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February 2, 2010

Rivals.com five-star tracker: Class of 2009

We're closing in on National Signing Day, but don't necessarily expect that heralded five-star recruit to deliver an instant impact.

Only three of the 33 five-star prospects from last year made the Rivals.com Freshman All-America team this season. The vast majority couldn't crack the starting lineup on their respective teams.

As the list of five-star prospects in the past four signing classes shows, it generally takes a while -- even for can't-miss guys -- to make a big impact in college.

Patience is the key. Many of the players on these lists have gone on to have outstanding careers.

Here is a look at the careers of the five-star prospects in the Class of 2009.

MORE: Class of 2008 | Class of 2007 | Class of 2006

2009 FIVE-STAR PLAYERS

1. RB Bryce Brown, Tennessee
BUZZ
: Brown rushed for 460 yards and three touchdowns on 101 carries this season while backing up 1,345-yard rusher Montario Hardesty. He ran for 104 yards in a season-opening rout of Western Kentucky but didn't gain more than 60 yards in a game the remainder of the season. Brown should inherit a greater role in 2010 now that Hardesty has completed his college career.

2. WR Rueben Randle, LSU
BUZZ
: Randle caught two touchdown passes in a 25-23 loss to Ole Miss on Nov. 21, but those were the only two times he reached the end zone during the season. He finished the year with 11 catches for 173 yards while backing up Brandon LaFell and Terrance Toliver. Randle could move into the starting lineup next season as a replacement for LaFell, who just completed his senior season.

3. OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
BUZZ
: Fluker redshirted during Alabama's national championship season, but he will have a chance to challenge for a spot in the 2010 starting lineup. Fluker will be competing for a starting job as the Tide seek a replacement for departing senior Drew Davis.

4. DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
BUZZ
: Richardson failed to qualify academically and enrolled at the College of the Sequoias, where he posted a team-high 65 overall tackles and 17 tackles for loss to go along with three sacks and a fumble recovery.

5. QB Matt Barkley, USC
BUZZ
: Barkley started 12 games for USC this season and went 211-of-352 for 2,735 yards with 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also ran for two scores. Barkley led a late touchdown drive to give USC a victory at Ohio State and threw for 380 yards against Notre Dame. Barkley suffered a late-season slump, then rallied to throw for 350 yards in an Emerald Bowl triumph over Boston College.

6. RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
BUZZ
: Richardson rushed for 751 yards and eight touchdowns on 145 carries while backing up Heisman winner Mark Ingram. Richardson rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns in the BCS Championship Game victory over Texas. His other 100-yard game came early in the season, as he ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns against Florida International. Richardson and Ingram should team to give Alabama one of the nation's top running back tandems next season.

7. QB Russell Shepard, LSU
BUZZ
: Shepard rushed for 277 yards and two touchdowns on 45 carries while giving LSU a change-of-pace quarterback out of the Wildcat formation. He didn't attempt a pass all season. LSU coach Les Miles has indicated Shepard won't play quarterback next season and instead will have more of a Percy Harvin-type role because of his ability to play running back and receiver.

8. DE Devon Kennard, USC
BUZZ
: Kennard started USC's last four games of the season at strongside linebacker and finished the year with 34 overall tackles - two for loss - to go along with three pass breakups. He also forced and recovered a fumble.

9. LB Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State
BUZZ
: Burfict started the last nine games of the season for Arizona State and recorded 69 tackles to rank second on the team. He also had seven tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Burfict earned first-team honors on Rivals.com's Freshman All-America team.

10. LB Jelani Jenkins, Florida
BUZZ
: Injuries and depth-chart concerns prevented Jenkins from seeing much playing time this season. He recorded only two tackles and never returned to the field after an early season injury. A.J. Jones is the Gators' only starting linebacker from 2009 returning next season, so Jenkins should earn substantial playing time and could even win a starting spot in 2010.

11. CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
BUZZ
: Kirkpatrick recorded eight tackles while contributing this season. He has a chance to contend for a starting job next season as the Tide look to replace departed cornerbacks Javier Arenas and Kareem Jackson. Alabama also must replace Marquise Johnson, its top reserve cornerback from the 2009 team.

12. LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
BUZZ
: Te'o made nine starts and ranked fourth on the team with 63 tackles, the most by any Notre Dame freshman since 1975 and the third-highest total of any freshman in school history (behind only Bob Golic in 1975 and Ross Browner in 1973). He was a second-team Rivals.com Freshman All-America selection. Te'o, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has chosen to delay his mission trip. He should be one of Notre Dame's best defensive players in 2010.

13. S Ray Ray Armstrong, Miami
BUZZ
: Armstrong made 14 solo tackles and seven assists in a reserve role. He also had one pass breakup. Armstrong should have an expanded role next season as the Hurricanes look to replace departed safety Randy Phillips.

14. DE Alex Okafor, Texas
BUZZ
: Okafor recorded 22 overall tackles - two for loss - and six quarterback hurries in a backup role. Okafor has a good chance to move into the starting lineup next season as the Longhorns have to replace departed starter Sergio Kindle.

15. DT Jacobbi McDaniel, Florida State
BUZZ
: McDaniel made two starts and finished the season with 13 solo tackles, 12 assists, four tackles for loss and one sack. He also forced two fumbles. McDaniel should emerge as one of the Seminoles' top defenders next fall, but for the time being he is working out with Florida State's baseball team. The Milwaukee Brewers drafted him in the 33rd round last year.

16. DE Donte Paige-Moss, North Carolina
BUZZ
: Paige-Moss made five tackles and recorded two sacks as a backup this season. He should have a greater role on a talent-laden UNC defense next season. Although the Tar Heels return All-America candidate Robert Quinn at end, they must replace departed starter E.J. Wilson.

17. CB Janzen Jackson, Tennessee
BUZZ
: Jackson made nine starts at free safety and produced 26 solo tackles, 11 overall tackles, one sack, an interception and three pass breakups. He also forced two fumbles. Jackson missed three games for a violation of team rules. He was arrested and charged with three counts of attempted aggravated robbery on Nov. 12, but all charges were dropped and he eventually was reinstated to the team.

18. QB Garrett Gilbert, Texas
BUZZ
: Gilbert saw mop-up duty during the regular season before being pressed into action in the BCS Championship Game after Colt McCoy was injured in the first quarter. Gilbert got off to a rough start and was picked off four times, but he also threw two second-half touchdown passes to spark a comeback attempt in a 37-21 loss to Alabama. Gilbert went 15-of-40 in the championship game and finished the season 30-of-66 for 310 yards. He is the front-runner to replace McCoy next season.

19. S Patrick Hall, USC
BUZZ
: Hall tore a knee ligament in a preseason practice while awaiting approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse. Hall never was cleared by the NCAA, but he is expected to be eligible and healthy in time for the 2010 season.

20. S Craig Loston, LSU
BUZZ
: Loston redshirted this season but could inherit a featured role in 2010 because of FS Chad Jones' decision to enter the NFL draft after his junior season. Loston's size and versatility could allow him to play either safety or linebacker.

21. WR Andre Debose, Florida
BUZZ
: Debose was billed as a multi-purpose player who could help the Gators withstand the loss of Percy Harvin, but he struggled with a left hamstring injury during the preseason, had surgery and didn't play at all. His health will be closely watched in Gainesville this spring.

22. RB Christine Michael, Texas A&M
BUZZ
: Michael rushed for a team-high 844 yards and 10 touchdowns on 166 carries. He ranked sixth in the Big 12 with 70.3 rushing yards per game. Michael rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns against Texas Tech and ran for 116 yards and two scores against Baylor.

23. DT Gary Brown, Florida
BUZZ
: Brown redshirted this season. Brown will have to perform well this spring to earn much playing time in the fall because the Gators have plenty of depth at defensive tackle with the return of their top four from last season.

24. CB Darius Winston, Arkansas
BUZZ
: Winston didn't get academically cleared until right before preseason camp and he struggled to catch up the rest of the season. He made only six tackles in backup duty. Although Arkansas returns most of its cornerbacks, Winston should earn much more playing time in 2010.

25. DT Chris Davenport, LSU
BUZZ
: Davenport redshirted in 2009, but he could challenge for a more prominent role next season as LSU deals with graduation losses. Don't rule out a move to the offensive line.

26. DT William Campbell, Michigan
BUZZ
: Campbell appeared on special teams in all 12 games and played defensive tackle in nine games this past season. He made four tackles and was credited with two pass breakups.

27. CB Greg Reid, Florida State
BUZZ
: Reid contributed 19 overall tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and six pass breakups. He scored on an interception return against BYU. But he made his biggest impact on special teams, as he led the nation with an average of 18.4 yards per punt return. Reid was a Rivals.com Freshman All-America first-team punt returner. He should be a cornerstone of FSU's secondary for years to come.

28. CB Branden Smith, Georgia
BUZZ
: Smith made 14 tackles and had two pass breakups while playing all 13 games for Georgia, including one start. Smith could step into a starting role next season as the Bulldogs' secondary looks to replace starting cornerback Prince Miller.

29. OL Mason Walters, Texas
BUZZ
: Walters aggravated a stress fracture in his left foot during a season-opening win over Louisiana-Monroe and took a medical redshirt. Walters will challenge for a starting job next season as the Longhorns seek a replacement for the departed starting guard Charlie Tanner.

30. DB T.J. McDonald, USC
BUZZ
: McDonald made four solo tackles and three assists as a special-teams performer and backup strong safety this season. He should have an expanded role in 2010 because USC must replace each of its starting safeties (Will Harris and Taylor Mays) from 2009.

31. CB Corey Brown, Ohio State
BUZZ
: Brown redshirted in 2009. Ohio State returns both starting cornerbacks (Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence), but Brown could compete for playing time as a second-teamer.

32. LB Nico Johnson, Alabama
BUZZ
: Johnson made three starts at weakside linebacker this season and helped give the Tide a boost after a season-ending injury to Dont'a Hightower. He finished the season with 28 tackles - 4.5 for loss - to go along with one sack, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. He has a good chance of opening next season in the starting lineup.

33. LB Dorian Bell, Ohio State
BUZZ
: Bell redshirted in 2009. Ohio State must replace one starting linebacker (Austin Spitler) next season, but the Buckeyes have plenty of depth at this position. Bell will be competing with a handful of other players for one starting spot. The good news for Bell is that Ohio State typically rotates five or six linebackers, so he could earn plenty of playing time next season even if he doesn't win a starting job.

MORE: Class of 2008 | Class of 2007 | Class of 2006



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