Colorado Recruiting Class of 2009 – A Look Back

If you regularly check out the CU at the GameArchive Game of the Week“, you have likely noticed that this spring we have been rotating through CU seasons in five year increments. Game stories from 1984, 1989, 1994, 1999 and 2004 have been posted, and we are just getting started with the 2009 season.

Currently up on the front page of the website is the first entry for the 2009 season, “The Recruiting Class of 2009“. Now five years removed from the fourth Class of the Dan Hawkins’ era signing their Letters of Intent, it’s worth taking a look back at the members of that Class, and see how they fared compared to the expectations we had for them at the time.

Background

The Recruiting Class of 2009 was signed on the heels of the 2008 season. Colorado was coming off of a 5-7 campaign, the third under Dan Hawkins. Despite the losing record, there was reason for optimism in the Buff Nation in February, 2009. After a disastrous 2-10 record in his first season at Colorado, Hawkins had led the Buffs to a bowl game in 2007. The 6-6 Buffs had fallen to Alabama in the Independence Bowl, leaving CU with a losing record at 6-7, but the perception was that Colorado was on the upswing.

The 2008 season opened well for the Buffs, with Colorado getting off to a 3-0 start. Wins over Colorado State and Eastern Washington were followed by a 17-14 overtime upset win over No. 21 West Virginia. The Buffs were then brought back down to earth with three straight losses, but those losses were too tough opponents – Florida State; No. 5 Texas; and No. 16 Kansas. A bounce back win over Kansas State gave the Buffs a 4-3 record, and plenty of talk about another bowl bid.

Then the bottom fell out.

A 58-0 loss to Missouri was a disaster, with the Buffs suffering their first shutout loss in almost 20 seasons in embarrassing fashion. After a loss to Texas A&M, the ship was briefly righted with a 28-24 win over Iowa State, giving CU a 5-5 record and two chances to pick up win No. 6 and a bowl bid. Instead, the Buffs fell to No. 13 Oklahoma State, 30-17, and to Nebraska, 40-31, to end the season with a 5-7 overall record.

Despite the third straight losing season, there were still positives to take from the 2008 season. Sure, there were seven losses, but four had been to ranked teams, and the Buffs did have a win over a ranked team on the resume. There were only three ranked teams on the upcoming 2009 schedule, so with the addition of more talent from the Class of 2009, the Buffs would be in position to return to their winning ways.

The Recruiting Class of 2009 – An Overview

The Colorado Recruiting Class of 2009 had 19 members, comparatively small compared to the normal Class size of 22-25, and the smallest of all of the Big 12 schools. The Buffs’ Class was ranked 48th nationally by Rivals; 57th by Scout … and 10th in the Big 12.

According to Rivals, CU’s Recruiting Class had four four-star caliber players, eight three-star players, and seven players rated with two stars. Scout had the Buffs’ signing one five-star player, nine three-star players, and nine players with two stars.

At his press conference on Signing Day, CU head coach Dan Hawkins opened talking about “trying to build a culture” at CU, with a “quality balance of life” and that the 2009 class fit that profile. Hawkins pointed out that over 3/4 of the recruits played on playoff teams, and are players who “expect to win”. Hawkins also noted that 3/4 of the recruits were honor roll students, and a number were team captains. When asked if having honor roll students would make a difference in the fall, when his team would be graded on wins and losses, Hawkins replied, “Good things happen to good people”. Coach Hawkins also noted that a number of players from this class were very athletic, playing a number of different sports, and pointedly, “can play a number of different positions”.

The stars

– The star of the Class was defensive end Nick Kasa. Rivals ranked Kasa as the best defensive end in the nation against the run, and its No. 42 player in the country overall. Kasa was the Colorado Defensive Player-of-the-Year, and was labeled by Hawkins as a “dominating factor” who could be “as great as he wants to be”. The coup was that Kasa had committed to play for Florida during the fall of his senior season, but then switched his commitment to Colorado in the weeks leading up to Signing Day.

– Colorado also had three other four-star prospects sign, at least according to Rivals … Jack Harris was an offensive lineman from Parker, and was considered to be the No. 2 prospect from the state of Colorado from the Class of 2009 (behind only Kasa) … Edward Nuckols was a defensive tackle from San Marcos, California, and, if not for the signing of Nick Kasa, would have been considered as one of the highlights of the Class. Nuckols was ranked by Rivals to be the No. 1 defensive tackle out of California that year, and the No. 23 defensive tackle in the nation … Andre Simmons was a wide receiver coming to Boulder from Independence junior college in Kansas. The only junior college player signed by Colorado in 2009, Simmons was considered to be the No. 35 player overall coming out of the junior college ranks, and the No. 6 wide receiver.

Other signees of note

Parker Orms came to CU as the reigning Colorado prep Offensive Player-of-the-Year. All Parker Orms did in the state championship game was score five touchdowns for Wheat Ridge, including the game-winner on a 56-yard run with less than a minute to play. Despite his offensive prowess. Orms was recruited to play safety at Colorado.

Clark Evans and Josh Moten both came to Boulder from the state of California as versatile quarterback prospects. Evans was rated as the No. 31 quarterback prospect in the nation by Scout, and, at 6’5″, was also center on his basketball team. Moten, meanwhile, was to be given first crack at quarterback, according to Hawkins, with Moten to be moved to another position only by “mutual agreement”.

Zach Grossnickle was one of the highest-rated Buffs in the new Class, though, as a kicker, he did not rate as much attention as other members of the Class. Scout had Grossnickle listed as the No. 10 kicker in the nation that spring.

David Bakhtiari was considered only a two-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout. Bakhtiari did not take up football until his junior year in high school (lacrosse was his game), and so was an “under-the-radar” pickup by the Buffs.

– Other names you’ll remember … Tight end DaVaughn Thornton … linebacker Liloa Nobriga … offensive lineman Gus Handler … wide receiver Jarrod Darden … linebacker Derrick Webb … defensive lineman Nate Bonsu.

How the Class of 2009 fared

This past fall was the final season for the Class of 2009, but very few were still around as fifth-year seniors. Center Gus Handler, offensive tackle Jack Harris, linebacker Derrick Webb, and safety Parker Orms were the only starters on last year’s team, with defensive lineman Nate Bonsu the only other recruit left from Signing Day, 2009, on the 2014 roster.

Of course, several players had already used up their eligibility, with David Bakhtiari and Nick Kasa off to the NFL, and Zach Grossnickle off to play his senior season with the Washington Huskies.

Other names on the list, either due to injury or other factors, did not live up to the hope CU fans had for them five springs ago. DaVaughn Thornton, Edward Nuckols, Liloa Nobriga, Terdema Ussery, J. Forrest West, Shaun Simon, Jarrod Darden and Deji Olatoye are now names remembered only by the most ardent of Buff fans.

The legacy of the Class of 2009, of course, is that they never made it to a bowl game, and never posted a winning season. It is also very true that the failure of the team to make it to a bowl game does not rest entirely upon their shoulders. Poor coaching, poor decisions from the athletic administration, and just bad luck helped to conspire against this Class.

Perhaps this realization … The 2009 Colorado prep offensive Player-of-the-Year (Parker Orms) played defense at Colorado, while the Colorado prep defensive Player-of-the-Year (Nick Kasa) wound up playing offensive at Colorado … tells you all you need to know about the Colorado Recruiting Class of 2009.

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3 Replies to “CU Class of 2009 – A Look Back”

  1. Boulderdevil,
    This is an age-old debate, and star ratings doesn’t always correlate with how a recruit pans out, and other factors such as player development and coaching come into play, but to say star rankings don’t mean squat is way off-base. If you consider the initial grade as a kind of investment — a projection of the how likely a player is of becoming an elite contributor compared to rest of the field, then stars matter. There are always exceptions where 5 stars don’t pan out, or vice-versa where under the radar 2 stars become all-conference players, but by and large, the rating system is a fairly accurate predictor of the talent level needed to build a winning team.

    1. Dave,
      I appreciate your feedback, but I still maintain that the professionals such as MacIntyre, Spurrier, Saban, Meyer, etc. (you know, the guys who get millions of $$ a year) are the true arbiters of high school talent for NCAA football.

      Almost all the kids who are given 4 or 5 stars in football are early developers who are physically stronger than most high school athletes. Being an early developer does not automatically mean that will continue into the college years. In some cases, these young men are a year or two older than the kids they are playing against in high school.

      But more important than anything they do in high school is whether they are properly developed and utilized in college. If star ratings were the only thing that mattered, USC would win the national championship just about every year. Their roster is absolutely loaded with 4 and 5 star high school players and has been for decades. Boise State, on the other hand, rarely has a recruiting class in the top 50, yet they have been a top 20 mainstay for many years now.

      Lastly, if the rating system by amateurs was accurate, why can’t they agree on the ratings of players? And how can a 2 star player ever be an all-conference or all-american type of player? It’s simple. Coaches know better than the amateurs doing the ratings.

      Mark
      Boulderdevil

  2. Yo Stuart,

    Star ratings by amateurs don’t mean squat. Getting an offer from Alabama or USC automatically makes a kid a four star prospect in the eyes of the recruiting services. And which of those players from 2009 is starting in the NFL? The 2-star David Bakhtiari.

    The most important thing is player development across the entire team by coaches. MacIntyre and his staff are doing it well. It’s amazing to see the difference all across the board. Hawkins was horrible at it. Embree was not around long enough to tell for sure, but he was handed poorly developed team and it showed.

    By and large, the four and five star kids who have come to Boulder since the rise of the internet recruiting services have been an overall disappointment. With few exceptions, the highest rated recruits arrived with a sense of entitlement and lack of discipline and commitment. 5-Star Darrell Scott could not beat out 2-star Rodney Stewart. Marcus Houston did not want to be yelled at by his position coach Eric Bieniemy. The list goes on.

    I’ll take the guys that MacIntyre brings in who are burning with desire and willing to do the work. I’ll take a 2-star Addison Gillam any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Looking forward to comparing the exploits of 2014 vs. 2009 in another 5-10 years.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

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