The 5-star prospects get the most attention, and the 4-stars typically fill out the starting lineup. But the true mark of a successful program is how deep is its roster.
That’s where 3-star recruits enter the picture and often surprise recruiting analysts, fans, the media and sometimes coaches. They are late bloomers, or the eventual beneficiaries of a roster log jam at their positions. Or, in Dak Prescott’s case, arguably the greatest player in a particular school’s history.
But make no mistake, to win a league or national championship, a team must have 3-star prospects who contribute and exceed their National Signing Day expectations.
Here is a 3-star player crucial to each team’s success in 2017:
Alabama: Miller Forristall
Alabama must replace O.J. Howard and Forristall comes pretty close, from blocking to being used sparingly at times in the passing game. Because of his versatility, Forristall appears most likely to step in. He made two starts in 2016 and appeared in all 15 games. He caught five passes for 73 yards, second to Howard among Alabama’s tight ends.
Arkansas: Dre Greenlaw
Recruited as a safety in the 2015 class, Greenlaw should be a full participant in fall camp. He was limited for most of spring following a broken foot injury suffered against Alabama and reinjured in the Belk Bowl.
As one of two inside linebackers, Greenlaw will be a key cog in the Razorbacks’ new 3-4 defensive system. He led Arkansas in tackles at the time of his first foot injury last season.
Auburn: Tre Threat
There’s a position change here as Threat moves from linebacker to the hybrid Buck, which is more of a pass rushing position. It’s likely a better fit. He was recruited to Auburn as a linebacker, but was a pass rusher in high school. Because Threat has played all three linebacker positions, there’s a theory that he could use that experience to re-shape the Buck position in pass coverage and blitzing options.
Florida: Jawaan Taylor
Taylor is a 6-4, 340-pound guard was known for losing more than 50 pounds from when he arrived on campus to his emergence in the starting lineup. Then he took over at right tackle for the injured Fred Johnson last year and played the rest of the way. After the win over Kentucky last season, analysts at Pro Football Focus gave Taylor the highest grade of all Florida players.
Overall, he played in all 13 games in 2016, started 12 at right tackle. He was the only Florida freshman to play on the offensive line, and took home freshman All-America honors by ESPN.com, FWAA and Pro Football Focus. He was also chosen to the freshman All-SEC Team by the leagues coaches.
It’s been a quick rise indeed for the No. 951 player in the 2016 class.
Georgia: Solomon Kindley
The 6-4, 341-pound redshirt freshman saw action at guard in the spring, and with at least two open positions from last year’s lineup, there appears to be plenty of chances to make waves on the Georgia offensive line. Kindley’s emergence would be the kind of thing Georgia needs to further reshape its line with a philosophy of bigger bodies coached by Sam Pittman.
Kentucky: Chris Westry
One of the more underrated consistent starters across the league, Westry will enter his third year as a starter at corner. You could probably win a bar bet or trivia contest with the following stat: He has started all 25 games of his career at Kentucky, and was named to the All-Freshman team by the league’s coaches. He wasn’t as dominant as a sophomore, registering just one interception, but the talent and size haven’t changed. Kentucky is expecting Westry to have a big bounce-back season.
LSU: D.J. Chark
An SEC Media Days representative, Chark is expected to be a key target in Matt Canada’s new offense. Chark is the most experienced receiver on a team that lost Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural, not to mention a pair of tight ends.
Chark was LSU’s most explosive receiver last season. He averaged 17.9 yards per catch, highlighted by an 80-yard TD reception against Southern Miss.
Chark finished with 26 receptions for 466 yards and three touchdowns. This season, Chark will wear the No. 7 jersey, following Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Leonard Fournette.
Mississippi State: Jamal Couch
Listed as an athlete in the 2016 signing class, Couch was the Bulldogs’ only true freshman on offense to play in 2016. His 6-4, 223 pound frame helped him catch eight passes for 113 yards.
The Bulldogs have holes to fill in the receiving corps, which must replace the ever-reliable Fred Ross.
Couch is one of the more experienced of the youthful Bulldog receivers next to Donald Gray.
Missouri: Damarea Crockett
Another hard-to-believe 3-star player, Crockett led freshmen running backs in rushing yards per game last season and overall had 153 carries for 1,062 yards with 10 touchdowns. It was easily the best freshman season for any running back in program history.
Balance those numbers with the facts that he had just 40 carries in the first five games and missed the final game because of a marijuana-related suspension. But he also rushed 14 times for 145 yards against Florida and 29 times for 156 against MTSU.
Ole Miss: Donta Evans
An early enrollee for the Rebels, Evans redshirted his first season, and was expected to eventually play any of the linebacker positions. Under a new defensive coordinator, Evans has a chance to make an impact. The shift from the Rebels’ 4-2-5 last season to a 4-3 this year means Evans has a chance to be on the field more, and linebackers in general will be free to make more plays.
South Carolina: Rico Dowdle
One of the more notable freshmen from a year ago, Dowdle will have the spotlight on him this season as a key name in a talented young backfield.
Last season, he led the Gamecocks in rushing with 764 yards and six touchdowns even though he missed the first four games. Dowdle is known for running between the tackles and he was most effective in the biggest victory last season against, when he rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee.
Tennessee: Ethan Wolf
The tight end was named to the Mackey Award Preseason Watch List after he started 11 games in 2016. He has started all but three games in his career, and he was the first true freshman to start the season opener at tight end in Tennessee history.
One highlight in 2016 was four catches for 44 yards and a 10-yard touchdown reception in win over Kentucky. Overall, he had 21 receptions for 239 yards and two touchdowns in 2016. Given the newcomers — most notably at quarterback — and relative youth on the Vols’ offense, Wolf will be looked to for an impact/security blanket.
Texas A&M: Riley Garner
Talk about opposite ends of the recruiting spectrum: Garner was the No. 1,157 prospect in the 2015 class. In 2017, he’ll help an Aggies defense that must replace Myles Garrett, the No. 2 prospect in the 2014 class.
Garner collected seven tackles, including two solo in the spring game, and his emergence at linebacker would help one of the team’s recent weaknesses, especially given spring injuries.
Garner’s so far primarily had a special teams role for the Aggies. Last year, he appeared in all 13 games, and recorded three solo tackles.
Vanderbilt: Kalija Lipscomb
Ralph Webb — the No. 1,281 prospect in the 2013 class — is such an obvious overachiever we decided to find another 3-star.
Lipscomb was ranked No. 1,062 in the 2016 class, No. 157 among receivers.
Not only is Lipscomb expected to contribute in the passing game, he’s also supposed to be the team’s punt returner again after he fielded a team-high 10 punt returns in 2016. He was also one of six true freshmen to see action during the regular season, and he played in 12 games, with 27 catches, 317 yards and two touchdowns.
He’ll need to have more breakout games, but consistency wasn’t a problem last year. He made at least one catch in Vanderbilt’s first 10 games.
Source: Saturday Down South