Hidden Gems

You have bluechippers, five-star prospects and high school all-americans. And then you have the lowly two-star player or unrated recruit. He's the guy that no one else wanted and/or no recruiting analyst bothered to cover.

You have bluechippers, five-star prospects and high school all-americans. And then you have the lowly two-star or unrated recruit. He's the guy that no one else wanted and/or no recruiting analyst bothered to cover.

That player is also the reason why coaches get paid to evaluate talent and Pack Pride takes a look back at five of the top sleepers to play at NC State this decade.

5. Jamelle Eugene

Okay, Eugene hasn't completed his career at NC State but that's irrelevant. If you take the guru's opinion literally, the Naples (FL) standout has already surpassed expectations by a mile.

Exiting high school, he was a consensus two-star prospect that was unranked at his position. The experts thought he was too small, too slow and accordingly, gave Eugene little or no coverage during his senior season.

Jamelle Eugene

After rushing for better than 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior in high school, Eugene redshirted at NC State in 2005 but was named the top newcomer on offense as a freshman. In 2006, he played in all 12 games and even started against Florida State.

This past season Eugene stepped his play up when tailbacks Toney Baker and Andre Brown went down with injuries. He finished the year with three 100-yard rushing efforts, including a personal best of 159 yards on the ground in a win over UNC. Eugene would go on to start the final six games of the 2007 season and finish off the season with 667 yards rushing and five scores in addition to hauling in 42 receptions for 263 yards and an additional score.

Eugene has been named the Wolfpack's starting tailback heading into the 2008 season, and with two years of eligibility remaining he is one of NC State's most-proven players.

4. Oliver Hoyte

Here's a player that Scout.com really missed the boat on. Hoyte finished off his senior season with a grand total of one star when the rankings were all said and done. ONE.

Although he did boast scholarship offers from several major division one schools, the recruiting sites simply never picked up on Hoyte despite him playing in talent-rich Tampa, Florida.

Oliver Hoyte

At NC State, Hoyte developed a reputation for being a ferocious hitter. Although not the fastest player around, he always seemed to find his way to the ball and emerged as one of the Pack's most reliable linebackers.

A three-year starter for the Wolfpack at middle linebacker, Hoyte played in 49 games, starting 32 of those contests. During his career, he would total 342 tackles, 12 quarterback hurries, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles.

Hoyte would land with the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie free agent after leaving NC State. Originally signed as a linebacker, Hoyte was moved to fullback and appeared in 22 games over the last two years while with Dallas. He would start 15 of those contests and became an integral part of the Cowboy's run game.

After being released by Dallas after the 2007 season, Hoyte was claimed off waivers by the Kansas City Chiefs and will battle for the starting fullback position in 2008.

3. John McCargo

John McCargo was a jack of all trades at Randolph Henry High School in Charlotte Court House, Virginia. He played defensive tackle, was one of the team's leading rushers, and even kicked extra points.

However, none of the major analysts on the recruiting circuit picked up on him and he was basically unrated as a senior in high school. Scout.com rated him a one-star recruit. Doug Doughty of The Roanoke Times listed McCargo as one of the top prospects in Virginia but admitted his rating was probably too low. "I had McCargo rated 81st in the state," Doughty said at the time. "Obviously, he belonged in the top 50."

John McCargo

Not only did the analysts miss on him, but college scouts did too. NC State was the only Division I-A school to offer a scholarship, as James Madison offered as well, and he received some interest from Virginia and East Carolina.

Recruited to play defensive tackle, McCargo had an instant impact at NC State. Lining up at defensive tackle, McCargo tallied 52 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback pressures as a redshirt freshman. He would earn freshman all-american honors for his efforts. As a sophomore, McCargo's numbers would drop a bit but were still impressive, as he posted 47 tackles and five tackles for loss.

In 2005, McCargo roared out of the blocks by tallying 12 tackles for loss in the first six games of the year but would suffer a broken foot against Wake Forest and miss the remainder of the regular season.

Despite missing half of his junior season, McCargo decided to enter the 2006 NFL Draft, and surprisingly, was taken in the first round (No. 26 overall) by Buffalo. In two seasons with the Bills, McCargo has had 35 tackles and 2.5 sacks, and early reports suggest he could have a big 2008 season.

2. Manny Lawson

Now in a recruiting age where a single prospect can accrue 40 or 50 articles before he ever starts his senior season, times were much different back in 2002.

In fact, Manny Lawson would have just one interview done with him prior to committing to NC State in January of that year. I actually woke Lawson up from a nap when I called, but he instantly transformed into the charismatic Manny Lawson that Wolfpack fans would grow to love over the next four years.

From a ratings standpoint, Lawson wasn't a big-time recruit. Rivals.com tabbed him a two-star prospect and he was a one-star recruit according to Scout.com.

Although he never registered a blip on the recruiting radar of the national analysts, college coaches who headed into Eastern Wayne High fell in love with Lawson's potential and athleticism. Tennessee, Maryland, North Carolina, Duke, NC State, and East Carolina all offered scholarships before Lawson inked with the Wolfpack.

Manny Lawson
Lawson was a tall, lanky player with tremendous athleticism and a non-stop motor. He played wide receiver, tight end, linebacker, and defensive end in high school, and on signing day head coach Chuck Amato described the hidden gem.

"He's taller, heavier, stronger and faster at this point than Pete Boulware was when he was a freshman in college (at FSU)," Amato said. "What did he weigh? 208 pounds. He wasn't that big as a freshman, and then he redshirted.

"So maybe [Lawson] can be a big-time, up-the-field rush end, like so many youngsters that [come in as] tight ends."

Although it took some time, Amato proved to be correct as Lawson developed into an elite defensive end. He would begin his career at linebacker but was most-deadly on special teams. Lawson would block five punts in his first two seasons at State, while returning another for a touchdown and would finish his career with a total of seven.

During his sophomore season, Lawson switched to defensive end for NC State's matchup with Kansas in the Tangerine Bowl, and he quickly made an impact. Lawson would finish the contest with eight tackles, a batted pass and blocked punt.

With that, he established himself as one of the ACC's most promising defensive ends. Over the next two seasons, he would collect 125 tackles, 33 tackles for loss and 18 sacks. He was named all-conference twice and even landed national defensive player of the week honors after a three-sack performance against Virginia Tech.

Lawson would go on to be drafted in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft by San Francisco. He would start 12 games that year and finish off the season with 57 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception. Lawson would miss most of the 2007 season due to a knee injury but appears to be on track to return 100% this fall.

1. Jerricho Cotchery

When you look up the word sleeper in the dictionary, there should be a bold reference to Jerricho Cotchery.

About the time I started covering football recruiting for NC State, the Wolfpack landed a commitment from Cotchery. This turned out to be a small problem because there wasn't a single reference on any website or magazine to be found. Nothing. I knew he played for Phillips High School in Birmingham, Alabama, and I knew he played shooting guard for Phillips High School in Birmingham, Alabama.

Jerricho Cotchery
All else that was known was that then-NC State coach Joe Pate had done his part to persuade Cotchery and fellow Alabamian Philip Rivers to run with the Pack... as they say, the rest is history.

When all was said and done Cotchery would go on to become the greatest wide receiver in NC State history not named Torry Holt. He broke the school record with 200 career receptions and 15 100-yard receiving games. Cotchery would finish second to Holt in career receiving yards (3,119) and touchdowns (21). He also caught at least one pass in 39 consecutive games, which ties for the longest streak in school history.

In fact, Cotchery and Florida State's Peter Warrick are the only two receivers in ACC history to record 200 career receptions and 3,000 career receiving yards.

As a senior, he hauled in 86 receptions for 1,369 yards, both second-highest in ACC history, and would finish off his career as a two-time All-ACC selection.

Not the biggest and certainly not the fastest, Cotchery has earned a reputation for being a tough-as-nails player with tremendous work ethic. He took those attributes to the NY Jets in 2004 and has steadily improved each season, emerging now as one of the top receiving threats in the NFL. This past season, Cotchery tallied 82 receptions for 1,130 yards and two touchdowns. For his career, he has a total of 189 receptions for 2,402 yards and eight scores.


Pack Pride Top Stories