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Future All-America players are often not the top recruits

“I’m here to see No. 3,” Tenuta told Specht. “My No. 3? (Luke Kuechly)?” Specht asked. “No, the other No. 3 (Ignatius’ Dan Fox),” Tenuta said. “You’re looking at the wrong No. 3,” Specht said.

While Fox developed into a starting linebacker at Notre Dame, Kuechly led the nation in tackles this season as a junior linebacker at Boston College and won the Butkus Trophy, the Rotary Lombardi Award, the Lott IMPACT Trophy and Bronko Nagurski Trophy.

When high school players begin signing national letters of intent Wednesday, the elite prospects, those in the top 100 of various rankings, will be feted, their signings shown live on television. But more often than not, the players who end up as All-Americans weren’t the top prospects coming out of high school. A glance at this year’s American Football Coaches Association‘s first team shows that two-thirds of the first-team players were not among Rivals.com’s Top 100 coming out of high school.

Greg Gabriel, who was a scout for 27 years in the NFL, was surprised when he found out where players who get drafted were ranked by recruiting services when they were coming out of high school.

“A lot of the guys we had highly rated were one- or two-star guys,” Gabriel said. “Dominique-Rogers Cromartie was a no-star. Yet he was a first-round pick four years later. The conclusion I came to is No. 1, these recruiting services are full of it.The guys who are doing evaluations aren’t on the same planet as NFL evaluators. It’s easy to be right on a skill guy. Where they’re wrong is with the big people A big guy can dominate in high school because he’s so much bigger, but not at the Division I level. Some of these guys are lousy athletes, they’re overweight and they’re not strong.”

Specht said one reason Kuechly might have been overlooked is he was playing at safety/rover his senior year. Kuechly said scouts took one look at him and didn’t like what they saw.

“I wasn’t the big physical freak (he was 6-3, 215),” Kuechly said. “I wore glasses, so they thought I was nerdy. Once I got to college, it wasn’t my motivation to prove (recruiting analysts) wrong, but it’s kind of fun to go against teams that said you couldn’t play.”

Wisconsin junior running back Montee Ball tied Barry Sanders‘ record of 39 touchdowns this season and like Kuechly, was a consensus All-American. Coming out of high school, he was listed by ESPN as the No. 74 running back in the country. Ball said he might have been overlooked because he was playing in Wentzville, Mo., instead of Florida, Texas or California.

“It’s all about where you play in high school,” Ball said. “It’s all about getting your name out there. Of course, that motivated me to prove the recruiters and scouts wrong. One thing they can’t measure is your desire to keep improving.”

Nate Potter, an All-America offensive lineman at Boise State, was not even rated by some recruiting services when he graduated from Timberline High in Boise in 2006.

“I wasn’t good enough,” Potter said. “I was a good high school player. I don’t think I had the talent or the skill to be a five-star. I think I made the most of my strides in college. I needed that time (including a redshirt year) for my body to develop, which was huge.”

Despite their college success, Kuechly is the only one of the three expected to be a first-round draft choice. Potter is rated No. 79 by NFLDraftScout.com and Ball went back to school for his senior year after hearing from scouts he probably would be a third-rounder.

“It shocked me when (his likely draft status) came back as the third round,” Ball said. “They said I was just a product of my offense.”

Said Potter: “When you see a weakness in a scouting report, usually I’ve already recognized that. It’s just added motivation.That’s part of becoming a better player.”

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