Inside Texas Blog: The Unnoticed

Many of the best players in all of college football received little recognition coming out of high school. Inside Texas' Ross Lucksinger runs down his list of the best Longhorn players were rated low, but ended up becoming key contributors for Texas.

Each year analysts rank the top high school players in the country and assign them a rating of between one and five stars. While they do an impressive job, there are occasional slip-ups. Clearly with the sheer number of prospects to analyze, they're bound to be incorrect (sometimes very incorrect) with some. Here are the best Longhorns since the 2002 class to receive three or fewer star coming out of high school.

2002 Class

-Lyle Sendlein, DE, Chaparrel HS, Scottsdale Arizona: 3 stars, 57th overall defensive end

The 6'4" Sendlein was the lowest rated out of the five defensive ends in Mack Brown's 2002 class, but he didn't end up at defensive end did he? He switched to the offensive line and last season took over as the starting center. Now, Sendlein is a Rimmington Award candidate (nation's best center) and will be leading one of the strongest offensive lines in all of college football.

-Kasey Studdard, DE, Highlands Ranch HS, Highlands Ranch Colorado: 3 stars, 41st overall defensive end.

Yet another convert from the defensive side of the ball, Studdard was the second lowest ranked DE in the class. Since coming to Texas, he has added over 45 pounds to his frame and has a motor that won't quit. Studdard has also started every single game since he was a sophomore.

-Brian Robison, LB, Splendora HS, Splendora, Texas: 1 star, unranked

Coming out of high school all the indicators were there (380 bench press, 500 squat, 39" vertical, 3.9 GPA) and Robison went largely unnoticed by scouts who considered him "too slow" to play linebacker. Not a problem, just spin him down to defensive end and let him reek havoc. Now Robison is on Hendricks Award watch list (nation's best defensive end) and will team with Tim Crowder to create one of the country's most dangerous rush combos. Ironically, not a single one of the aforementioned five defense ends ever started a game at that position.

An honorable mention goes out to Vince Young. Yes, he was rated the No. 1 overall quarterback and given five stars, but maybe we should have gone outside the box and given him seven or eight…or 114 stars.

2003 Class

-Michael Griffin, CB, Bowie HS, Austin, Texas: 3 stars, 26th overall cornerback

238 tackles, 11 TFL, three sacks, four INTs, 13 pass break-ups, five caused fumbles, five fumble recoveries and a UT record six blocked punts. How many stars was that again?

The most underrated components of this recruiting class were in the defensive backfield. Brandon Foster, Erick Jackson and Michael's brother Marcus Griffin were all a part of this group and rated three stars or lower (Marcus isn't even on the list because he was brought in a preferred walk-on before earning a scholarship). Those three only get honorable mentions because this is the season where we expect big things from them.

2004 Class

-Cedric Dockery, OL, Lakeview Centennial HS, Garland Texas: 3 stars, 46th overall offensive lineman

Against tough competition, it looks like Cedric Dockery will be taking over the starting right guard position of the defending national champion Texas. Pretty good for a player who one scout said didn't "possess the same killer instinct you often see from a man his size" and had the "luxery" of playing next to 6-4, 310 pound top tackle recruit Barry Dillard. (I'd haven't heard a damn thing about Dillard since his senior year at Lakeview Centennial. Nothing.)

-Rashad Bobino, LB, La Marque HS, La Marque, Texas: 2 stars, 96th overall linebacker

He's short. Short people aren't allowed to be ranked very high.

But he had 154 tackles his senior season at La Marque!

Doesn't matter he's short.

But he lead his team to a perfect 16-0 season and a 4A state championship! He squats 635 pounds and runs a 4.6!

Doesn't matter. Short.

-Ramonce Taylor, CB, Belton HS, Belton, Texas: 3 stars, 29th overall cornerback

Taylor's recent troubles…ok, ALL of Taylor's troubles aside, he ended up being one of the most talented players in the 2004 class. Taylor's athleticism was evident by his combine numbers: 4.35 in the forty, 37.1-inch vertical leap, 4.13 shuttle. The numbers that scouts really should have picked up on were his yards in high school. In his junior year at Belton, Taylor had 1,529 yards on 218 carries with seven touchdowns. Impressive, but not eye-popping. What was truly astounding about these numbers were that Belton had just moved up from 4A to 5A and lost all but one starter. Behind an entirely raw line and playing up a division, he put up those numbers. The following season? 2,200 all-purpose yards with 28 touchdowns. Now that's eye-popping.

Boy, did we miss BIG TIME in the '04. This was supposed to be one of the weakest in Mack Browns tenure at UT. The 21-member class averaged at 3 and a third stars a piece…and yet some of the most important players on the current Longhorns squad can be found here. I pulled out Dockery, Taylor and Bobino because they stood out to me the most, but some other notable three-star prospects from this group are Jeremy Campbell, Brian Orakpo and Derek Lokey. Ironically, the three-stars have outperformed the four-stars: Bobby Tatum, George Walker and Jordan Shipley. At least the five star rankings on Frank Okam and Drew Kelson were spot-on.

2005 Class

No players of note. The only three star or less players in this class are punter Trevor Gerland, offensive lineman Chris Hall, running back Jerrell Wilkerson and offensive lineman Charlie Tanner. We'll have to wait and see how these guys pan out.

Naturally I can't definitively name anyone in the '06 and '07 class as "underrated" because they haven't played a game for the Longhorns yet. So instead, here are my predictions as to which 3 star or lower players from the next two recruiting classes will turn into Texas stars.

Predictions for the 2006 Class

-Ben Alexander, DT, T. L. Hanna HS, Anderson, South Carolina: 3 stars, 44th overall defensive tackle

At 5'11" 288, Alexander is considered a little undersized for the position, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for it with intensity, explosiveness and speed. Mack Brown doesn't go out of state unless he's sure on a prospect and Alexander has spectacular potential.

-Robert Joseph, S, Memorial HS, Port Arthur, Texas: 3 stars, 54th overall safety

Joseph has a great understanding of the game of football and takes accurate angles to the ball (one of the most important skills for a safety). When he gets to the ball, he hits like a freight train. Why was he ranked so low? Early in the recruiting process, Joseph ran a disappointing 4.75 40 and was considered too slow to play DB at the next level. However, that was likely just a bad run because recently Joseph ran the 40 again and was clocked 4.54.

Honorable mentions from this class are two-star kicker Hunter Lawrence (since he will probably take over kicking duties as a true freshman) and Wimberley offensive lineman Buck Burnette.

Predictions for the 2007 Class

-Brandon Collins, WR, Brenham HS, Brenham, Texas: 1 star, unranked

Though a little undersized, Collins has reportedly been clocked as low as 4.31 in the 40 and has shown nice hands when catching the football. What I liked most about Collins, though, when watching film of him is his acceleration and ability to change direction. His explosiveness was an issue for high school DBs. They'd take what looked like a good angle on the play, then Collins would hit the afterburners and turn it into a very bad angle. That ability to get a jump on people may be another reason he eventually ends up a cornerback, but wherever it is, he'll make a big impact for the Longhorns.

-Zack Pianalto, TE, Springdale HS, Springdale, Arkansas: 3 stars, unranked

Pianalto has spent most of his time off of the line at the WR position and will have to learn to develop his blocking when he gets to Texas. He's got the frame (a stout 6'4") and once he adds some bulk could be a dangerous threat coming off the line. He'll have to compete for playing time with the two tight ends from the '06 class and the other two tight ends from his own class, but with his sure hands, he'll find the field.

There are actually only two other players in this class rated three stars or less. ratings-wise, this will be one of the most impressive classes in UT history, containing five five-star and 13 four-star prospects.

So there you have it. For the most part, the ratings have been very solid (which is an amazingly difficult thing to do), but there will always be those that slip through the cracks and go unnoticed, until they make the big play and make all of us wonder: where did that guy come from?

What do you think?

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