In the past decade or so, college football fans have become especially fanatical about their favorite teams' recruiting efforts. At signing day, commitments are seen through rose-colored glasses. Of course every four and five star player is destined for an All-American career. Each of the two and three star players is a diamond in the rough that all of the rivals missed out on.
The reality is that approximately half or slightly less than half of the players a team signs will go on to make a meaningful contribution for that team. The other half will generally succumb to all of the things that can derail a collegiate career, including ineligibility, injuries, being buried on the depth chart, transfers, and a range of other life circumstances.
This article is the first in a four-part series that takes a look at the commitment lists for K-State from Rivals.com, from the first year that Rivals lists each school's commitments (2002), to the last year that a class could sufficiently be analyzed (2011). This neatly allows a full decade of analysis. This decade is divided into the end of Snyder 1.0, the Bold and Daring Era, and the start of Snyder 2.0. There is also a summary article that has some miscellaneous bits of Wildcat recruiting history.
Each class has its Rivals class ranking in parentheses beside it.
Class of 2002 (14)
Key Players: Brandon Archer, Jeromey Clary, Ryan Lilja, James Terry, Marcus Watts (greyshirt), Kevin Huntley, Randy Jordan, Jermaine Berry, Dylan Meier, Maurice Mack
This class finished with the highest rating of any of K-State's classes that Rivals has analyzed. It should be noted, however, that Rivals has tweaked its system since then so that junior college players hardly ever get five stars (K-State had two of those in this class, though neither Daniel Davis nor Peni Holakeituai ended up playing to that level) and seeming to place less value on quantity in a class (30 commitments were indicated).
However, this class was very good, in particular with its junior college players. Lilja, Terry, Jordan, Huntley, and Berry would all go on to become key cogs to K-State's success in both 2002 and its Big XII championship team in 2003.
K-State also signed the late Dylan Meier in this class, in the midst of what would become a quarterback recruiting drought that would last until Josh Freeman signed in 2006. For context, it is important to examine the great success K-State had over a short timeframe leading up to the start of that drought. Within a span of four recruiting classes between 1996 and 1999, the Wildcats would sign three quarterbacks that would garner almost every start from 1997 to 2003, which included six 11-win seasons in seven years. In 1996, Jonthan Beasley signed out of high school. The following year, in 1997, Michael Bishop signed out of junior college. Then, just two years later, Ell Roberson signed out of high school.
After biding his time by redshirting, backing up Beasley in 2000, and struggling for the position along with junior college signee Marc Dunn in 2001, Roberson would start almost every game for K-State in 2002 and 2003. In the two years between Roberson's signing and Meier's, K-State signed Will Martin, an athletic high school quarterback that appears to have failed to qualify, and Dunn, a junior college signal caller that did not pan out. As a result, when Roberson went down with injury in 2003, the Wildcats were forced to plug in a walk-on. When Roberson's eligibility expired after the 2003 season, Coach Snyder would go four seasons (the last two of Snyder 1.0 and the first two of Snyder 2.0) without high caliber play at football's most important position. Unsurprisingly, those teams hovered around the .500 mark.
Class of 2003 (60)
Key Players: Jermaine Moreira, Alphonso Moran, Cedrick Williams, Bryan Baldwin, Byron Garvin
This class was bad and quite easily takes the cake as the worst of the ten analyzed in this piece. High hopes existed for some of the junior college signees, including Marvin Simmons, Malcolm Wooldridge, Corey Reddick, and Williams, who were all four-star recruits, according to Rivals.com. Only Cedrick Williams would live up to the hype.
The high school recruits were not much better. Even the contributors from the class (Moreira, Moran, Baldwin, Garvin, and Rashaad Norwood) left K-State fans hoping for more. For some reason, this class only showed a total of 17 commitments, which is not exactly the kind of haul you would expect after K-State's solid 2002 season. In retrospect, this class underperforming seems to be part of the reason behind K-State's problems on defense and lack of depth during Ron Prince's time as head coach. While Ron Prince deserved a good share of the criticism that he received, the last few seasons of recruiting under Coach Snyder certainly did not help.
Again, this class lacked a high school recruit at the quarterback position, although Allen Webb did transfer from the University of Indiana at this time.
Class of 2004 (32)
Key Players: Jordan Bedore, Yamon Figurs, Allan Evridge, Tearrius George, John Hafferty, Gerard Spexarth, Kyle Williams
Offensive line depth had become a problem. This would become very, very apparent during the 2004 season, when K-State saw its offensive line play dip to levels that it had probably not been at since the early 90s. The hope amongst K-State fans was that this group of largely homegrown big nasties, including Matt Boss (a four-star recruit), Bedore, Hafferty, Spexarth, and Ryan Schmidt, would be able to establish the future of the Wildcats' offense. One has to wonder if Charlie Dickey had been on the staff at that time, whether he may have managed to mold those players into a strong group.
Ultimately, the hopes of Wildcats fans did not pan out with these recruits, which is not to say that some of them did not develop into fine football players. Junior college players such as Williams, Figurs, and George would go on to have pretty successful careers for the Wildcats.
Some of the most coveted high school prospects, however, did not pan out. Nick Patton, a four-star dual-threat quarterback recruit out of Winfield, Kansas, never managed to qualify. The Wildcats managed to snag Evridge's commitment, after he had previously committed to the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Unforunately, like Dylan Meier and Allen Webb, Allan Evridge also failed to find success as a quarterback at K-State. Parish Fisher was a running back that showed some flashes of potential, but he left not long after a promising start to his career.
Class of 2005 (36)
Key Players: Zach Diles, Justin McKinney, Nick Stringer, Brock Unruh, Reggie Walker, Eric Childs
As of 2005, a problem that had become apparent was the lack of guys at the skill positions that would step up to become playmakers. Darren Sproles, a 2001 recruit, clearly fulfilled that role, but no player in the 2002 through 2004 classes appeared to fulfill that. Figurs was fast and Moreira had great agility, but neither could steadily be counted on to accumulate big plays. Thomas Clayton, a running back that transferred from Florida State, looked like an impressive physical specimen, but could not make people miss and lacked the strong blocking that he required. Jordy Nelson, a walk-on, showed some glimpses as a sophomore in 2005, but would not develop into a strong playmaker until his senior season with Josh Freeman tossing him the football.
Unfortunately, the 2005 class would not prove to be any different in terms of providing additional playmakers. The Wildcats had snagged a commitment from Zac Robinson, who appeared to be the quarterback of the future, only to lose his commitment to Oklahoma State, where he would go on to have an outstanding career. Instead, K-State would sign Kevin Lopina, who would never garner meaningful snaps for the Wildcats.
While the 2005 class had some solid pieces (see the Key Players above), some of its key components would not contribute. Three different four-star defensive linemen (Steve Burch, Willie Williams, and Jonathan Lewis) would manage to achieve almost nothing for the Wildcats' defensive front, with Burch only being a backup for one season and the other two never suiting up. And this was at a time, unlike now, when K-State could really not afford to have four-star recruits not become starters. Stringer and Unruh also added to the wealth of incoming talent along the offensive line that seems to have had its development stunted by Ron Prince and his coaching staff.