Darn you, recruiting services. Every year, I try to give hope to the downtrodden by choosing an all-star team stocked completely with players who were either underrated or ignored by the starmakers among the recruiting cognoscenti. The problem? It keeps getting harder.
The tendrils of recruiting coverage have dug so deep into the gridiron's grassroots that it's nearly impossible for a previously under-the-radar player to sign a letter of intent without at least three stars next to his name. Based on a lot of the stories I read last season, I figured the 2010 All Two-Star (And Fewer) Team would get much of its offensive production from Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore and Pittsburgh tailback Dion Lewis, who were widely hailed as diamonds in the rough. Except Moore and Lewis weren't that rough. Each was a three-star recruit. So was Iowa safety Tyler Sash, the guy I had penciled in as my chief head-knocker.
But after considerable scouring, I've assembled a team* of two-stars that would steamroll a squad of five-stars with sheer force of will. So keep your 4.3-second 40-yard dash times and your 6-foot-4 quarterbacks. I'll take my too-short, too-light, too-slow collection of walk-ons and two-stars.
*Before we go any further, please, please, please understand that these are players who will play college football in 2010. After I published last year's team, Alabama fans bombarded me with Rashad Johnson e-mails for the better part of four months. Johnson had already graduated. So save your e-mails, folks. I know Alabama's Terrence Cody and Missouri's Sean Weatherspoon were two-stars, but they're off to the NFL. It's time to let them go.
QB Case Keenum, Sr., Houston (two stars): I was tempted to go with Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli (two stars) here, but the Ducks have an excellent group of receivers, and Keenum delivers the ball with more precision than any quarterback in America. Keenum has put together consecutive 5,000-yard seasons. In 2010, he might crack 6,000.
RB Montel Harris, Jr., Boston College (two stars): Harris racked up eight 100-yard games as a sophomore en route to 1,457 yards for the season. Plenty of teams with anemic running games could have used the 200-pounder from Jacksonville, Fla., but BC, Duke and Ball State were the only schools to offer Harris a scholarship.
RB Lance Dunbar, Jr., North Texas (two stars): Dunbar, from Haltom, Texas, received late interest from Colorado and Virginia, but he chose to go to North Texas, which had hired his high school coach, Clayton George, as an assistant. As a sophomore, Dunbar averaged 6.9 yards per carry and piled up 1,378 yards and 17 touchdowns.
WR James Rodgers, Sr., Oregon State (two stars): None of the BCS-conference schools in his native Texas thought Rodgers was worth a scholarship offer, so he took his speed to Corvallis. Those Texas schools missed out on 1,034 receiving yards and 303 rushing yards in 2009. They also missed out on Rodgers' younger brother, Jacquizz, a three-star recruit who developed into one of the nation's most electrifying backs.
WR Alex Torres, So., Texas Tech (zero stars): Torres originally enrolled at the Air Force Academy, but a broken hand suffered after a fall on a training run in 2007 left him unable to complete basic training. Instead of returning to Colorado Springs in 2008, the former El Paso, Texas, high school star went to Lubbock and walked on to the football team. In 2009, Torres led the Red Raiders in catches with 67 for 806 yards and six touchdowns.
WR Scotty McKnight, Sr., Colorado (two stars): The player who might be Dan Hawkins' best recruit at Colorado didn't even cost the Buffaloes a scholarship initially. McKnight, from Las Flores, Calif., originally planned to play for Hawkins at Boise State, but when Hawkins took the Colorado job, McKnight decided to walk on in Boulder. In 2009, McKnight was a bright spot in an otherwise dreary year for Colorado's offense. He led the Buffs with 76 catches for 893 yards and six touchdowns.
OT Jeff Allen, Jr., Illinois (two stars): It wasn't a great year for the Illini, but their young left tackle followed an outstanding freshman season with a solid sophomore year. Allen's steady play should help Illinois get better in 2010.
OG Zach Hurd, Sr., Connecticut (two stars): On the night in December 2005 when this Waterford, Conn., native decided to accept coach Randy Edsall's scholarship offer over an offer from Temple, Hurd worried it might be too late (10:30 p.m.) to call Edsall. He made the call anyway, and the Huskies are glad he did. Hurd was named first-team All-Big East as a junior.
C Sean Bedford, Sr., Georgia Tech (zero stars): This former walk-on from Gainesville, Fla., mans the main point of attack in coach Paul Johnson's option offense. As a junior, he was named first-team All-ACC after helping the Yellow Jackets to a conference title.
OG Doug Bartels, Jr., Northwestern (zero stars): Someday, this former walk-on from Caledonia, Ill., will be able to treat defensive linemen after he mauls them. The biological anthropology major is working his way toward medical school. Last summer, in his one and only Twitter tweet, Bartels wrote about how excited he was to shadow an anesthesiologist for a day.
OT Mike Remmers, Jr., Oregon State (zero stars): This former walk-on earned a scholarship following the 2008 season, and he started every game in 2009. Remmers, a right tackle, protected the blind side of lefty quarterback Sean Canfield. Canfield probably felt quite safe knowing his protective detail was led by a guy who had the guts to rock the Mr. T 'do in his official team photo. Don't be shocked if two Beavers make the team next year. Oregon State guard Grant Johnson, another walk-on, started all 13 games at left guard in 2009.
TE Ben Guidugli, Sr., Cincinnati (two stars): It was Cincinnati or Colorado for Guidugli, who opted to stay close to his home in Fort Thomas, Ky. His choice has helped the Bearcats to consecutive Big East titles. Last season, Guidugli averaged 13.5 yards per catch.
DE Greg Romeus, Sr., Pittsburgh (two stars): Romeus played basketball for most of his life and didn't take up football until his senior year at Coral Glades High in Coral Springs, Fla. The school was playing its first year of varsity football, so it wasn't a destination for college recruiters. Romeus was set to sign with Central Florida, but Pitt made a late push and snagged a raw athlete who would grow into a fearsome pass rusher.
DT Lawon Scott, Sr., Ole Miss (two stars): Scott's height (6-0) kept college coaches away, but the St. Petersburg, Fla., native, who played at 290 pounds as a high school senior, still impressed coaches at Ole Miss and Wake Forest. As a junior in 2009, Scott (now a solid 310) started 13 games for the Rebels and helped linemate Jerrell Powe clog the middle while speedsters Greg Hardy and Kentrell Lockett rushed off the edge.
DT Montori Hughes, So., Tennessee (two stars): Haven't heard of Hughes? You will. Middle Tennessee State was one of the few schools recruiting the Murfreesboro, Tenn., native when Tennessee brought him in on an official visit in January 2008. Hughes signed with the Volunteers, but he failed to qualify academically in time to enroll. After qualifying, he enrolled in January 2009. The 315-pound Hughes spent 2009 backing up potential 2010 first-rounder Dan Williams. Now, Hughes will get his chance to shine.
DE Thomas Keiser, Jr., Stanford (two stars): Keiser, from Pittsburgh, knew exactly what he wanted in a school. He committed to Stanford the summer before his senior season at North Allegheny High. As a redshirt sophomore in 2009, Keiser led the Cardinal with 15 tackles for loss.
LB Mike Mohamed, Sr., Cal (two stars): San Diego State was the only other school to offer Mohamed, but maybe schools should have heeded an assessment by Rivals.com that compared the Brawley, Calif., native to former Golden Bears walk-on Scott Fujita, who now starts for the New Orleans Saints. As a junior in 2009, Mohamed led the Pac-10 with 112 tackles. And when he's not bringing down ballcarriers, Mohamed is learning to make money for others. In 2009, he interned with a personal wealth advisor at UBS Financial Services.
LB Lawrence Wilson, Sr., Connecticut (two stars): The Big East's leading tackler in 2009 attended a high school in Tuscaloosa, Ala., named after Bear Bryant. But Alabama didn't offer a scholarship, so Wilson headed north. In 2010, he and fellow two-star Greg Lloyd Jr. (Clermont, Fla.) will be the Big East's best linebacker tandem.
LB Tank Carder, Jr., TCU (two stars): This one-time BMX world champ was lightly recruited out of Sweeny, Texas, but he was no lightweight last season. Carder's 89 tackles were second-best on a unit that led the nation in total defense. Carder may do more than play defense in 2010. TCU coach Gary Patterson told The New York Times in January that Carder may kick off and kick long field goals for the Horned Frogs.
CB Brandyn Thompson, Sr., Boise State (two stars): Washington State was the only power-conference school to show interest in Thompson, who also considered UNLV, Montana and San Diego State. If you watched the Fiesta Bowl, you know Thompson. He intercepted two Andy Dalton passes, including a pick-six to put the Broncos on the scoreboard.
SS Jordan Kovacs, So., Michigan (zero stars): Kovacs, who followed in his father's footsteps as a Michigan walk-on, was shocked when coaches threw him into the Notre Dame game to replace free safety Mike Williams. After all, Kovacs wasn't heavily recruited. In fact, his best offer out of Clay High in Oregon, Ohio, was a walk-on spot at Toledo. Kovacs played well against the Fighting Irish and made his first start at free safety two weeks later. Williams eventually returned to his spot, but Kovacs came off the bench to make 17 tackles and force a fumble against Michigan State. The following week, coaches slid Kovacs into the starting strong safety spot after they moved Troy Woolfork to cornerback. Kovacs never gave up the job, and he finished the season second on the team in tackles with 75.
FS Blake Gideon, Jr., Texas (two stars): In 2009, Gideon overcame the sting of dropping the game-sealing interception against Texas Tech the previous season by picking off five passes. Gideon, from Leander, Texas, has started every game in his Texas career despite being surrounded by four- and five-star players in his position group.
CB Trevin Wade, Jr., Arizona (two stars): The Wildcats overcame a late push from Cal to land Wade, a Round Rock, Texas, native who received little interest from the programs in his home state. As a sophomore, Wade led Arizona with five interceptions.
K Alex Henery, Sr., Nebraska (zero stars): This former walk-on from Omaha, Neb., hit 18-of-19 field goal attempts inside 50 yards in 2009. For his career, Henery has hit 44-of-46 inside 50 yards. On top of that, Henery is a deadly punter who booted 13 punts of 50-plus yards and pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 30 times.
P Drew Butler, Jr., Georgia (two stars): Despite his bloodline -- father Kevin was a standout kicker at Georgia and in the NFL -- Butler was only a two-star recruit. The younger Butler was the perfect weapon this past season for a team that struggled at times to move the ball. He led the nation with a 48.8-yard average, tilting field position every time he put toe to leather.
Ret. Da'Norris Searcy, Sr., North Carolina (two stars): This safety from Decatur, Ga., received interest from Florida and Virginia Tech, but even that didn't earn him any more stars. Searcy has proven himself in Chapel Hill. Last season, he ranked fifth in the nation in punt returns (14.9).