February 20, 2006

A look back: Who was underrated?

Every year fans get excited if their school has a highly rated recruiting class, and fans get down in the dumps if their school has a lower-rated recruiting class. One look at history tells us that there should never be too much euphoria or too much sadness on Signing Day. The following is a look at some recruiting classes that are making an impact, despite not being rated highly by Rivals.com.

Virginia Tech, class of 2002
For a group that was overshadowed a bit by Al Groh's first recruiting class, this Virginia Tech bunch was the foundation for the Hokies recent success. Running back Mike Imoh was a star when healthy, defensive linemen Noland Burchette, Jonathan Lewis and Darryl Tapp terrified opposing quarterbacks and cornerback Jimmy Williams became one of the best in the country at his position.

The biggest name in the class is obviously Marcus Vick who, despite his off-field problems, was one of the ACC's top signal-callers. Offensive lineman Jim Martin has been a rock while safety Aaron Rouse has been solid on defense. For a class ranked No. 45 in the country at the time, this group was a big reason the Hokies made a BCS push this year. -- Mike Farrell

Texas Tech, class of 2002
Coach Mike Leach made it abundantly clear with classes like 2002's haul that he knew how to develop wide receivers for his offense. There may have been two four-star players in Johnnie Mack, who was a solid backup, and Raymond Pierce - who had an up-and-down career - but it was a group of two-stars that had the biggest impact.

Receivers Jarrett Hicks and Joel Filani ended up being all-conference players as Tech's passing game allowed the Red Raiders to climb in the Big 12. Hicks and Filani are expected to excel on the pro level as well. Two-star safety Vincent Meeks started all four years and was the MVP of the Holiday Bowl in 2004. Former offensive guard Chris Hudler was part of the improvement on defense. He started at defensive tackle last season, and he'll stay there this year. Rated as the No. 48 class in the country that year, Leach and company put together a solid class that made big strides with several underrated pickups. -- John Talman

Kansas, class of 2002
Mark Mangino's first effort was ranked as the 11th-best class in the Big 12, but hindsight proves that Mangino put together a class that laid the foundation for what is looking to be one of the nation's up-and-coming programs. Two-star Charles Gordon will play in the NFL, and three-star linebacker Nick Reid - then a quarterback - was an all-Big 12 pick as a senior. The KU class ranked 38th in the nation that year, but in the end it probably should have been ranked much higher. -- Jeremy Crabtree
Ohio State, class of 2003
Ohio State finishes 41st in absolutely nothing, so when they landed the No. 41 class in the nation in 2003 it was a shock. But it was mainly due to the small number of players - 16. Looking back, that group was loaded with playmakers, including several first-team All-Big 10 selections. Defensive backs Donte Whitner and Ashton Youboty earned first-team all-conference honors after amazing junior campaigns. Several others in the small class have yet to develop, but that doesn't take away from the top-flight players in the underrated group. -- Jeremy Crabtree
Clemson, class of 2004
This class, which was littered with two-star prospects, rated No. 53 nationally and ranked near the bottom of the ACC, will end up providing a solid foundation for Tommy Bowden's program during the next 3-4 years. Defensive tackle Rashaad Jackson was rated a low two-star prospect and was a Freshman All-American this year. Defensive end Phillip Merling was rated only slightly higher and is one of the best young jumbo athletes in the ACC.

Fresh off being given the same rating as Merling, offensive tackle Barry Richardson started for the majority of his true freshman year and could be a first-round NFL draft pick before all is said and done. And wide receiver Aaron Kelly, rated the same as Merling and Richardson, was one of the best young receivers in the country and is a future NFL player. Other two-stars in the class, like linemen Akeem Robinson and Courtney Vincent, have the chance to be above average as well. -- JC Shurburtt

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