Timothy Lutes | USCfootball.com

So is it in the stars?

So which is it? Do stars matter? Or don't they. We take a look at USC's eight invitees to the NFL Combine to see what the numbers say.

Here's a note we got last week. We get them a lot. This one is a list of NFL players from Sports Illustrated.

Doug Baldwin, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, David Johnson, Alex Mack, Khalil Mack, Doug Martin, Clay Matthews, Devin McCourty, Jordy Nelson, Josh Norman, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Sitton, Aqib Talib, Bobby Wagner, J.J. Watt and Russell Wilson.

OK, some really good NFL players. But that's not the link here. What connects these guys for purposes of this list is that they were all two-star prospects or less coming out of high school.

So there you have it. Point made. The star system isn't worth the Internet space it takes up, some will argue. And yet, is that really the case? What do we really know?

Well, on this week when USC is sending a group of eight invitees from four different recruiting classes to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, we might be able to extrapolate some conclusions here. After all, USC is back in the top five or so recruiting juggernauts now.

And with 220 all-time Combine invites, USC is in the top four there barely behind Florida State's 226, and the 224 of Florida and Miami and just ahead of Ohio State's 216 and surprisingly farther ahead of Alabama's 191.

So we decided to see what this one USC group tells us. Do recruiting stars really matter? How much of a predictor are they?

Do they really tell you with any sort of precision how guys will turn out in college?

Yes, no and maybe.

That's how this USC group answers that question.

You can pretty much find evidence for whatever your point of view is. Although how in the world the above crew were two-stars or less is mind-boggling.

Just take J.J. Watt for example. A little more than a year ago he was in town to do some commercial shoots and was working out at USC in the early,early morning. And as we were headed to practice from a parking garage, here was J.J. bounding up the stairs to his car. And as you watch a 6-foot-5, 290-pound guy with the bounce of a speed back and the hops of a hurdler and the build of the most athletic tight end or biggest linebacker you've ever seen, you can know for certain there was no time in his life when he was a two-star. His freakish athleticism would have never allowed that legitimately. But stuff happens.

Indeed it does.

CLASS OF 2009: The first of our Trojans makes that clear. Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, Class of 2009 coming out of Salt Lake City East High School, was apparently on no one's radar with no stars despite what appears to be a more than decent high school career. Not a two-star. Not a one-star. Zip for Stevie.

He even had to walk-on for his hometown Utah Utes across town. Made the team, went on a Mormon mission for three years, was injured another and finally got his chance as a grad student transfer at USC at the age of 25. Not even a starter, his critics said. Although you weren't hearing much of that after the season, after his defensive MVP stint in the Rose Bowl or his impressive work at the Senior Bowl.

So we'll mark Stevie down as evidence that stars clearly do not matter. Although in Stevie's case, neither did his Utah undergrad career.

CLASS OF 2012: The next USC recruiting class makes the case that it's not all about the five-stars. That class had a single five-star -- safety Gerald Bowman -- the Philly guy by way of the JuCo route who still hasn't quite caught on after leaving two years ago. Of this class's three headed to Indy -- there are a pair of four-stars, Zach Banner and Darreus Rogers, and a three-star Chad Wheeler, one of the trio of three-stars in that class with Morgan Breslin and Devian Shelton.

But that's hardly the whole story for this four-star-studded class that has four Trojans -- all four-stars -- already in the NFL. Those would be Leonard Williams, Nelson Agholor, Max Tuerk and Kevon Seymour in what could turn out to be one of USC's better NFL classes in a long while.

CLASS OF 2013: If 2012 made the case for four-stars, the next year turned the other direction. The lone invitee from that class to Indy is five-star tailback Justin Davis, one of five five-stars in that class. Another, Su'a Cravens, left a year ago for the Combine and the NFL. And three others -- DL Kenny Bigelow coming off knee surgery at USC and transfers QB Max Browne (at Pittsburgh) and RB Ty Isaac (Michigan) -- have a final shot this fall.

None of the seven four-stars in that class is headed to Indy although Leon McQuay surely should be. But three of them -- Nico Falah, Chris Hawkins and a post-operative Steven Mitchell, will have another season to get there.  

CLASS OF 2014: But then again, maybe it's all about the five-stars. That's what the Class of 2014's profile seems to be saying. That USC recruiting class had three five-stars -- Adoree' Jackson, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Damien Mama -- and they're all headed to Indy, all leaving USC early for the NFL.

That 2014 group had nine four-stars and none will be in Indy. Neither will any of the seven three-stars. Some are gone. But 10 of them -- five each among the four- and three-stars -- will be in the mix this spring. The four-stars are Toa Lobendahn, Viane Talamaivao, Chris Brown, Jonathan Lockett and John Plattenburg. The returning threes are Uchenna Nwosu, Ajene Harris, Malik Dorton, Jordan Austin and Jalen Greene.

So there you have it. Do stars matter?

Based on our USC sample, sometimes they do. Much of the time they do.

And then again, sometimes they don't.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.


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