All-SEC recruiting nobodies: Offense

February, 5, 2009
2/05/09
8:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

It's the essence of the recruiting craze in the SEC. It's what everybody does come national signing day and beyond.

Fans scour the All-America lists to see how many of the "can't-miss" prospects signed with their school. They salivate over the five-star players, hope for four-star players and frown at the thought of signing anybody that hasn't already become a star during the recruiting process.

 
  Joe Robbins/US Presswire
  Jay Cutler was recruited to play defensive back out of high school.

Here's a tip, though. Don't sweat it if your class includes a few prospects who weren't rated particularly high, prospects who were two- and three-star players and prospects who haven't already gone Hollywood before they show up on campus.

The dirty little secret in recruiting is that some of the best players in the SEC over the last few years were guys who flew under the radar in the recruiting process for various reasons.

In keeping with that spirit, we've come up with our own All-SEC team of recruiting nobodies, guys who weren't rated very highly coming out of high school, but went onto have stellar careers in the SEC and many of them are now playing in the NFL.

The players comprising this team had to play in the SEC in the past four years (2005-08):

We'll look at the offensive team first and the defensive team a little bit later Thursday morning:

QB Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt: Any interest Cutler received from Big Ten schools such as Purdue, Indiana and Illinois was as a safety. Finally, about a month before signing day, Vanderbilt offered him as a quarterback, and Cutler wound up being the 11th overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft.

RB Jacob Hester, LSU: Played nose guard his first two years at Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, La. He was a two-star prospect coming out of high school, but still got some good offers as a fullback or linebacker. LSU promised him he could play running back. He rushed for 1,103 yards as a senior in leading the Tigers to the 2007 BCS national championship. The San Diego Chargers traded up in the NFL draft to be able to get Hester in the third round.

RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ole Miss: Signed in 2003 with Indiana after playing high school football in New Orleans and not receiving a sniff from SEC schools. Green-Ellis transferred to Ole Miss following the 2004 season and became only the second running back in Ole Miss history to record back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He was a first-team All-SEC selection in 2006 and started some games at running back this past season for the New England Patriots.

WR Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt: One of those players from the state of Alabama the big boys didn't want. Bennett was unranked nationally as a receiver when he came out of West End High School in Birmingham, Ala. His only other official visits were to Kentucky and Southern Miss. All he did at Vanderbilt was set the SEC record with 236 career catches, becoming the only player in league history to reach the 75-catch plateau in three different seasons. He turned pro early and was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the third round.

WR Sidney Rice, South Carolina: Deemed a step slow coming out of high school in Gaffney, S.C., Rice wasn't ranked among the top 50 receiver prospects nationally. He redshirted his first season at South Carolina, but caught 23 touchdown passes the next two seasons and turned pro. He was drafted in the second round by the Minnesota Vikings.

OL Antoine Caldwell, Alabama: Other than Auburn, his main suitors coming out of Montgomery, Ala., were Louisville, Southern Miss and Vanderbilt. Caldwell capped a stellar career at Alabama by being selected first-team All-America this season at center by the Associated Press.

OL Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas: Luigs was a two-star player from Little Rock and wasn't even listed as one of the top 10 prospects in Arkansas his senior year of high school. Similar to Caldwell, he developed into one of the best centers in the country and won the Rimington Trophy in 2007 as the nation's most outstanding center.

OL Tyronne Green, Auburn: Rated by many as a defensive tackle when he came out of Pensacola, Fla., in 2004, Green picked Auburn over Southern Miss and Florida A&M after missing half of his senior season in high school with an injury. He started in 25 straight games at Auburn and was voted the Tigers' best blocker as a junior.

OL Chris Williams, Vanderbilt: Weighed just 245 pounds coming out of high school in Baton Rouge, La., and wasn't recruited by LSU. Williams blossomed in Vanderbilt's strength program and wound up being the 14th pick overall in the 2008 NFL draft. He's the highest SEC offensive lineman to be drafted since Alabama's Chris Samuels in 2000.

OL Clint Boling, Georgia: When he came out of Alpharetta, Ga., in 2007, Boling was the 112th-ranked defensive end prospect nationally by Scouts Inc. and was nowhere to be found among the top 20 prospects in the state of Georgia. The Bulldogs' main competition for Boling was from Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Duke and Wake Forest. Boling wound up starting as a true freshman and was Georgia's most versatile offensive lineman last season.

TE Jared Cook, South Carolina: A 205-pound receiver when he came out of high school in the Atlanta area and missed his junior season at North Gwinnett High after breaking his ankle. His other offers were from Mississippi State, Tulane and Missouri. Cook developed into one of the more athletic tight ends in the SEC and decided to turn pro following last season.

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