Don’t fret if your school didn’t sign any five-star recruits during the recent National Signing Day for football. And don’t worry if your favorite team came up short on inking four-star players, either. History has shown that many good players arrive on campus as two- recruits. Really. It’s true.
I looked back over the recruiting rankings of Scout.com from 2003-2011, a nine-year period that allowed for time for the players to develop and show what they have. From that, I came up with an All-Big Ten team comprise of two-star recruits. And, as you can see, it’s a pretty formidable squad for a bunch “undesirable” recruits.
WR Brian Robiskie, Ohio State, 2005: He developed into a second-round NFL pick after helping the Buckeyes to the BCS title game in the 2007 season. Robiskie caught 177 passes (14.7 ypc) for 34 touchdowns.
WR Eric Decker, Minnesota, 2005: Despite having his senior season end early due to injury, Decker still impressed and left school as an all-time great. He had 228 catches for 3,119 yards and 24 scored. Decker was a third-round NFL selection.
TE Dustin Keller, Purdue, 2003: He was headed to Toledo before a late offer from Purdue. Keller is an astounding athlete with great leaping skills who developed into a first-round pick.
QB Kirk Cousins, Michigan State, 2007: He led the Spartans to back-to-back 11-win seasons. He was headed to Toledo or Western Michigan but ended up with MSU only after Mark Dantonio failed to land his other quarterback recruits. Cousins went 4-0 vs. Michigan and was a fourth-round pick.
RB Laurence Maroney, Minnesota, 2003: Maroney split time his first two years with Marion Barber III—then with Gary Russell. No matter, Maroney notched 3,933 yards rushing in just three seasons before turning pro and was a first-round NFL selection.
RB Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State, 2010: The big and physical Bell opted to turn pro after last season. Why not? He amassed a career 3,346 yards rushing and 33 TDs and was an absolute workhorse (382 car., 1,793 yards, 12 TD) in his junior campaign.
OL Mark Huyge, Michigan, 2007. He appeared in 38 games and made 29 starts, becoming a key part of a Wolverine line that helped lead the program to the Sugar Bowl title his senior season.
OL Marshall Yanda, Iowa, 2005: He began his career at a junior college before blossoming into a third-round NFL pick and Pro Bowler. He was a Super Bowl champ this season, too.
OL John Urschel, Penn State, 2009: Not only is he a math whiz, but Urschel developed into a key cog on the Nittany Lions’ line after arriving with no fanfare.
OL Rodger Saffold, Indiana, 2006: He moved into the starting lineup midway through his freshman year at left tackle and never left. He went on to be a second-round pick.
OL Ted Karras, Illinois, 2011: He redshirted as a freshman and then won a starting job at guard last season. He was one of the steadiest players on an Illini line that had its struggles last season.
DL Jerel Worthy, Michigan State, 2008: He was redshirted upon arriving after being offered scholarships from the likes of Akron, Cincinnati, Marshall and Ohio. Worthy became an All-American and second-round pick.
DL Whitney Mercilus, Illinois, 2008: He did little his first two seasons before exploding into an all-league performer in 2011 and turning pro after earning the Ted Hendrick Award. He was a first-round draft choice.
DL Rob Ninkovich, Purdue, 2004: He began his career in obscurity at a junior college before matriculating to Purdue. He was a second-team All-Big Ten pick as a senior before being a fifth-round selection.
DL Tyler Scott, Northwestern, 2009. He has developed into one of the Big Ten’s top pass rushers, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors and team defensive MVP accolades last season for a resurgent Wildcat defense. He will be back for his senior season.
LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin, 2009: He has been a first-team All-Big Ten choice each of the past two seasons, playing with unmatched passion and intensity. He’ll be a senior this fall and Butkus Award candidate.
LB Kaleb Thornhill, Michigan State, 2003: The Spartan legacy was a three-year starter at middle linebacker and team captain. He also was a tackling machine.
LB Christian Kirksey, Iowa, 2010: He played in every game as a true freshman and moved into the starting lineup as sophomore and hasn’t left. He’ll be a senior in the fall.
DB Bradley Fletcher, Iowa, 2004: He came to campus as a running back and then redshirted. He capped his senior season by being an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick and was a third-round NFL choice.
DB Micah Hyde, Iowa, 2009: He finished his career with over 200 tackles and seven interceptions. He also excelled as a return man.
DB Jack Ikegwuonu, Wisconsin, 2004: He became an instant star as a freshman in 2006 and later an All-Big Ten player who was a fourth-round pick.
DB Thomas Gordon, Michigan 2009: He has developed into a key contributor for a Wolverine defense that continues to get better under coordinator Greg Mattison. He’ll be a senior this season.
NOTE: Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis arrived as a walk-on with no-star rating; Wisconsin 2-star DE J.J. Watt signed with Central Michigan in 2007 before walking on at Wisconsin; Wisconsin 2-star QB Russell Wilson signed with N.C. State out of high school in 2007 before transferring to Wisconsin.
Others 2-stars considered: LB Denicos Allen, Michigan State, 2009; RB Damon Bullock, Iowa, 2011; RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Indiana, 2003; WR Keshawn Martin, Michigan State, 2008; RB Venric Mark, Northwestern, 2010; DL Akeem Spence, Illinois, 2009; DB Derrick Wells, Minnesota, 2011.
Go ahead and surf the Scout.com pages yourself and see what you find for the past recruiting years.
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State
Of course, a five-star rating doesn’t guarantee future stardom. Ask these former Scout.com five-star prospects who signed with Big Ten schools from 2003-2010 but failed to live up to their billing for various reasons—injury, motivation, etc.
- Chris Bell, WR, Penn State, 2006
- Dorian Bell, LB, Ohio State, 2009
- Prescott Burgess, LB, Michigan 2003
- Boubacar Cissoko, DB Michigan, 2007
- Eugene Clifford S, Ohio State, 2007
- Melvin Fellows, DE, Ohio State, 2009
- Greg Harrison, OL, Penn State, 2004
- Mike Jones, OL, Iowa, 2003
- Paul Jones, QB, Penn state 2010
- Antonio Logan-El, OL, Penn State, 2006
- Jamario O’Neal, CB, Ohio State, 2005
- Will Paul, TE, Michigan, 2003
- Dace Richardson, OL, Iowa, 2005
- Eric Shrive, OL, Penn State, 2009
- Marques Slocum, DT, Michigan 2005
- Connor Smith, OL, Ohio State, 2006
- J.T. Turner, CB, Michigan, 2009
- Doug Worthington, DE, Ohio State 2005
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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