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Recruiting 2011 - 2007 2-Stars To All-Star D
Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt
Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 28, 2011


Everyone knows about the four and five star prospects, but what about the guys no one cared about yet turned into superstars? Richard Cirminiello looks at the defensive afterthoughts from the 2007 class that turned into stars.


Recruiting 2011 - 2007 Lookback

The All-Star 2-Star Defense


By Richard Cirminiello

- 2011 Recruiting - The 2007 All-Recruiting Class Offense 
- 2011 Recruiting - The 2007 All-Recruiting Class Defense 
- 2011 Recruiting - The 2007 Two-Stars to All-Star Offense 
- 2011 Recruiting - The 2007 Two-Stars to All-Star Defense 

The 2007 5-Star Prospects. Were They Worth It?

- 1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 2007 CFN Recruiting

CFN Top Prospects for 2011
- No. 1 to 50 | No. 51 to 100 | No. 101 to 150
- No. 151 to 200No. 201 to 250 | No. 251 to 300
- Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers
- Tight Ends | Off. Tackles | Guards & Centers 
- Def. Ends | Def. Tackles | Linebackers | Corners | Safeties 
- 2009 CFN Top 150 | 2010 CFN Top 200

For all of the attention that mega-recruits, such as Jimmy Clausen and Joe McKnight, received four years ago, it’s often the far more anonymous two-star kids who make or break the eventual evaluation of a recruiting class. They represent the foundation for so many universities that are fortunate to land even one blue-chipper in a cycle, let alone multiple can’t-miss prospects.

Every year, there are handfuls of untapped athletes who soar well beyond expectations, making their high school ratings appear uninformed and their new coaching staffs look like geniuses. They bloom late, overachieve, and forever leave behind a day when NFL scouts, agents, and members of the media couldn’t pick them out of lineup.

While there were many rags-to-riches stories from the Class of 2007, a select few stood out for the length of their progression in four short years. Though they may have begun with a mere two-star designation, all have carved out four or five-star careers, with a chance to continue playing at the next level.

* Each player’s two-star ranking was determined by Scout.com in 2007

DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
In four years, Watt wrote the blueprint for overcoming obstacles and getting what you want in life. Just 228 pounds coming out of high school, he got offers from Minnesota and Central Michigan, but the one from hometown Wisconsin never came. After playing one year as the starting tight end for the Chippewas, he gave up the free ride to walk on to the Badger program. In two years as a dominant strongside end, he made 36.5 tackles for loss and the All-American team in 2010, setting himself up as a possible first round selection in April’s NFL Draft.

DT Colby Whitlock, Texas Tech
It didn’t take very long for Whitlock to make his two-star rating seem way too low. A starter as a rookie, he was named Freshman All-American, laying the foundation for an outstanding four-year career. A stout run-stuffer in the middle, he has the quickness and power to break through the line and make stops behind the line of scrimmage. A fixture up front for the Red Raiders, he started 49 consecutive games, earning All-Big 12 accolades as a junior and a senior.

DT Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple
It took a while—and a year at Hargrave Military Academy—for Wilkerson to get noticed, but he was worth the wait. The front man for Al Golden and his staff’s ability to develop young players, he took flight in Philadelphia. A starter and two-time All-MAC selection, he posted linebacker-like numbers, including 70 tackles, 13 stops for loss, and 9.5 sacks in his final season. No big fish in a small pond, he’s already being projected as a high draft choice after giving up his remaining year of eligibility as an Owl.

DE Pernell McPhee, Mississippi State
One year of high school football wasn’t enough to get McPhee on the SEC radar. Two years at Itawamba (Miss.) Community College, however, did the trick. He used that stint in junior college to get bigger, stronger, and better prepared for the inevitable step-up in competition. An all-conference selection following both seasons as a Bulldog, he turned Starkville into an NFL proving ground and an opportunity to continue his overnight maturation as a well-paid professional.

Honorable Mention: J.R. Sweezy, NC State, Joe Vellano, Maryland, Jake Laptad, Kansas, Vinny Curry, Marshall, Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida

LB Tank Carder, TCU
While there weren’t a ton of offers coming out of Sweeny (Tex.) High School, the one from TCU was more than enough. Carder jumped at it, knowing the reputation of Gary Patterson and his staff for turning decent recruits into defensive studs. After learning behind all-star Jason Phillips in 2008, Carder’s athleticism was turned loose, and he’s earned a spot on the All-Mountain West team the last two seasons. His batted ball in January preserved a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin and forever solidified his spot in Horned Frog lore.

LB Mason Foster, Washington
Foster did just about everything for his prep team, but at off-the-radar Seaside (Calif.) High School, it’s tough to get noticed by coaches and scouts. He was one of the rare exceptions. Tyrone Willingham’s staff gave him his shot, and U-Dub has been thankful ever since. One of the program’s top defenders of the last generation, he racked up 378 tackles and forced eight fumbles in four seasons, ascending to the All-Pac-10 first team in his senior season.

LB Owen Marecic, Stanford
Marecic moved often as a youth, never putting down roots, and eventually playing his high school ball in Oregon. The Ducks and Beavers, though, weren’t in the recruiting mix, leaving Army and Yale to vie for his services. Oh, and Stanford. A two-way player, he was the Pac-10’s top fullback his first three years before adding linebacker to his job description in 2010. The winner of the inaugural Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation’s most versatile player, he was first team all-league as a fullback and honorable mention on defense in his final year.

Honorable Mention: Chris Marve, Vanderbilt, James-Michael Johnson, Nevada, Miles Burris, San Diego State, Nick Bellore, Central Michigan, Noah Keller, Ohio, Mychal Sisson, Colorado State, Carmen Messina, New Mexico, Korey Williams, Southern Miss

DB Chris Rucker, Michigan State
Until the Spartans stepped up, Rucker was mostly getting offers from smaller programs, like Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky, and MAC schools. A four-year letterman and starter shortly after matriculating, he played in 42 career games and earned no less than honorable mention All-Big Ten following each of the last three seasons. At 6-2 and 200 pounds, he has the size and the open field physicality that’s going to earn him an opportunity to continue playing long beyond East Lansing.

DB Carl Gettis, Missouri
Neither a modest ranking nor defensive inexperience was going to keep Gettis from reaching his goals. A productive running back in high school, he was switched to cornerback in 2007 and made the move look shrewd. He was named honorable mention All-Big 12 by league coaches in his debut and following each of the subsequent two seasons. Mizzou’s best pass defender while he was in Columbia, he also excelled at exploding out of the secondary to help defend the run.

DB Brandon Burton, Utah
Like a thief in the night, the Utes snuck into Houston and brought Burton back to Salt Lake City four years ago. After starting slowly, he moved into the lineup as a sophomore and really became recognized as one of the nation’s top cover corners a year ago. An All-Mountain West selection, he was basically avoided by opposing quarterbacks, which is why his numbers have been so modest. Still, that won’t dissuade NFL teams from giving him a long look in one of the first couple of rounds of April’s draft.

DB Davonte Shannon, Buffalo
No, Shannon hasn’t made quite as many headlines as former Jeannette (Penn.) High School teammate Terrelle Pryor, but he enjoyed a terrific career just the same. An instant hit in the MAC despite being overlooked at the last level, he was a four-year starter and perennial all-star, amassing 460 tackles and 10 picks from his strong safety spot. An NFL prospect, he’ll go down as one of the most decorated Bulls in program history.

Honorable Mention: Charles Brown, North Carolina, Quenton Washington, South Florida

- 2011 Recruiting - The 2007 All-Recruiting Class Offense 
- 2011 Recruiting - The 2007 All-Recruiting Class Defense 
- 2011 Recruiting - The 2007 Two-Stars to All-Star Offense 
- 2011 Recruiting - The 2007 Two-Stars to All-Star Defense 

The 2007 5-Star Prospects. Were They Worth It?

- 1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 2007 CFN Recruiting

CFN Top Prospects for 2011
- No. 1 to 50 | No. 51 to 100 | No. 101 to 150
- No. 151 to 200No. 201 to 250 | No. 251 to 300
- Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers
- Tight Ends | Off. Tackles | Guards & Centers 
- Def. Ends | Def. Tackles | Linebackers | Corners | Safeties 
- 2009 CFN Top 150 | 2010 CFN Top 200