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Big 12's hidden gems in the Class of 2010

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Justin Gilbert was the highest player drafted from the Big 12 during the 2014 NFL draft. Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports

The Big 12 signed a laundry list of ESPN150 prospects in the Class of 2010 including Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks, UT receiver Mike Davis and Baylor’s Ahmad Dixon, who ranked among the top 15 prospects in the country out of high school.

Yet, several lesser known prospects had better college careers than those highly regarded prospects. Here’s a ranking of the top five hidden gems in the Big 12 for the Class of 2010 (high school players only, sorry Kansas State).

1. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State cornerback

Career stats:
182 tackles, 153 solo stops, 32 passes defensed, 12 interceptions, 3.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles

Recruit rank: 3-star, 78 rating

Accolades: 2013 Thorpe Award finalist, All-American, First-team All-Big 12

What was said then: “He is a gifted athlete with good football awareness and an athlete that has his best football ahead of him.” -- ESPN recruiting analyst

What he did: The highest regarded recruit on this list, Gilbert is also the highest drafted as the No. 8 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Gilbert began making waves as a freshman kick returner and backup cornerback. His sophomore season was a breakout campaign as he helped the Cowboys win their first Big 12 title. After a disappointing junior season, Gilbert returned to his stellar play as a senior.

2. Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma cornerback

Career stats: 234 tackles, 170 solo stops, 23 pass breakups, 15 tackles for loss, five interceptions, 3.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries, one fumble forced while starting 36 of 50 games.

Recruit rank: 3-star, 78 rating

Accolades: Thorpe semifinalist, two-time All-Big 12 first-team member.

What was said then: “Colvin should be a very solid safety at the next level especially from the strong position and be a very solid zone pass-defender.” --ESPN recruiting analyst

What he did: Colvin made an immediate impact upon his arrival at OU, starting his first-ever Red River Showdown against Texas. He went on to start at safety as a sophomore before returning to corner as a junior and becoming one of the Big 12’s top coverage cornerbacks in 2012 and 2013. One of the best defensive backs of the Bob Stoops era.

3. Bryce Hager, Baylor linebacker

Career stats: 322 tackles, (202 solo stops), 24 tackles for loss, seven sacks, five forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one interception.

Recruit rank: Unranked

Accolades: Earned All-Big 12 second team honors for three straight seasons

What was said then: “Bryce comes from an outstanding program and an outstanding bloodline. He is a good, solid linebacker that we think has a lot of great upside. I am very excited about him.” -- BU coach Art Briles

What he did: Hager took over as a starter during his sophomore season after a redshirt season and special teams role as a redshirt freshman. He was a critical piece in a much improved defense that was a driving force behind Baylor’s back-to-back Big 12 titles (one outright, one co-championship).

4. Tom Farniok, Iowa State center

Career stats: Started 47 of 49 career games including the first 26 games of his collegiate career.

Recruit rank: 3-star, 75 rating

Accolades: He earned All-Big 12 honorable mention on three different occasions.

What was said then: “Farniok will not be an immediate starter or early impact player, rather one who will benefit from time and a red shirt year. This guy should become a solid starter as his career progresses.” -- ESPN recruiting analyst

What he did: Farniok became one of the Big 12’s top centers and one of the Cyclones’ top players after a redshirt season in 2010. He exceeded expectations after being a lightly recruited guard prospect to become the anchor of the Cyclones offensive line for four seasons.

5. Marcus Mallett, TCU linebacker

Career stats: 191 tackles, 114 solo stops, 25 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles, 3.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, one interception

Recruit rank: 2-star, 74 rating

Accolades: Second-leading tackler (100) while starting all 13 games for 12-1 TCU in 2014.

What was said then: “Mallet is a big play defender with good production on or near the line of scrimmage. Is a guy who is not going to blow you away with great size and speed measurable on paper but plays bigger and faster.” -- ESPN recruiting analyst

What he did: Mallett was a key member of TCU’s defense during his final two seasons in Fort Worth, Texas after playing a backup role as a freshman and sophomore. He had six games with double-digit tackles during the past two seasons including a 10-tackle performance in TCU’s Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl win over Ole Miss.