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Posted: Tuesday April 21, 2009 12:34PM; Updated: Tuesday April 21, 2009 3:14PM
Andy Staples Andy Staples >
INSIDE RECRUITING

Before, they were five-stars (cont.)

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Clay Matthews, who began his USC linebacker career as a walk-on, is the only projected first-round pick who was a zero-star high school recruit.
Clay Matthews, who began his USC linebacker career as a walk-on, is the only projected first-round pick who was a zero-star high school recruit.
Peter Read Miller/SI
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16. Beanie Wells, RB, Ohio State
2006 Rivals ranking: Five-star (No. 1 running back, No. 3 overall recruit)

If not for the distance, Wells might have chosen USC, where he would have taken his place among a legendary collection of backs. Of course, the Akron native had a fair program in his own backyard, and he helped the Buckeyes to two BCS title-game appearances.

17. Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State
2006 Rivals ranking: Four-star (No. 4 pro-style quarterback)

Freeman wasn't even considering Kansas State until the Wildcats hired Ron Prince, who had been trying to convince the Grandview, Mo., native to come to Virginia. Shortly after Prince was hired, Freeman decommitted from Nebraska and set a course for the Little Apple.

18. Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
2006 Rivals ranking: Four-star (No. 7 weakside defensive end)

Practically every school on the eastern seaboard wanted Maybin, a 6-3, 211-pounder from Ellicot City, Md. In October 2005, Penn State coach Joe Paterno canceled all official visits the weekend of the Ohio State game so his players could concentrate. Maybin watched the Nittany Lions' upset win anyway, and he came away impressed.

19. Clay Matthews, LB, USC
2004 Rivals ranking: Zero-star (Walk-on)

Matthews, whose father, Clay, was an All-America linebacker at USC, received only one scholarship offer. From Idaho. So he walked on where his father and uncle (offensive lineman Bruce Matthews) starred, earned a scholarship and played his way into the first round.

20. Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss
2005 Rivals ranking (prep school): Three-star

While at Hargrave Military Academy in 2004, Jerry played alongside 2008 first-rounder Branden Albert and current Alabama linebacker Brandon Fanney. Expect Jerry to be joined in the NFL next year by brother John, an Ole Miss offensive lineman.

21. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
2006 Rivals ranking: Four-star (No. 10 running back)

Even though Moreno is from New Jersey, two of the SEC's biggest rivals wound up vying for his services. He chose Georgia over Florida, then burst on the national stage as a redshirt freshman by gaining 188 yards and scoring three touchdowns in a 2007 win against the Gators in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

22. Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
2006 Rivals ranking: Five-star (No. 1 overall recruit)

Though Tebow gets most of the credit for Florida's high-powered offense, Harvin was the X factor defenses couldn't contain. Durability issues have hurt Harvin's draft stock, but his 11.6-yard average from scrimmage -- with many of those touches coming as straight handoffs from the tailback spot -- made him college football's most dangerous weapon.

23. Darius Butler, CB, UConn
2004 Rivals ranking: Two-star

This diamond in the rough started for four seasons after redshirting in 2004. Judging by this YouTube clip, he should have gotten some playing time alongside A.J. Price and Hasheem Thabeet.

24. Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
2004 Rivals ranking: Two-star

A knee injury suffered during Pettigrew's junior season at Tyler (Texas) Lee High threw college coaches off his scent, but he drew plenty of interest going into his senior season.

25. Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
2006 Rivals ranking: Four-star (No. 22 receiver)

Britt appeared set to sign with Illinois, but the speedster from Bayonne, N.J., decided on Signing Day he wanted to play closer to home.

26. Rey Maualuga, LB, USC
2005 Rivals ranking: Five-star (No. 1 inside linebacker, No. 5 overall)

The rich got richer in January 2005. During the broadcast of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, this Eureka, Calif., star picked defending national champ USC over Oregon.

27. Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
2005 Rivals ranking: Four-star (No. 12 receiver)

This speedy receiver from Owing Mills, Md., considered heading south to Alabama, but just before his senior season at McDonogh High, he decided to stay home and play for the Terrapins.

28. Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
2005 Rivals ranking: Four-star (No. 16 offensive tackle)

Much of the Pac-10 offered this giant from Burbank, Calif., but he considered Arizona a perfect fit.

29. Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
2006 Rivals ranking: Four star (No. 31 receiver)

Nicks caught passes at Independence (Charlotte, N.C.) High, from Joe Cox, Stafford's likely successor at Georgia. Few schools knew about him because, as a junior, he played in the shadow of future Bulldog Mohamed Massaquoi. After Nicks racked up 1,524 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior, several schools probably wished they had noticed Nicks as early as the Tar Heels did.

30. Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
2006 Rivals ranking: Three-star

Davis, from Dunbar High in Washington, had a tough time choosing between Illinois and Maryland. In the end, the brother of San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis picked the Illini because he felt he had a better chance to play early. He was correct; Davis was named a freshman All-America in 2006.

31. Donald Brown, RB, UConn
2005 Rivals ranking: Three-star

UConn's program has begun to produce NFL talent, but in 2005, Storrs wasn't a sexy destination in the eyes of recruiting analysts. Brown, who gained 2,036 yards and scored 27 touchdowns as a senior at Catholic (Red Bank, N.J.) High, never stopped finding the end zone.

32. Max Unger, C, Oregon
2004 Rivals ranking: Three-star

The two Oregon schools were the only programs to offer Unger, then a 6-5, 280-pounder from Kamuela, Hawaii. The Ducks were the lucky winners of a brainy, athletic lineman. Unger started at left tackle as a freshman and sophomore and moved to center in 2007.

 
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