. To get ready to contribute right away Allen enrolled early. Then he redshirted. Then he never played his freshman season. Then, a year ago, he transferred.