When a player is rated a three-star prospect coming out of high school, it basically means that a recruiting service thinks that player will be a starter by midway through his college career, and he’ll be a solid contributor or role player. They’re not exactly projecting that he’ll be an All-American or get drafted by the NFL or play from day one. Every top state school wants to keep its talent home. But sometimes, players defy expectations.
Here’s a look at five SEC quarterbacks–ranked from the biggest surprise down–since the 2007 signing class who were rated three-star prospects by Rivals.com coming out of high school.
1. JOHNNY MANZIEL, TEXAS A&M
- YEAR: 2011
- RANKING: No. 14 dual threat QB in the nation
- THE SKINNY: It’s not that surprising that Manziel was ranked so low coming out of high school. Even though he put up amazing numbers his senior year, he was undersized and only had two major offers–Oregon and Texas A&M. But boy did he make the best of his opportunities with the Aggies, and now he’s about to be rich.
2. CONNOR SHAW, SOUTH CAROLINA
- YEAR: 2010
- RANKING: No. 19 dual threat QB
- THE SKINNY: Shaw, a Georgia native, was noticed by several schools. Georgia Tech, Stanford, West Virginia, Wake Forest … they all wanted him. But in the end he became clearly Steve Spurrier’s top QB during his (so far) 9-year tenure in Columbia (S.C.). He turned into an absolute playmaker.
3. RYAN TANNEHILL, TEXAS A&M
- YEAR: 2007
- RANKING: No. 23 dual threat QB
- THE SKINNY: Tannehill just didn’t have a lot of interest coming out of high school, mostly just from the second-tier programs around Texas–and the Aggies, who arguably were second tier at the time he signed. Texas A&M began improving under Tannehill, and of course now he’s in the NFL smiling all the way to the bank.
4. MATY MAUK, MIZZOU
- YEAR: 2012
- RANKING: No. 20 pro style QB
- THE SKINNY: As a freshman, Mauk stepped in when the Tigers had injury issues at QB and threw for 1,000 yards, 11 TDs and only two INTs, and he helped the program survive the meat of its SEC East schedule and get to the conference championship game. He was electric in high school, but many just thought he was a product of his high school’s system.
5. TREY BURTON, FLORIDA
- YEAR: 2010
- RANKING: No. 18 dual threat QB
- THE SKINNY: This is an interesting selection, as Burton never played much QB. But he was deemed a three-star college prospect, and he became a do-everything guy on offense for the Gators as they struggled for several years. He can the ball, caught the ball, threw the ball, returned kicks. In the end, he’d scored 20 career TDs as a Gator and scrapped for more than 1,700 yards.
Editor’s note: Saturday Down South’s references to ratings for this particular piece refer to Rivals.com, which has ranked players for more than a decade.