As the final seconds of the BCS National Championship Game tick away, it begins. The final lap of the recruiting craze.
Staff members visit high school after high school. Scouts study countless hours of game film, separating the wheat from the chaff. Coaches hit the phones, trying to keep their commitments while prying away those of other schools. For the average college football fan, keeping track of everything can soon become overwhelming.
Luckily, we don't have to pore through countless scouting reports and videos to follow the madness. Instead, we have this neat little symbol to work with:
This simple character - a star - ostensibly tells us all we need to know. The arsenal of pass rush moves a defensive end has. The strength and speed of a running back. The TD-INT ratio of a QB, that blistering 40-yard dash time of a cornerback, the mental instincts of a free safety. It's all unceremoniously shoved into a star rating, that oh-so important metric that quickly comes to define a high school football player in the months leading up to National Signing Day.
But no metric is perfect. Sometimes, underrated players slip through the cracks and go on to have great college/NFL careers. Players like the following:
3-star QB-PP, Class of 2005
Played for: Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers
Colt McCoy entered the 2006 season with a heavy burden of expectations. The 'Horns had just won a conference and National Championship, and entered the 2006 season as the #2 ranked team in the country, looking to stay in the thick of things.
Funny thing, though; McCoy was lucky to even be the 'Horns starter. In fact, a year ago he had been little more than an afterthought, a consolation prize of the 2005 class.
For 2005 was the year of Ryan Perriloux, the 5-star phenom and No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the nation. Texas head coach Mack Brown was desperate to sign Perriloux, as some of the best Texas QBs - notably, Rhett Bomar and Kirby Freeman - had signed with out-of-state universities. Perriloux verbally committed to Texas in 2004, and had he not wavered, would have likely become the 'Horns' QB of the future - relegating McCoy to bench-warming status.
Perriloux had one of the most dominating careers in prep football history, picked apart some of the best high school defenses in the country with his arm and legs, and won the 2004 Hall Trophy as the nation's most outstanding high school football player. Meanwhile, McCoy quietly racked up yards and wins at a relatively obscure 2A high school in Texas. On paper, it was obvious who Brown and the Longhorns' staff wanted more.
But of course, we all know what followed. Committed to Texas up until National Signing Day, Perriloux stunned Brown by signing his letter of intent to Louisiana State. Longhorns fans were shocked, while McCoy was left as the only quarterback of the 2005 class. And while Perriloux flamed out at LSU due to behavioral problems, McCoy became the winning-est quarterback in NCAA Division-I history, leading the team to 4-consecutive seasons of 10 or more wins, a Big 12 championship, a win in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, and a spot in the 2010 National Championship Game.
McCoy lived up to and exceeded all expectations in his career at Texas. As a freshman, McCoy led the 'Horns to two-consecutive 10-win seasons, including two bowl game wins. During McCoy's junior year, the pieces began to fall in place. With a resurgent defense headed by Will Muschamp and a fast-paced spread option offense, the 'Horns roared through the Big 12. A heartbreaking loss at Lubbock, however, denied the 'Horns a place in the Big 12 championship. In 2009 the cards finally fell the 'Horns way, and McCoy led Texas to a spot in the national title game while winning an impressive array of trophies (including the Walter Camp, Manning, Maxwell, and Davey O'Brien awards). And in the 2009 NFL Draft, McCoy was chosen by the Cleveland Browns, where he would become the starting quarterback in the 2011 season before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers.
All in all, not too shabby for a 3-star player out of high school.