Every year, powerhouse college football programs compete not only on the field, but across the country, scrambling to acquire high-end high school talent. Over time, the ability to recruit has become just as important as in-game strategy for head coaches, since a steady stream of talent builds depth, reputation and, ultimately, revenue.
However, for every major five-star to make waves on campus, there are just as many who don't pan out. Here are seven of the top recruits who failed to make a major impact in college football, and what you can learn from each of their stories.
2010: Seantrel Henderson - Offensive Tackle
This Minnesota native was touted as a once in a generation prospect, with USA Today naming him as their offensive player of the year, the first time an offensive lineman had won the award. After committing to USC as the No. 2 prospect in the nation, Henderson ultimately chose to play for the Miami Hurricanes.
Despite the hype, Henderson's time in South Beach was marked by numerous drug-related suspensions, causing a car crash by running a red light, and starting just 26 of his 43 games for Miami. After claiming that his partying days were in the past, Henderson's draft stock plummeted to the seventh round in 2014, and he is currently a free agent.
2011: George Farmer - Wide Receiver
George Farmer was the next big thing to hit USC, a school that has had their fair share of high-profile busts in recent years. However, in Farmer's case, he had unfortunate injury luck that ultimately derailed a once-promising career. Concussion problems held him out of action during the majority of his freshman year, accompanied by an ill-fated switch to running back that was ultimately ditched next season.
The Trojan wideout then suffered a tough string of injuries during his next two seasons, which included a poisonous spider bite and a torn ACL during preseason that cost him his entire junior year. After just one healthy season, he still had just 363 total receiving yards during his time at USC. He went undrafted in 2015 and bounced around NFL practice squads for the next two years.
Still, no one can deny that if injuries hadn't derailed him, Farmer's athletic ability could have shined at USC.
2012: Noah Spence - Defensive End
On the field, Noah Spence was a force to be reckoned with for Urban Meyer's Ohio State team. In his sophomore year, he racked up eight sacks and fifty tackles from the edge spot, showcasing a set of pass rushing skills that had many in Columbus feeling jubilant about a potential junior year.
Those hopes were dashed after Spence was banned for the 2013 team's Orange Bowl game after testing positive for MDMA. After another failed drug test in September of 2014, Spence was banned from Big Ten play the following month. After transferring to Eastern Kentucky the next season, Spence declared for the draft, where he was taken in the second round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
2012: Dorial Green-Beckham - Wide Receiver
Similar to Noah Spence, Missouri commit Dorial Green-Beckham was a terrific talent, catching twelve touchdowns during his sophomore year with the Tigers.
However, his off-field troubles were quite simply out of control.
After getting arrested twice for marijuana issues, he was then charged with attempted burglary and had an altercation with a woman, despite no charges being pressed. Additionally, he was also investigated for domestic abuse of his then-girlfriend following a troubling text message, an incident that got him kicked out of Missouri.
Despite being picked in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Green-Beckham was out of the league just two years later.
2013: Max Browne - Quarterback
When USC landed quarterback Max Browne, he was seen as the centerpiece of a talented 2013 class. Ultimately, he was doomed by a combination of poor performance and a lack of opportunity. Cody Kessler's solid play prevented Browne from getting a shot until his senior year.
However, after drubbings at the hands of Alabama and Stanford to start the 2016 season, head coach Clay Helton promoted freshman phenom Sam Darnold to start at QB, pushing Browne to the bench. After transferring to Pittsburgh for his final season of NCAA eligibility, Browne only managed to throw for 997 yards and five touchdowns, ending his football career.
2013: Derrick Green - Running Back
Derrick Green entered his first season with the Michigan Wolverines as a powerful downhill runner rated as the best high school running back in the nation. Hailed as a major signing for Brady Hoke's program, Green's tenure got off to a rocky start when he showed up to training camp at twenty pounds overweight.
After a promising start to his sophomore season, Green broke his clavicle, causing him to miss the remainder of Hoke's final season of coaching in Ann Arbor. New head coach Jim Harbaugh relegated Green to the bench for most of his junior year, and he eventually filed a request to transfer from Michigan, never playing college football again.
2015: Byron Cowart - Defensive End
Expectations for Cowart were sky-high when he decided to commit to Auburn. Sadly, he never came close to reaching his potential while playing for the Tigers. Coming into his junior year, the edge rusher had just seventeen career tackles, but fans still had high hopes.
These dreams never panned out; after just three tackles in two games during the 2017 season, Cowart decided to transfer, never starting a game for Auburn.
After an improved but still slightly underwhelming season at Maryland, Cowart still managed to get drafted by the New England Patriots in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He recently recorded his first career sack in the team's loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 14 of the 2020 season.