In college football, five-star recruits attract attention from fans and media alike when they embark on their careers. From injuries to other factors, though, some struggle to see the field in their first or second seasons. Others play but do not quite live up to the recruiting ranking. There are many former five-stars entering a crucial season come the fall of 2022, such as LSU running back John Emery Jr. He is a player that missed all of the Tigers’ 2021, due to academic issues.
“You know, one of the traits that we talk about — and they’re traits of excellence because they get you to your journey — is graduating champions,” LSU head coach Brian Kelly said of Emery during a recent interview, following the spring. “He showed grit. Like, he could have tapped out of that. But he has had to really persevere to get to this point. I’m proud of him.”
Emery sounds like a player who will get an opportunity to bounce back, but some might continue to have to fight into the preseason.
Here are 10 former five-star recruits entering a make-or-break season:
EDGE SA’VELL SMALLS, WASHINGTON
247Sports Composite: No. 30 in 2020
Smalls’ commitment to the Washington as a member of the Class of 2020 energized the fan base. The program had been able to bring in-state talent into the locker room but had its struggles with keeping the biggest names in the state. The signing of Smalls felt like a shift was on the way. But since his arrival, he has not had the impact fans have envisioned, or himself for that matter. The 2020 campaign was a tough one for most due to COVID-19,
“I’m a grinder, always been a dude who puts his head down and works and doesn’t worry about the outside noise,” Smalls said during a recent interview. “I’m a firm individual. I just like to do me and I hope I can rub off on people around me the right way, and that’s what I try to do with my guys in the locker room every day. So I’ve been here. I’m from Seattle. I can go home and see my mom, see my dad, see my little brothers whenever I want to. And I feel I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to and any of the dreams I still have. I’ve been here the whole time. I never wavered.”
RB DEMARKUS BOWMAN, FLORIDA
247Sports Composite: No. 20 in 2020 class
Bowman was the No. 2 overall running back in the 2020 class but a virtual non-factor (14 carries, 81 yards) last season as a redshirt freshman, after transferring in from Clemson. With a new staff in place, though, he has the opportunity. The Gators’ top two rushers from last season (Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis) are gone, and the most experienced back in the room (Nay’Quan Wright) missed the spring recovering from a torn ACL. Montrell Johnson, who comes over from Louisiana after rushing for 838 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, is quite familiar to the new Gators staff and he is set to have a role. Bowman must establish himself as one of the Gators’ top two backs.