Recruiting rankings matter. More often than not, schools with consistently highly-ranked classes – Ohio State, Alabama, LSU, etc. – end up winning national titles.
Therein also lies a problem. Landing an array of five-star recruits should build expectations. Individually, however, players grow at different paces and not all four or five-star talents acclimate immediately to the college game.
Those who struggle early do not deserve to be labeled "busts," especially if they still have time left on campus. The best and most recent example of this is Curtis Grant. Ranked No. 1 at his position coming out of high school, Grant didn't develop as quickly as some might have hoped. He really blossomed his senior year, though, both on the field and from a leadership perspective.
Like Grant, these four players still have at least one season to grow into their talents:
The Percy Harvin comparisons are inevitable for any explosively athletic recruit Urban Meyer lands and who eventually settles into the hybrid position. Perhaps Jalin Marshall, Curtis Samuel or, even, Wilson will redefine it one day.
Unfortunately for Wilson, who was one of the first major out-of-state recruits Meyer reeled in earlier in his tenure, he appears to be running out of opportunities. Some of that is purely bad luck. He fractured his foot against Michigan State, last season, and never fully recovered from it. Marshall was extremely successful in his place.
At the same time, the coaching staff's trust in Wilson may be waning. In some ways it is self-inflicted. He is suspended for the opener at Virginia Tech and Braxton Miller is, now, another obstacle preventing him from receiving touches.
A quote from Wilson's freshman year still stands out to me.
"He’s got to become a football player. Right now, he’s a novelty," Meyer said in October 2013, via our Eric Seger. "We're working really hard to make him a football player. Right now he's a hood ornament."
We know what Wilson is capable of, the question is if he can ever become a consistent weapon.
A four-star recruit ranked in the top ten at his position, Dunn did not make a significant on-field impact in his first three years at Ohio State. Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott made it difficult to do so.
At the very least, Dunn enters 2015 as an important depth piece. He is the second-string running back according to Meyer, and, as our Chris Lauderback wrote in July, Dunn is a great candidate for a breakout season.
Elliott sat out spring practice while recovering from wrist surgery and Dunn took snaps with the first team. As a result of that and his contributions to special teams in 2014, Meyer is now praising the junior back.
"Bri'onte Dunn's got a little momentum going in his world," he said, in April. "He's got some momentum right now and it's showing up on the field."
Ohio State's offensive line play over the past three years is, arguably, the best and most consistently high-performing stretch from any position group in program history. So, it's not surprising Lisle has yet to see the field, regardless of his injuries.
That may change this season. In spring practice, the former four-star offensive lineman spent time with the first-team at right guard due to injuries.
While the line is set at both left guard – Billy Price – and on the right side – Pat Elflein – Lisle can swing between the two in case of injury. Plus, Lisle was an Army All-American tackle coming out high school, so he is capable of playing there should any health concerns arise at either tackle spot.
Nick Vannett will assume most of Jeff Huerman's snaps but his departure should also benefit the former four-star tight end.
Of course, no article including Baugh also goes without mentioning his off-field transgressions. No one has ever questioned his talent. In the past, the staff, media, and fans all had concerns about his focus.
"I felt like I earned [the coaches trust] back, and then I lost it all again. It was rough,” Baugh said last year at Student Appreciation Day. "It definitely opened my eyes. I’m out of chances. I have to do this. After my second incident, I thought I was gone."
Now, he seems to have put it all behind him and is ready to make an impact. Baugh has three more seasons to live up to his billing as a top-five tight end in his class and he may not have much of a chance this year. Still, like Dunn and endless Meyer players before them, if Baugh is a consistent performer on special teams, he will receive more snaps on offense.