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).
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.
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.