You know the stars — the brightest lights, the names at the top of the marquee — like the back of your hand. Okudah. Browning. Wade. Peoples-Jones. Vilain. Epenesa. Lindsey. Gebbia. Thorpe.
But with a few days to go until National Signing Day and the commitment lists starting to cement a bit, which name on your favorite school’s haul from the class of 2017 could emerge from the middle of the pile to the top of the heap?
Is there a 3-star prospect with a 5-star ceiling, a true sleeper in the mix? With that in mind, we posed this question to a panel of recruiting experts at the Land of 10:
Who is the most likely candidate to wind up as the unsung hero from your team’s class? And why?
Ohio State — Pete Werner
Jeremy Birmingham: I think there are a few obvious players here because in a class of so many superstars there are not many players who could even qualify as “unsung.” That said, I think that there are a number of people who aren’t paying nearly enough attention to linebacker Pete Werner, the 4-star prospect out of Indianapolis. Werner, a former Notre Dame commitment, was a favorite of Luke Fickell’s for months before the Buckeyes became a real option and was a target of Urban Meyer’s this fall as soon as the Buckeyes recognized the need for an additional linebacker.
Michigan — Andrew Stueber
Brandon Justice: Andrew Stueber is a guy that comes to mind. The 3-star OT prospect out of Darien, Conn., has been almost forgotten. He committed in the summer after receiving an offer at Michigan’s on-campus camp — you know, the old-fashioned way of being recruited. He’s got some serious college-ready strength coming in as a freshman, matched with some solid technique that’s further along than most incoming high school tackles. It’s hard to rate a prospect playing in a weak division in Connecticut that high, but if he plays nearly as well as he has in the Northeast he’ll be a force in the Land of 10.
Penn State — Mac Hippenhammer
Corey Masisak: I’ll say Mac Hippenhammer, a 3-star wide receiver from Fort Wayne, Ind. There’s also the caveat that Penn State needs to reach the finish line with him, because Notre Dame has circled back and is trying to flip him. Hippenhammer might be a bit of a late bloomer from a nontraditional place.
Michigan State — Connor Heyward
Luke Srodulski: Three-star athlete Connor Heyward. He’s not particularly underrated, but he didn’t get a whole lot of love from the 247Sports composite rankings either. The son of the late Craig “Ironhead” Heyward and brother of Steelers DE Cam Heyward, he’s got the lineage and would best be described as a “gamer.” Whether he sees the field at running back, receiver, linebacker or safety, he’ll find a way to make a big impact.
Nebraska — Jaevon McQuitty
Chris Heady: Among the giant names of California recruits, McQuitty’s name has sort of been lost. The 4-star wide receiver was one of Nebraska’s first commits of the class and had a monster season at Battle High School in Columbia, Mo. With big names like Keyshawn Johnson Jr., Tyjon Lindsey and Jamire Calvin, McQuitty’s name is usually put on the back burner. He’s a taller receiver, quick, huge hands, and can go up and make plays. I think he’s an immediate impact guy.
Iowa — Matt Hankins
Bobby LaGesse: Cornerback Matt Hankins. Iowa underwent a string of de-commitments from Texas players and Hankins is one of the only Texans to stick with the Hawkeyes. If he can get on the field and contribute he’ll go down as a Texan from the 2017 class that not only didn’t de-commit but thrived in Iowa.