Year after year gems and diamonds in the rough pop up in college football, and we all go "well where the heck was this guy ranked and why didn't my team pick him up?" These are those guys I think will surprise more than a few college football spectators throughout their college football careers.
The rankings I'm using are the 24/7 composite rankings.
Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
Derrius Guice - RB - LSU - 46th overall, #5 RB
I know I know, a top 50 guy doesn't seem very underrated when there are 1000's of high school athletes, but I think even being ranked 46 is too low for this guy. For a guy that looks like he is a power back, he still shows a lot of speed and is also amazing as a receiver (2 receiving TD's in U.S. Army All-American Game). This is yet another stud RB going to the Bayou Bengals and will play alongside Leonard Fournette in what will probably the nastiest RB stable in the country. He is the perfect type of back to complement a downhill every-down type of back like Fournette, because he can be the guy that can come in on goal line packages and make great plays in the flats on pass plays, or he is big and fast enough to run it down the defense's throat. Won't be fun for opposing defenses at all.
Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. - SDE - Auburn - 110th overall, #8 SDE
Any defensive end that is 6-8 has the potential and the frame to become an absolute monster throughout his career. When you also have the ridiculous closing speed and the ability to finish big plays the way that this guy does though? You have a bad, bad man. Auburn was smart for pulling in this kid from the clutches of Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. This kid will be a huge difference maker for the Tigers. He needs to work on getting off quicker at the point of attack and his hand quickness could use some work, but I'm sure the coaches down in Auburn can't wait to get started on developing this guy into a possible All-SEC First Team monster.
Garrett Taylor - CB - Penn State - 125th overall, #16 CB
This kid has decent size at the corner position at 6-1, 195. He has amazing instincts, the main knack that knocked him down was speed. I think all of the other skills he brings though more than make up for his speed. I also believe Franklin up at Penn State will improve that aspect of his game and that this guy will be the whole package by the time he done at PSU. He has all the intangibles you want out of a kid and when you add in the size I believe you have someone who was knocked down significantly because he was slightly below average in one aspect of his game.
Carlos Strickland - WR - California - 165th overall, #20 WR
I don't know how all the big schools let this guy slip to the California Golden Bears when he is all the way from Dallas, Texas, but I have a feeling they are going to regret it by the end of Strickland's career. He is a hell of a physical specimen for a WR at 6-5, 190. Also, you know when LSU shows interest in a WR that they have to be pretty damn good. I'm just surprised LSU didn't pull him in instead of Cal. With his size and 4.50 speed, he shows good stride and has a knack for racking up yards after the catch. With Jared Goff at QB and Strickland at WR, I think they could have a dangerous passing game the next few years.
Dwayne Lawson - Pro-Style QB - Virginia Tech - 214th overall, #9 PRO
Lawson is a guy who has shown that he has pretty good accuracy, decent arm strength (with lots of room for growth in that area of his game), and that he can stay in the pocket and deliver the ball downfield while not being afraid to take hits due to his size (6-6, 207). He is a guy that has shown potential in almost every aspect of the game, and that with just a bit of coaching, he could be a star because he already has all the things you can't coach. Could Virginia Tech have their next big QB in line behind the likes of Vick and Thomas? I think Lawson definitely has the potential, we have seen what big athletic QB's with proper coaching can do up in Columbus, Ohio.
Christian Pellage - OT - South Carolina - 276th overall, #27 OT
Pellage is one big dude, he is 6-7, 282 and he isn't even done growing yet. Yet despite his size, and all the big time SEC schools offering and going after him, he still wasn't even ranked in the top 25 at his own position. That sounds pretty damn underrated to me, I don't know what all of the recruiting boards don't see in him to not put him near the top of their boards at the OT position like the SEC schools did but there is obviously something missing here. I could understand if he was undersized or really, really slow, but he also runs a 5.10 which isn't that bad at all for an OLineman. I'm sure Spurrier is just happy to get this guy on campus though, and probably won't be too bothered the impact this guys low ranking might've had on South Carolina's class rankings.
Clemson won a huge battle landing this guy over competitors like Alabama, Florida, and Florida State. Sterling said he wanted to be a Clemson Tiger over all of the rest and I'm sure Dabo Swinney is more than happy to have him on board. This guy is huge and wrecks absolute havoc up the middle at 6-5, 281. This is another case where all the biggest schools down south saw something in him that apparently the recruiting boards did not. I can't believe this guy is a 3-star, it is no wonder Clemson always has good defensive lines if this is the type of "3 star" defensive linemen they get.
J.W. Ketchum III - ATH (QB) - Baylor - 413th overall, #30 ATH
Ketchum is one of the top athletes coming out of the Houston area which has always produced pretty athletic guys including legendary Texas QB Vince Young. The main thing that knocks down Ketchum is the fact that he wants to play QB but is right under 6 feet tall. His ridiculous speed and athleticism and instincts I believe make up for being slightly undersized, kind of like Kyler Murray, but without all of the 43-0 hype coming out of Allen. The question is can Ketchum beat out Jarrett Stidham or Seth Russell for the QB spot at Baylor? Will Briles eventually convince him to make a position change to be of use at somewhere else in that high octane Baylor offensive system if he can't grab the starting QB spot? This kid has lots of potential and worth watching out for down in Waco, TX.
I have seen this kid make some ridiculous plays I didn't even know were possible. He can burst through the tiniest of seams for a huge touchdown. He is undersized at 5-9, 165, but that is kinda what this kid is all about, being the little guy that the defense can hardly see until he is already past them running for 50+ yards towards the endzone. With a weapon like this, that dangerous TCU offense can only get scarier for the rest of the country and the Big 12.
After watching this kid live in the 5A State Championship, I honestly can't believe how under-recruited and underrated this kid is. He is 6-5, 205, has made huge game winning plays at nearly the highest level of high school competition, and yet his best offer came from Texas Tech. How this kid is so under the radar blows my mind. If you don't think this kid is ready for the next level, you should see how easily he makes what should be much harder plays look in the biggest of situations. He is #11 in this next clip making the game winning catch, break tackle, and run at the end. Tell me that kind of athlete shouldn't be ranked higher.
Every year top athletes leave for the NFL due to early declaration or graduation. Some programs can handle that loss at certain positions due to backups or incoming recruits. Some programs historically just always seem to be strong at certain positions. When some players leave though, it just seems like it will be a huge hole on that team in the next season due to how talented that player was and how hard that position is to replace with that caliber of talent. These are the toughest players to replace on their respective teams in 2015.
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
1. Amari Cooper - WR - Alabama
Coming into this year, people were extremely worried about the QB position in Alabama and were also worried how new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin would work with that QB. Thanks to a talent like Amari Cooper at WR, things were a lot easier than planned. Look at these stats and realize how valuable Cooper was to that offense and receiving corps (heck, he pretty much was the receiving corps).
Next best receiver was 1200 yards beneath him. Good luck replacing that percentage of your receiving production on your team Alabama.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
2. Jameis Winston - QB - Florida State
When you have an athlete like this, with the football IQ that he has, that is hard to replace. He was a true leader inside that locker room. No matter what people think of him off the field, his impact for FSU on the field was undeniable. His team had to go to OT without him just to get a victory over Clemson who Jameis had killed the year before. He was a huge reason why they were so dominant last year, and why they were able to overcome so much adversity this year. Will Jimbo miss his antics off of the field? Heck no he won't, but I bet if he could keep his talent on the field for a couple of more years he would forget about that stuff real quick. Luckily for Florida State, the top QB recruit of 2016 is currently committed to them so they have much hope for the future.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
3. Marcus Mariota - QB - Oregon
Oregon's system...as good as it is, will still suffer at least a little bit from losing a QB like this. Not every QB recruit out there has the unbelievable skill set combo that this guy has. His ridiculous combo of football IQ, decision making, accuracy, and speed is almost impossible to find. This is why this guy won a Heisman. His quiet leadership and work ethic will also be sorely missed in that locker room, and whoever Oregon starts QB next year will have a very hard time filling Mariota's shoes.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
4. Shane Carden - QB - East Carolina
Maybe for most schools, replacing a Carden is a little bit easier...for East Carolina though it will be a very tough transition to the next phase for their football program. I might cheat here and also add in WR Justin Hardy. That QB/WR combo leaving could be devastating for that offense. Hopefully they have been going hard after a top QB and WR in recruiting to replace them otherwise it will be tough season next year.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
5. Rakeem Cato - QB - Marshall
Another situation just like East Carolina's...a small school who is losing a player who has meant everything for their offense throughout their career. Cato almost led Marshall to an undefeated season in his senior year. Now just like they had to move on from the likes of Chad Pennington all those years ago, they'll have to move on from Cato. It won't be an easy transition.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
6. Bryce Petty - QB - Baylor
I was tempted to leave him off. Baylor has gone through different QB's seamlessly the past few years. This offense under Petty went to different heights though, even more insane than the RG3 or Florence offenses. Maybe with Jarrett Stidham coming in (expert has said he is somewhere in between a RG3 and Petty type) this offense can somehow keep pace, but I will have to see it to believe it. Luckily for Stidham (or Seth Russell) whoever starts at QB will have an amazing WR corps and RB (Linwood) to work with.
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
7. Tevin Coleman - RB - Indiana
To be frank, this team wasn't even that good with Coleman. Trying to replace him though? Good luck with that. He was everything for this squad and there is no way somebody can step in and do what he did behind that Indiana OLine. They will have to find different ways to score points now. It will be tougher to pull off upsets over teams like Missouri in the future unless they find out how to move on from Coleman fast.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
8. Brandon Doughty - QB - Western Kentucky
Yet another big time small school QB who carried his team's offense to new heights. This guy was the only reason Cato's Marshall team lost a game this season. Doughty's Hilltoppers took down Marshall 67-66 in overtime in an absolute barnburner of a game to watch. Doughty led the FBS in passing yards this year, that kind of production would be sorely missed at any school, much less a school that typically has trouble bringing in top recruits who might have a chance of replicating or topping those numbers.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
9. Tyler Lockett - WR - Kansas State
Lockett is the career record holder for many receiving stats at Kansas State, and that kind of reliability from a top WR will be sorely missed. Curry Sexton had over 1000 yards as #2 WR last year with Lockett taking off coverage, but with Lockett gone will Sexton be able to step up as the #1? Will the new #2 have the same freedom that Sexton did if Sexton doesn't draw extra coverage like Lockett did? I'm sure Bill Snyder is worried at least a little bit about that area of his offense with a star like Lockett gone.
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
10. Melvin Gordon - RB - Wisconsin
It really was kind of hard to keep Gordon off this list. Yes I am aware of the amazing OLine Wisconsin always has that "any RB can run through for 5 yards per carry". Wisconsin will have a slight drop in RB production though. While Gordon did have an amazing line to run behind, once he got to the next level, that was where he really shined.His ability to punish defenses with speed or brute force, it will be very hard to replace at the level he did it. Melvin Gordon's don't just pop out of nowhere, not even for teams like Wisconsin.
#1 ranked dual threat QB Kyler Murray did something on Wednesday afternoon that sent a chill through every Texas A&M fan. He tweeted this photo.
Nobody saw this coming. Nobody. So many factors come into play now that weren't there before today.
Until today, everybody thought it would just be either baseball or Texas A&M for Murray. He was supposed to battle Kyle Allen for the starting spot in spring. Chances are he probably still does, I mean it would be an absolute shock for anything else to still happen. This picture harbors possibilities though. Horrors that A&M fans didn't think they even had to worry about, and dreams that Longhorns fans hadn't even fathomed could happen. Could the idea of an easier starting job in Austin be enough to lure in Murray to the Longhorns? Would he really want to break all the Aggies' fans hearts and deal with the backlash from that fanbase that would come with a 180 degree switch on a months long commitment like that? It would be even more tempting if fellow recruit WR DeMarkus Lodge (who went with Murray on his Texas and Texas A&M visits this year) committed to the Horns. A weapon like that on offense along with a defense that is probably much better than A&M can offer is very tempting. Lodge could be a huge factor in this story. If Lodge decides to go back to Aggieland that would probably wrap it up, an offense with Speedy Noil and Lodge to throw to would be very hard to turn down despite the QB competition in Kyle Allen. Any QB that is 43-0 in his high school career you would think would have the confidence that he is better than any other QB out there and that he will win the QB competition regardless so maybe he doesn't really factor that in that much. Murray also knows that Sumlin probably sees a little bit of Johnny Football in him. They are both freak athletes that perfectly fit Sumlin's system. Both guys that can throw a good deep ball or make big plays with their feet when the play or pocket breaks down around them. Strong is gonna come hard after Murray though, he knows he'll have to. Strong has said he wants two good QB recruits out of this recruiting cycle, and with Harbaugh coming down from Michigan threatening to take away his current top QB prospect Zach Gentry (out of New Mexico). The question is this though, if Strong gets Murray and loses Gentry, will he still go after that 2nd QB? Or will he change his plans if he gets his hands on a uber-good QB like Murray? You would think Murray might still have to compete with Jerrod Heard (not as tough as battling with Kyle Allen), but if Strong decides to get his 2nd QB recruit then Murray might still have a tough QB competition. Strong has to handle that carefully, if Murray thinks that Strong is trying to get 2 QB's as he originally wished than would it really be any better than taking the easy route and sticking with the Aggies on his commitment? So many different angles to go at this. Let me add another twist too.
Baseball, Murray is a top baseball prospect as well, and unlike football, baseball can offer millions in a job right out of high school with a professional baseball contract right out of the MLB Draft. I have heard many different opinions on Murray and where he might fall in the 2015 MLB Draft. The highest projected spot I have heard is actually the #1 overall pick. Could Murray really turn that kind of contract down? I mean football is a much more dangerous sport and is more scary long term because of concussion fears. Also, no cap in baseball means if you reach the top of the sport then you can get a more ludicrous contract than you can in football. If he falls though, where the money doesn't really convince him 100% that professional baseball is the way to go, could an offer of a spot on a program's collegiate baseball team give an edge over another program that doesn't? If the Longhorns knew that the Aggies weren't gonna offer him a spot on the baseball team or vice verse then could that make them offer up a spot in hope of getting a leg up on the other? Would either team risk it? This is a storyline you might wanna keep an eye on while the recruiting season is wrapping up leading to signing day in early February.