A Look Back at the Greatest Football Class in Arkansas State football history.
Or at least the best since the pre-Rivals.com, early 70s classes that produced 11 NFL draft picks from the undefeated 1975 team!
Gus Malzahn took Hugh Freeze’s commits and augmented them with some Auburn “almosts” (such as Rocky Hayes and Bryce Giddens) and rounded up the most highly rated class in A-State history. Rivals was most impressed, and listed 17 3-Star signees* – good enough for the 69th best class in the nation. So the 2014 Red Wolves should have those nationally respected 3-Star players running all over the field this fall!
Not exactly – only 5 remain, and only 2 are returning starters – Michael Gordon and Chris Humes. Of the other 3, OL Jemar Clark has the best chance to crack the first team. Quanterio Heath will contribute significantly as 2nd team LB, while Marquis Walker doesn’t figure to crack the 2-deep.
About the great 2012 Malzahn recruiting class: 17 Rivals 3-Stars were key to #69 rank. Only 3’s left: Gordon, Humes, Clark, Heath, Walker.
— HowlYes (@HowlYes) August 1, 2014
Two of the 17 Rivals 3-star “studs” who were great contributors are no longer with A-State. Junior college transfer Eddie Butler was a big part of a defense that won 18 games, including 2 bowls, during his two year tenure. Bryce Giddens, who looked to be a 4 year starter and one of the best centers in Arkansas State history, was forced to hang up his cleats because of concussions. These two were very good players for the Red Wolves.
The other 10 Rivals 3-star darlings were busts. That’s right, 29% of “the 17” remain on campus, and 12% have starting spots nailed down, but 59% of those 3-star studs, that made college football take note of Malzahn’s recruiting magic, were busts. All that Malzahn recruiting hoopla and we are left with two for sure starters, one of which was Freeze commit Michael Gordon. What a bunch of overblown hype! Without all those risky 3-star busts, Malzahn’s class wouldn’t have been nearly as highly respected nationally. It was a a 3-star facade; a house of cards had projected Malzahn’s greatness.
NOT SO FAST, MY FRIEND
While not many of those 3-Star studs will be around to help try to propel A-State to a 4th consecutive conference championship and bowl game, a not so highly touted portion of Malzahn’s class will play a significant role in 2014’s success: those ho-hum Rivals 2-star recruits. It appears that when Malzahn wasn’t busy polishing up the 2012 class for maximum hype, he actually spent some time identifying some extremely talented, and overlooked football players. Two-star guys like Rocky Hayes, Colton Jackson, Fredi Knighten, Tres Houston, Darrious Rosser, and Dexter Blackmon all project as starters in 2014. The sparkling veneer might be off that great 2012 class, but there is plethora of talent remaining at the core. Thanks for the national hype, as well as the residual quality, Gus. Both have served great purpose for Arkansas State football, and will continue to do so in the coming years.
*Marquis Walker was part of the original 17, but is no longer listed with that class on Rivals. He gray-shirted due to injury after having been originally announced with this group on 2012 Signing Day Central on the official A-State Athletics website.
In fairness, Malzahn also attracted some highly regarded transfers such as Michael Dyer, Travis Bodenstein, and David Oku. The success rates of those transfers mimics that of the 3-star group – a mixed bag.