Signing-day sleepers rise,

Signing-day sleepers rise

- By Jim Halley USA TODAY

St. Xavier (Cincinnati) was preparing to play rival St. Ignatius (Cleveland) in 2008 when St. Xavier coach Steve Specht saw then-notre Dame football assistant Jon Tenuta.

“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 the 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.

Greg Gabriel, who was a scout for 27 years in the NFL, was surprised when he found out where players who got 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 twostar guys,” Gabriel said. “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.”

Specht said one reason Kuechly might have been overlooked was he played safetyrove­r 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. 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 touch- downs this season and, like Kuechly, was a consensus AllAmerica­n. 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,” Pot- ter 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 firstround draft choice.

Potter is rated No. 79 by Nfldraftsc­, 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 (my likely draft status) came back as the third round,” Ball said.

“When you see a weakness in a report, usually I’ve already recognized that,” Potter said. “It’s just added motivation.”

 ?? By Greg M. Cooper, US Presswire ?? Hidden gem: Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly wasn’t a hot high school prospect, but he might be a first-round NFL draft pick.
By Greg M. Cooper, US Presswire Hidden gem: Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly wasn’t a hot high school prospect, but he might be a first-round NFL draft pick.

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