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Three-star Checkup: Under-the-radar players stepping up

Nic Shimonek
Nic Shimonek (AP)

Each week during the college football season we’ll use Wednesday as a chance to look back at three former three-star prospects that shined during the previous week’s college football action. This week we look at some unsung recruits who came through in big ways for their teams on Saturday.

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As a recruit: Hart originally committed to Tennessee in the summer of 2015 and seemed bound for Knoxville until electing to de-commit just a few weeks before National Signing Day 2016. At that time Hart took to Twitter to critique the Tennessee coaches for being less than straightforward during the recruiting process. After visits to Indiana and Memphis, Hart chose to stay in his home city and play for the Tigers.

What he did this week: Hart has worked his way into the lineup after redshirting in 2016 and he made one of the biggest plays in Saturday’s upset of UCLA . Hart intercepted Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen in third quarter and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown, a play that helped shift the momentum in the second half of a back-and-forth contest. Hart is still working his way into the lineup, but looks like he has the potential to be a long-term contributor for the Tigers.

As a recruit: Despite putting up big numbers in high school and having NFL pedigree, McClesky was passed over by most major programs during the recruiting process. His father, J.J. McClesky, played six years for the Cardinals and Saints. McClesky received only one Power Five offer, courtesy of Oklahoma State. He committed to the Cowboys in September of 2014 and stayed loyal to the school before signing in 2015.

What he did this week: McCleskey has been a contributor from Day 1 since arriving in Stillwater and appears to be in line for his best season yet in 2017. On Saturday he hauled in seven passes for 162 yards and three touchdowns in the Cowboys' victory over Pittsburgh, the best day in his college career. McClesky has recorded at least one reception in all but one game in his college career and is a key part of an Oklahoma State team that looks poised for a run to the College Football Playoff.

As a recruit: Shimonek received just one FBS offer as a high school recruit and jumped on the chance to commit to Iowa to pursue his dream of playing major college football. Unfortunately for him, he failed to crack the depth chart with the Hawkeyes and elected to transfer after one season, returning home to Texas to play for Texas Tech.

What he did this week: After serving as a backup with the Red Raiders over the past few seasons Shimonek is finally getting his chance to shine. On Saturday night he had an outstanding game, completing nearly 75 percent of his passes while throwing for 543 yards and six touchdowns in a 52-45 win over Arizona State. The Red Raiders have produced their share of quarterbacks in recent years, including 2017 first-round pick Patrick Mahomes, and if Shimonek can keep putting up big numbers, he might be the next Texas Tech quarterback to make national headlines.