National signing day is today, and the recruitniks are restless with excitement. I've already gone over why I don't follow recruiting closely, but the main reason why I don't go nuts over it is the same as why it's not worth going nuts over any professional drafts.
With a few exceptions, you generally don't know who will pan out and who won't for years. I would much rather look at past classes to see how they turned out years later, because you've seen how they've done and can revisit (hopefully) fond memories of seeing them play.
The members of everyone's recruiting class of 2005 at this point has all either graduated or are now becoming fifth year seniors. It was a transitional year for Florida, going from the Zook era to Meyer era. One would think that with both of them being known as great recruiters that it would turn out all right for a transition year, but as you'll see, it was very much a star-crossed bunch.
Here they are in alphabetical order:
Atkins' career looked promising initially, but he quickly got into trouble off of the field. After essentially being kicked off the team, he transferred to Bethune Cookman where his legal problems continued. After multiple arrests for domestic battery, he would be found dead in his car in an apparent suicide.
His is a sad story all around, one of a bright future wasted and unnecessary grief for those he mistreated.
Kalvin Baker - LB (3* / 4*)
Never played at linebacker and transferred to Tennessee State.
Nyan Boateng - WR (4*/ 3*)
He never found a way to get playing time behind guys like Dallas Baker, Andre Caldwell, and Percy Harvin. He transferred to Cal after the 2006 season to get more playing time, got arrested before leaving town, and had a decent year for the Bears last year.
Simon Codrington - OL (3* / 3*)
Jon Demps - LB (4* / 4*)
He played in a couple of games in 2005, but missed 2006 and 2007 with injury issues. He also had some off-field problems. The last time his name surfaced was in December of '07 when he was arrested for throwing a sandwich at a Jimmy John's employee who simply wanted him to pay for a bag of chips.
No, he is not related to current running back Jeff Demps.
Brian Ellis - TE (3* / 3*)
He couldn't get an SAT or ACT score high enough to get into school, and went to a junior college in California. He switched to linebacker, signed with Purdue, but couldn't get into school there either.
Darryl Gresham, Jr. - LB (3* / 3*)
Eddie Haupt - OL (3* / 4*)
Kestahn Moore - RB (3* / 4*)
He is part of an interesting bit of trivia in that he's the only running back to start a season-opening game under Urban Meyer. He had an up and down time in Gainesville. Just as he was hitting his stride in 2007, fumble problems (especially against LSU) derailed his career.
Moore was good but not great, and he got passed up by others on the team largely thanks to not having an explosive speed burst. He played some in all four seasons, and he was the best pass blocking running back Urban Meyer has had at UF.
Dorian Munroe - S (4* / 4*)
He played some key minutes in relief of starting S Tony Joiner late in 2006, and he played often on defense and special teams in 2007. He was in line to get a starting role in 2008 before an ACL tear ended his season in August. He'll be back in 2009.
Louis Murphy - WR (3* / 3*)
He spent a couple years on campus before things finally began to click with him. He got himself on track in 2007, and he was a key target and deep threat for Tim Tebow in 2008.
He's one of the two or three best players of the class.
David Nelson - WR (4* / 4*)
Urban Meyer proclaimed him a waste of a scholarship for most of his time in Gainesville, and Nelson actually agrees. He admitted he didn't take things fully seriously until about midway through the 2008 season, at which point he began playing a lot better. He had key catches late in the season and might actually fulfill his promise in 2009.
Reggie Nelson - S (4* / 5*)
After spending a year in junior college in 2004, this Nelson made it to campus in 2005. He is the unquestioned best player of the class, earning the nickname "The Eraser" for correcting any mistakes the guys around him made. His outstanding coverage and bone crushing hits will live on in Gator football lore forever.
Jonathan Phillips - K (2* / 4*)
He kicked a random extra point every now and then for four years, and he decided to go to Miami (FL) law school after the 2007 season. Meyer convinced him to stay, and he won the kicking job in 2008. He had an outstanding season, missing just two total kicks (one of which was blocked due to poor protection up front).
Josh Portis - QB (4* / 4*)
Originally a Meyer recruit to Utah, he followed the head coach to Florida. Everyone assumed that he would be the guy to run the Real Urban Meyer Offense once Chris Leak graduated (or maybe even sooner). Instead his crazy, meddling mother convinced him to transfer after the '05 season rather than lose another year of eligibility playing behind Leak.
He transferred to Maryland, where he never got higher than third on the depth chart. After sparse minutes in 2008, he once again transferred, this time to a small school called California (Pa.) for the spring semester. He has good athletic ability, but has never been able to translate it into being a polished quarterback.
Eric Sledge - ATH (3* / 3*)
He wanted to play receiver or safety, but the Florida coaches had him play linebacker. He transferred to Valdosta State in January 2007.
Ryan Stamper - LB (4* / 4*)
He spent a season on the scout team in 2005 and hardly played at all in 2006. In 2007 he was still just a top reserve, but in 2008 he emerged as one of the linebacking corps' most versatile and consistent performers. He started a few games and spent time at all three positions.
He figures to have a prominent role again in 2009.
Ronnie Wilson - OL (3* / 4*)
He redshirted in 2005, but thanks to some injuries to guys ahead of him he played often enough (and well enough) in 2006 to be named an honorable mention Freshman All-American and was put on the SEC All-Freshman team by The Sporting News. In the off season before the 2007 season, he discharged a semiautomatic weapon during an altercation, thereby getting himself thrown off the team.
He continued to pay his way to attend UF, and in 2008 Meyer allowed him to try to work his way back on the team. After spending some time on the defensive line and never playing a meaningful minute, he was once again kicked off the team after getting in a fight. He never got his scholarship back.
The class had only four players who became starters for a significant amount of time by now: Kestahn Moore, Louis Murphy, Reggie Nelson, and Jonathan Phillips. Ryan Stamper played significant minutes this year, even starting a few games, and along with Dorian Munroe will likely be a top contributor next season. David Nelson figures to be a key part of the receiver rotation if the second half of 2008 was not a mirage.
Two players had a single season of playing noticeable roles before getting kicked off the team: the late Avery Atkins and Ronnie Wilson. Josh Portis played spot duty for a season before transferring.
Of the 18 players of the class, six have been significant contributors now four years later. Three had single notable seasons before leaving, and one has one last year to impress after a half season of productivity. If you're counting at home, that leaves eight players who had no impact at all.
For a recruiting class that was ranked No. 15 by Rivals and No. 11 by Scout, the actual contributions are surprisingly low. Reggie Nelson (an All-American), Wilson, Munroe, and Moore (54 carries, 282 yards) were the only players to play a measurable role on the 2006 national title team. Only Murphy, Phillips, Stamper, and to a lesser extent Moore and David Nelson played measurable roles on the 2008 national title team.
Those are not good numbers. It speaks to the talent that Ron Zook left behind as well as the outstanding quality of Meyer's subsequent classes. When you consider that a team has 44 starters and backups on offense and defense, not to mention special teams players, four or five contributors is not a high number.
As everyone pores over this year's classes and predicts fortune or doom, just remember that they don't always turn out as advertised.