The passage of each National Signing Day brings great joy, and not only because it means I'm due some vacation time. Since 2008, I've had the honor of selecting a team composed entirely of players largely ignored by college coaches and recruiting service starmakers.
None of the players on this list earned more than two stars, but this group would whip a team of four- and five-stars on the field. So if you weren't happy with your team's haul on Signing Day, take heart. If in two or three years some of the players your team landed wind up on the All Two-Star (And Fewer) Team, you'll be quite happy with the class.
Now, it's time for the annual disclaimer -- which seems to get longer every year. This team is made up of guys who will play in college in 2011. I realize defensive end J.J. Watt was a two-star Central Michigan signee who transferred to Wisconsin as a walk-on. Watt was outstanding, which is why he's preparing for the NFL draft now. Also, I understand that Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore was underrated relative to his on-field excellence. But he was a three-star, which makes him a big-shot compared to the players on my team.
QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State (zero stars in class of 2002): Old man Weeden almost predates the star system. Rivals.com and Scout.com were in their infancy during Weeden's senior year at Santa Fe High in Edmond, Okla., and it appears no one bothered to rank Weeden because everyone assumed his future would be in professional baseball. Weeden, a right-handed pitcher, was chosen in the second round by the Yankees in 2002, but shoulder injuries derailed his baseball career. In 2007, Weeden walked on at Oklahoma State. In 2010, he threw for 4,277 yards and 34 touchdowns. This was a tough position to pick. Weeden beat out Houston's Case Keenum (two stars), Mississippi State's Chris Relf (two stars) and Penn State's Matt McGloin (a zero-star walk-on). Connecticut's Johnny McEntee, a zero-star walk-on who doesn't even start for his team, also wins a spot as a backup thanks to the sheer awesomeness of this video.
RB Montel Harris, Boston College (two stars in class of 2008): The Jacksonville, Fla., product made a Signing Day switch from Duke in 2008, and the Eagles are grateful. Even though Harris didn't carry the ball in Boston College's final two games of 2010 after injuring cartilage in his left knee, he rushed for 1,243 yards and eight touchdowns. For his career, Harris has rushed for 3,600 yards and 27 touchdowns.
RB Doug Martin, Boise State (two stars in class of 2007): Martin was hoping for scholarship offers from Washington and Cal, but they never came. The Stockton, Calif., native accepted his offer from Boise State, but after two seasons Broncos coaches thought he could help more on defense. An injury to D.J. Harper in 2009 prompted coaches to move Martin back to tailback. Now, Martin is one of the nation's best backs. Last season, he rushed for 1,260 yards and 12 touchdowns.
TE Michael Egnew, Missouri (two stars in class of 2008): When he committed to Missouri in June 2007, Egnew was a 6-foot-4, 200-pound receiver/tight end from Plainview, Texas. "I'm not that good coming out of the three-point stance, but that's one of the reasons I chose Missouri," Egnew told Rivals.com at the time. "I can get out there and get downfield." Can he ever. As a 6-6, 235-pound junior in 2010, Egnew caught 90 passes for 762 yards and five touchdowns and was named a first-team All-American by The Associated Press.
WR James Rodgers, Oregon State (two stars in class of 2007): The Beavers beat out Texas State and Utah State for the Rosenberg, Texas, sleeper who -- along with younger brother Jacquizz -- turned into a star in Corvallis. Quizz is off to the NFL, but James, who missed much of last season after suffering a knee injury at Arizona, returns. Because he never redshirted, James received a medical hardship from the NCAA, granting him one more season as a Beaver.
WR Cody Wilson, Central Michigan (two stars in class of 2009): Wilson blossomed after Dan Enos replaced Butch Jones as Central Michigan's coach and installed a pro-style offense. Wilson caught 83 passes for 1,137 yards with five touchdowns in 2010. The 5-10 Wilson was Central Michigan's first commitment for the class of 2009.
OT Mark Asper, Oregon (two stars in class of 2004): This 6-7, 322-pounder from Ogden, Utah, committed to Oregon in late 2003 but didn't enroll until January 2007 after he completed a two-year Mormon mission in Barcelona. Asper's time in Spain made it almost too easy to earn a degree in Spanish. So he added a sociology degree. As a redshirt junior in 2010, Asper was working on his first master's. Asper gets bonus points for being man enough to admit that he knows the words to every song from every Disney musical cartoon. That's probably not an accident. Asper, 25, and his wife Michelle -- who manage an apartment complex together -- have two young daughters. Asper probably hears Be Our Guest in his nightmares.
OG Patrick Omameh, Michigan (two stars in class of 2008): The lowest ranked member of Michigan's class of 2008 also is one of the most productive members of that group. This engineering major from Columbus, Ohio, signed with Michigan as a 236-pound defensive end. He's now a 300-pound guard entering his second season as a starter.
C Tyler Horn, Miami (two stars in class of 2007): Miami beat out Florida International, Arkansas State and Central Arkansas for Horn, who didn't get a scholarship offer from the Hurricanes until a week before National Signing Day. Between his junior and senior years of high school, Horn -- who weighed 250 pounds as a junior at Memphis (Tenn.) University School -- broke his hand at a camp at Arkansas. That took Horn off the camp circuit and placed him squarely under the radar. Horn spent two years on the scout team. He cracked the rotation as a redshirt sophomore in 2009, and he started all 13 games in 2010.
OG Joel Foreman, Michigan State (two stars in class of 2007): Foreman, from Highland, Mich., had an offer from Cincinnati when Bearcats coach Mark Dantonio took the job at Michigan State. Not long after, Foreman took an official visit to East Lansing and came away with an offer. He now has started 36 games -- including 22 in a row -- at left guard. As a junior, Foreman was an honorable mention Big Ten selection.
OT Jeff Allen, Illinois (two stars in class of 2008): It was Illinois or NC State for this Chicagoan. Allen chose the Illini and has held down one of the tackle spots for most of his time in Champaign. Allen came to Illinois weighing 337 pounds and still managed to start nine games as a freshman. He's now a trim 313 and headed into his fourth season as a starter.
DE Jesse Joseph, Connecticut (two stars in class of 2009): Joseph went to high school in Philadelphia, but the Huskies signed the Canada native out of the same Quebec prep school that produced UConn center Moe Petrus. As a sophomore, Joseph led the Huskies with 12 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.
DT Justin Washington, Arizona (two stars in class of 2009): Washington flew under the radar because his high school, Cypress (Texas) Woods, fielded its first varsity team in 2008. Still, Oklahoma State and Utah also offered scholarships. But Washington chose the Wildcats. After redshirting in 2009, the 275-pounder started nine games in 2010 and made several first team freshmen All-America lists after racking up 10.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.
DT Roosevelt Nix, Kent State (two stars in class of 2010): Never heard of Nix? You will. As a freshman playing at 240 pounds, the Reynoldsburg, Ohio, native was named the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Nix was virtually unblockable, racking up 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. He also forced a fumble in four of his first five games. Now imagine how much better Nix will be after an offseason spent in a college strength program. Nix also was recruited by Air Force and Eastern Michigan, but that list might have been longer had his high school team not been crippled by a budget crunch that forced a $500 pay-for-play fee.
DE Chandler Jones, Syracuse (two stars in class of 2008): Jones was a 6-5, 236-pound tight end from Endicott, N.Y., who also received interest from Buffalo and Connecticut. He has grown into a 250-pound defensive end who was named second-team All-Big East in 2010 after recording 57 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
LB Josh Kaddu, Oregon (two stars in class of 2008): The schools disagreed with Rivals.com on Kaddu. While the Vacaville, Calif., native was only a two-star prospect, he had scholarship offers from four Pac-10 schools. He chose Oregon over Arizona, Arizona State and Washington. In 2010, Kaddu started all 13 games for the Pac-10 champs.
LB Tank Carder, TCU (two stars in class of 2007): The reigning Rose Bowl defensive MVP didn't get much interest while starring at Sweeny (Texas) High, but SMU and TCU saw something in the former BMX champ who didn't play football until his sophomore season because of serious injuries suffered in a car crash as a seventh-grader. Carder has been one of the best players on one of the nation's best defenses for the past two seasons, and his performance in Pasadena only solidified his place as one of the nation's best linebackers. With two minutes remaining, Wisconsin needed a two-point conversion to tie the game. Quarterback Scott Tolzien had an open receiver, but Carder swatted away the pass to seal the win for the Horned Frogs.
LB Daren Bates, Auburn (two stars in class of 2009): When Auburn has to flip a recruit, it's usually a guy committed to another SEC school. Not Bates. As late as January 2009, he planned to attend Arkansas State. Auburn was one of several SEC schools to make a late run at Bates, and he decided to head to the Plains. Bates started immediately as a safety. In 2010, he moved to linebacker. He was slowed late in the season by a shoulder injury, but Bates still finished with 48 tackles, seven quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.
CB Antonio Fenelus, Wisconsin (two stars in class of 2008): Playing for Boca Raton (Fla.) High, Fenelus earned Florida Class 4A first team all-state honors, but that wasn't enough to draw more than a handful of offers. Besides Wisconsin, his only other official visit was to Florida Atlantic, which is located in Boca Raton. But the Badgers have evaluated quite well in South Florida, and Fenelus is no exception. As a junior, he was named first team All-Big Ten after leading Wisconsin with four interceptions and 11 pass breakups.
S Will Lowery, Alabama (zero stars in class of 2008): Not all of Alabama's key contributors were four- and five-star recruits. Lowery, from Hoover, Ala., came to Tuscaloosa as a walk-on. The 5-9, 172-pounder redshirted in 2008 and didn't see the field in 2009, but he wowed coaches during spring practice in 2010. He played mostly in nickel and dime situations, but he was elevated to the starting lineup for the Capital One Bowl win against Michigan State to replace injured starter Mark Barron. Barron is returning for his senior season, but expect Lowery's role to keep growing.
S Hakeem Smith, Louisville (two stars in class of 2009): Smith, from Riverdale, Ga., committed to Louisville early and didn't receive interest from the powers closer to home. He redshirted in 2009. In 2010, he was named the Big East rookie of the year after leading the Cardinals with 88 tackles.
CB Terrence Frederick, Texas A&M (two stars in class of 2008): Frederick and Smith nearly became teammates. Frederick, from Katy, Texas, was all set to sign with Louisville, but Texas A&M suddenly had a scholarship open for a cornerback after it pulled an offer from Jordan Fields following Fields' arrest on an assault charge on Feb. 1, 2008. Frederick made an immediate impact in College Station. He started six games as a freshman, and he has started every game since his sophomore season. In 2010, Frederick led the Aggies with nine pass breakups.
K Danny Hrapmann, Southern Miss (two stars in class of 2007): Hrapmann, from New Orleans, originally attended Southeastern Louisiana, but he transferred to Southern Miss after his freshman year. In 2010, Hrapmann was named a Lou Groza Award finalist and a first-team All-America by the Walter Camp Foundation after making 26 of 30 field goals and all 51 PAT attempts.
K David Ruffer, Notre Dame (zero stars in class of 2007): Ruffer, from Oakton, Va., didn't play high school football, which explains his lack of star power. He walked on as a freshman at William and Mary and didn't play. Then he got a chance to transfer -- just as a student -- to his dream school. Ruffer inquired in August 2008 about walking on at Notre Dame, but he was told to wait until the spring of 2009. Ruffer became something of a campus curiosity while playing receiver and kicker for Siegfried Hall early in the fall of 2008. At the same time, the Fighting Irish had kicking issues. Ruffer got a chance to kick after a practice, and a star was born. He was immediately added to the team. In 2010, Ruffer was a Lou Groza Award finalist. He is a late addition to the team because the selection committee didn't realize he had a fifth year of eligibility. But for going from the dorm league to the nation's elite, Ruffer deserves a special exemption. In fact, he deserves to be a captain.
P Drew Butler, Georgia (two stars in class of 2007): The son of former Georgia and Chicago Bears kicker Kevin Butler saw his average drop from 48.1 yards in 2009 to 44.5 in 2010, but he still pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line on 19 occasions. Butler won the Ray Guy Award in 2009, and he was a finalist in 2010.
Ret. Quincy McDuffie, Central Florida (two stars in class of 2009): McDuffie played at Edgewater, one of Orlando's best programs, but a back injury limited him to two games his senior season. He visited Kansas State and Troy, but scholarship offers never came. UCF offered the day before National Signing Day, and McDuffie happily accepted. In 2010, McDuffie finished second in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 32.2 yards per return.