- Edward Aschoff, College Football
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Now that we've taken a look at some of the past underrated stars to come through the SEC in recent years, it's time to check out the lesser known high school prospects who truly stood out in 2014.
Again, junior college transfers aren't eligible. That's why you won't see Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace on this list, despite the fact that he was an unranked prospect who started his career at Arkansas State. Unfortunately, for our purposes, Wallace's time in junior college excludes him from this list (which was actually longer than I expected it to be).
Mississippi State and Missouri were easily the most successful teams with athletes who arrived on campus with two stars or fewer, according to ESPN recruiting services. Both schools did a great job of developing a a few players who didn't get a lot of attention while in high school. It certainly paid off, with both getting to the double-digit win mark this season, and Mizzou actually winning the SEC Eastern Division the past two years.
So without further ado, here are 10 impact players from the 2014 season who were two-star prospects or worse coming out of high school:
1. Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State. 2011 ranking -- two-star, No. 169 ATH: After arriving in Starkville as a two-star quarterback, McKinney became one of the nation's best linebackers. He split more time this season, as the Bulldogs unleashed more rotation. But after a monster 2013 season, McKinney continued to be the life force of the Bulldogs' defense. The second-team All-American and All-SEC member led Mississippi State in tackles (71) for the second straight season. He also registered eight tackles for loss, three sacks, four pass breakups, three fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble.
2. Jalen Mills, CB, LSU. 2012 ranking -- two-star, No. 126 CB: He entered the 2014 season with more career starts (26) than any other player on LSU's defense, and he left it with 13 more starts. Mills has started every game he has played at LSU, including all 13 as a true freshman in 2012. Last fall, Mills moved to safety, where he started 12 games. He had 62 tackles, one interception, and defended six passes. Mills has been on of the SEC's best defensive backs for the past three years.
3. Dylan Thompson, QB, South Carolina. 2010 ranking -- two-star, No. 94 QB: After spending a season basically rotating snaps and then having to really sit and bide his time in 2013, Thompson left South Carolina as one of the SEC's top passers. He led the league with 3,574 passing yards and 270 completions, and tied a school record for being responsible for 31 touchdowns. His 3,492 yards of total offense in 2014 was a school record.
4. Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State. 2011 ranking -- two-star, No. 204 RB: Barely getting any love in high school, Robinson was one of the SEC's best and slipperiest rushing threats for most of the season. The consensus second-team All-SEC member finished the season ranking third in the conference with 1,203 rushing yards, averaged 6.3 yards per carry, and had 11 touchdowns. He had four 100-yard rushing outings, and caught 28 passes for 370 yards and another score.
5. Mike Hilton, DB, Ole Miss. 2012 ranking -- two-star, No. 166 ATH: A very versatile player for the Rebels, Hilton found positions all over Ole Miss' defensive backfield during his career, lining up at cornerback, safety, and the hybrid Husky position. He started 29 games. Hilton led the Rebels with 71 tackles, including 48 solo stops, and also had three interceptions in 2014. He was second on the team with 10 defended passes last season.
6. Brison Williams, S, South Carolina. 2010 ranking -- two-star, No. 104 S: He finished his South Carolina career with 37 starts and 142 tackles. He also intercepted seven passes, including leading the team with four in 2014. Williams spent time moving between safety and cornerback during his career. He had 25 solo tackles in 2014, and led the Gamecocks with 10 passes defended.
7. Joe Townsend, C, Vanderbilt. 2011 ranking -- no stars, No. 180 DT: He was a defensive tackle in high school, but moved to center when he got to Vandy and became easily one of the most underrated offensive linemen in the SEC. Townsend finished his Vandy career making a team-high 32 straight starts. Last fall he was credited with 29 pancake blocks a season after had 32 knockdown blocks and 21 blocks that led directly to Vandy touchdowns or first downs.
8. Harold Brantley, NG, Missouri. 2012 ranking -- two-star, No. 151 DT: Though most of the attention up front for the Tigers was directed toward the ends, Brantley was a very solid player inside for most of the season. He started 12 games and totaled 54 tackles, with seven for loss and five sacks. He was credited with seven quarterback hurries, and also defended three passes. Brantley was a load to tangle with in the middle, and though he didn't always have eye-popping stats, he was very disruptive for the Tigers.
9. Jared Collins, CB, Arkansas. 2012 ranking -- two-star, No. 117 CB: In the past two seasons, Collins has had 14 starts and was an important piece of the defense this fall, starting 12 of the 13 games he played. He finished the season with53 tackles, four for a loss and a sack. He also forced a fumble and defended 13 passes. Only a redshirt sophomore, Collins appears to have a bright future in Fayetteville.
10. Jimmie Hunt, WR, Missouri -- 2010 ranking: no stars, NR: After arriving at Mizzou with no stars and no real recruiting identity, Hunt became a role player for most of his career until 2014. He was one of Mizzou's top receiving threats, starting 12 games last fall, ranking second on the team with 40 catches for 698 yards and seven touchdowns. He had five or more catches five times during the season, and had at least 100 receiving yards in two of his last four games.
Mississippi State, Missouri show knack for developing unheralded recruits.