Taking A Look Back
Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush
Scout.com National Analyst
Posted Oct 2, 2006

For the past four years we have brought all the recruiting junkies a college football recruiting yearbook both pre- and post-recruiting season. Starting today, Scout.com will present an excerpt from this month's yearbook focusing on previous classes with some of the hits and the misses in the class of 2003.

Over those years we highlighted and profiled many great prospects and recruiting classes. Most have gone on to have good-to-great college football careers, and some are now playing on Sundays. And then there are those who didn’t live up to the hype, or much anything else after high school. That’s the way it is in the recruiting and evaluation game. It’s an inexact science for both the recruiting analysts and the college coaches.

Given that, Scout.com wanted to look back at our first recruiting yearbook (the Class of 2003) and see what happened to the nation’s top 100 prospects and which recruiting classes really turned out special. Some prospects and classes sizzled, while others fizzled.

Speaking of sizzle, nine players from the Class of 2003 declared early for the NFL as true juniors, including six who were first-round draft picks this past April. That list includes the first two selections, super NC State defensive end Mario Williams (Houston) and the spectacular USC running back Reggie Bush (New Orleans). In fact, five of the top nine players selected were top 100 prospects, including our top prospect in 2003, Florida State linebacker Ernie Sims (Detroit). Sims was the ninth selection overall. The other two draftees were Maryland tight end Vernon Davis (San Francisco, No. 6 pick overall) and Ohio State safety Donte Whitner (Buffalo, No. 8 overall). FSU cornerback Antonio Cromartie (San Diego, No. 19 overall) also was selected despite not playing a down in ‘05. Florida wide receiver Chad Jackson (New England) and UCLA running back Maurice Drew (Jacksonville) were both selected in the second round, while Florida cornerback Dee Webb (Jacksonville) was picked up in the last round in April’s draft.

Who among the Class of 2003 turned out the best? Well, based on college performance it’s safe to say it was USC running back Reggie Bush. Simply put, he was off the charts. In fact there may not be an appropriate adjective to really describe what he did on the football field for the men of Troy. Bush made highlight reel plays time and time again. When the Trojans needed heroics late in the game, Bush was there, and boy did he deliver. He won rings and a big trophy (Heisman). Coming out of high school, Bush was the No. 3 rated running back prospect in the country behind two players who will be featured a little later in this article, Demetris Summers (South Carolina) and Kregg Lumpkin (Georgia).

Mario Williams and Reggie Bush
Mario Williams and Reggie Bush went 1, 2 in April's draft
Bush was the top player to enter the NFL draft, but he wasn’t the first pick. That distinction went to defensive end Mario Williams of the Wolfpack. Williams, like another standout from the state of North Carolina, Julius Peppers, is a freak coming off the edge at the defensive end position. Athletic, speedy and quick, Williams did it all in high school, where he played running back, tight end, defensive end and linebacker. He was a four-year starter that also played special teams. Get this, in those four years of high school football he never once came off the field. Williams played every single snap for Richlands (N.C.) High School. That projects to about 4,800 plays! He graduated in December of his senior year and showed up to Raleigh the following January. Williams shattered the tackles for loss (55.5) and sack (26.5) records at North Carolina State. He was the No. 4 rated defensive end in the nation when he came out of high school.

Ernie Sims was the nation’s top prospect in ’03. Sims played both running back and linebacker. He signed with Florida State, where he could have played on either side of the ball, but he chose defense. He played in 38 games for FSU and finished his career with 200 tackles, seven sacks and 21 tackles for a loss. Sims led the Lions in tackles through the first two weeks of the NFL season.

Tight end Vernon Davis was a very good player for Ralph Friedgen and the Terrapins. He is the type of player who has the physical attributes to redefine that position. Davis is freakishly strong and fast for a player his size. He is a wide receiver trapped inside a tight end’s body. The NFL is a game of match-ups, and he should provide plenty of match-up problems for the 49ers opposition as they try to defend him on Sundays. We considered him a “tweener” a few years ago. Regardless, he was the No. 7 tight end prospect in the country.

Antonio Cromartie
Antonio Cromartie at this spring's combine
Perhaps the most interesting alum from our Class of 2003 was Antonio Cromartie. He stayed home and played for the Seminoles, and he played as a true freshman on special teams and in a reserve role at cornerback. Cromartie started as a sophomore and made a ton of big plays for the FSU defense. Scouts were already touting him as a very high first-round pick if he decided to go pro after his junior season. Then, before that junior year, Cromartie tore up his knee and didn’t play a down last season. Still, he was a first-round pick. It is extremely hard to find big corners with speed, and that’s exactly what Cromartie brings to the table. Scout.com originally rated Cromartie very high at the wide receiver position. Then, late in the recruiting season, we switched him to cornerback, where he was ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the country at that position.

Who was the top cornerback that season? It was none other than Donte Whitner. He started a run of highly rated defensive backs from Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville High School. Whitner eventually played safety for the Ohio State Buckeyes. He didn’t have great success early on for the Buckeyes, but he showed flashes of things to come. Then he had a big year last season as a big-play defensive back. A year later, his former teammate at Glenville, Ted Ginn, Jr., was also our top rated cornerback prospect, and Ginn was also the Scout.com National Player of the Year.

Tomorrow we will look into the offense, Wednesday at the defense, and Thursday at the top twenty teams on signing day 2003. Later today at 12 EDT (9 PDT), the current class will begin to see updates as well with the Scout.com National 100 updated at that time.

Related Stories
Class of 2003 Offense
 -by FOXSportsRecruiting.com  Oct 3, 2006
Kubiak's Monday Q&A
 -by BattleRedNation.com  Oct 3, 2006
A Win is a Win
 -by BattleRedNation.com  Oct 4, 2006

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RB Reggie Bush (profile)
CB Antonio Cromartie (profile)
TE Vernon Davis (profile)
FL Ted Ginn Jr. (profile)
WR Chad Jackson (profile)
RB Kregg Lumpkin (profile)
LB Ernie Sims (profile)
CB Dee Webb (profile)
S Donte Whitner (profile)
DE Mario Williams (profile)
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