Matthew Stafford of Dallas (Texas) Highland Park was the top-rated pro-style quarterback for the class of 2006, and he lived up to that hype by eventually becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Stafford wasn't the only quarterback in that class to find success in college and beyond.
Sam Bradford of Oklahoma City (Okla.) Putnam City North, Greg McElroy of Southlake (Texas) Carroll and Christian Ponder of Colleyville (Texas) Heritage School would each go on to the big stage. But while Stafford was one of only two five-star pro-style quarterback recruits that year (Mitch Mustain was the other), Bradford, McElroy and Ponder arrived in college with far less fanfare.
Each, in fact, finished their prep careers as a high three-star player.
Bradford, who starred at Oklahoma, was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2010, McElroy quarterbacked Alabama to the 2009 national title and Ponder, who played at Florida State, recently was selected in the first round.
The moral of the story: A lot of three-star prospects have big-time careers. Who will be this year's three-star gem?
On Monday, the initial Rivals100 for the class of 2012 was released, followed Tuesday with the Rivals250 and Wednesday with the remaining four-star prospects. Today, several high three-star players are being introduced.
To be clear, this is not the full list of high three-stars in the country. These players fit into one of two categories: They either slipped from the initial 250 watchlist or they were strongly considered for a fourth star.
With players such as Casey Cochran of Monroe (Conn.) Masuk, Bart Houston of Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, Greyson Lambert of Jesup (Ga.) Wayne County and Maty Mauk of Kenton (Ohio), the pro-style quarterback spot certainly is one to watch. Houston is a Wisconsin commit; Lambert and Mauk each has several major college offers.
"Houston led De La Salle to an undefeated season as a junior and
had a solid year doing it," Rivals.com West Coast analyst Adam Gorney said. "He is a pocket passer who always has good command of the offense and really made a lot of plays against some quality competition. I like Houston a lot and I think he will be a solid contributor at Wisconsin where the offense should fit him well. He was only average at the U.S. Army National Combine, though, and that's why he's not a four-star yet."
Defensive tackle is another area with an abundance of talent. There, you'll find prospects such as Alabama commit Dakota Ball of Lindale (Ga.) Pepperell, Earl Moore of Tampa (Fla.) Hillsborough, Gerron Borne of Reserve (La.) East St. John and Quinteze Williams of Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek, a Florida commit.
"Ball is quick and aggressive, and plays with one serious mean streak," said Rivals.com Southeast analyst Keith Niebuhr. "He doesn't like to get beat. When he does, he gets nasty and plays even harder. As his technique improves, his stock should only go up. Williams has that prototypical SEC defensive lineman body, and impressive skills to go with it.
"The only question really is this: Will he be an end or tackle in college? As we get a better look at him in the coming months, it wouldn't be a shock to see his ranking improve."
The group at defensive back is highlighted by players such as cornerback Donaldven Manning of Miami (Fla.) Edison, a Virginia Tech commit, and safety Cordrea Tankersley of Aiken (S.C.) Silver Bluff, a major target of Clemson and South Carolina.
"In the Sunshine State, the player who was on the cusp of being a four-star but ended up a high three-star in this release of the rankings is Manning," Rivals.com Florida analyst Chris Nee said. "The Virginia Tech commitment is working with a lot of tools, specifically excellent quickness, instincts and ball skills, but his lack of ideal size raises some question marks. If Manning displays the ability to play physically while wearing pads on Friday night, then he will likely see that fourth star awarded when the time comes."
At linebacker, a pair of Lone Star State prospects are among those who stand out. One of them is Denton (Texas) Ryan's Alex De La Torre, an inside backer. The other is outside backer Jeremiah Tshimanga of North Richland Hills (Texas) Richland. De La Torre is a Texas commit; Tshimanga has pledged to Oklahoma State.
"De La Torre has a nose for the ball and always seems to be around the play," Rivals.com Midlands analyst Brian Perroni said. "He is smaller than a prototypical inside linebacker but the Texas commit plays a lot bigger than he is. Tshimanga is built exactly how you would want a MIKE linebacker to look. The Oklahoma State commit is very good playing downhill against the run."
Other three-stars of note included: athlete Beniquez Brown of Florence (Ala.), receiver Nathan Cole of Memphis (Tenn.) Mitchell, athlete Darrion Hutcherson of Dadeville (Ala.), running back Robert Lewis of South Gate (Calif.) South East, all-purpose back Daniel Taylor of Lutcher (La.), all-purpose back Dennis Norfleet of Detroit (Mich.) Martin Luther King and strongside defensive end Christopher Wormley of Toledo (Ohio) Whitmer.
"Watching Lewis' film is sometimes amazing because he uses his athleticism and quickness to dodge defenders and make all kinds of plays," Gorney said. "He is also very impressive in camp settings and 7-on-7 events, which can only help his ranking. Many more schools are getting involved with him so SMU will have its hands full keeping him until National Signing Day.
"The one concern is that he is really undersized and would need to gain some weight to be a consistent contributor on the high D-I level."
In June, Rivals.com will release full positional rankings, which will include all of the three-stars in the country. Below is the list of high three-star prospects released today.