College Football: 5 Standout Players Who Were Lightly Recruited
The world of college football recruiting is cutthroat. Programs across the country battle with one another for top recruits, hoping to beat out other programs for the services of star players.
Sometimes, however, it isn't the highly sought-after recruits who wind up becoming college football stars. Sometimes, it is the recruit who only one or two programs saw any potential in, who turns out to be a playmaker.
Let's take a look at five current college football standouts who made the most of their limited options and rewarded the teams who had faith in them.
Note: This article covers only players who had scholarship offers, not those who began their career as walk-ons.
Rakeem Cato, Marshall QB
Cato was a 2-star recruit coming out of Miami Central High School in Florida. While some lower-rated recruits still receive a litany of offers, Cato was not one of them.
Marshall and FIU were the only schools to offer Cato a scholarship. He decided to leave his home state and head up to Huntington, West Virginia to play for the Thundering Herd.
That decision turned out to be a good one for both him and Marshall. Since taking the starting role as a true freshman, Cato has quickly become one of the nation's best QBs.
In just two seasons, Cato has amassed 52 touchdowns and over 6,000 yards through the air. Last season alone, he threw for 4,201 yards and 37 touchdowns while throwing just 11 interceptions. He added another touchdown on the ground, giving him a whopping 38 touchdowns on the season.
Cato has been named to the Maxwell Award preseason watch list. Not bad for someone who only two schools were willing to give a chance to.
Kasey Carrier, New Mexico RB
The 5'9", 185-pound Carrier didn't have many options coming out of high school. New Mexico, which at the time was arguably the worst team in the country, was the only school at any level to offer him.
One offer is better than no offer, even if it's from the worst team in the division, so Carrier packed up his bags for Albuquerque. After seeing the field sparingly as a backup in his first two seasons and having the 2011 season derailed by injuries, Carrier rewarded UNM's faith in him last season by rushing for 1,469 yards and 15 touchdowns.
On a team in desperate need of a go-to playmaker, Carrier stepped up, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, even when called on to take the ball a whopping 255 times.
With opposing defenses keyed in on him as the work horse of the New Mexico offense, Carrier just kept producing. Behind Carrier's tireless efforts, UNM put up 335 points on the season, the highest total for the team since the 2003 season.
New Mexico gave Carrier his only shot at FBS football, and in return Carrier is giving them a reason for hope for the first time in several seasons.
Cody Hoffman, BYU WR
At 6'4", 215 pounds, Hoffman has prototypical wide receiver size. However, he didn't have a whole lot of options coming out of high school.
Hoffman came from Crescent City, CA, a small city up near the Oregon border, isolated from the bright lights of college football. Initially, only FCS team Sacramento State offered him. Then, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall was tipped off to this unheralded recruit by a former college roommate from the area and decided to extend an offer.
That turned out to be a wise decision, as Hoffman jumped at the chance to play at the FBS level and quickly became one of the best receivers in school history.
In his three season in Provo so far, Hoffman has racked up 202 receptions for 2,718 yards and 28 touchdowns, in addition to BYU's first kick return for a touchdown in over a decade. While BYU's passing offense has struggled the past few seasons, Hoffman has consistently been a dominant receiving threat.
Last season alone, he had 100 receptions for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns, all this while almost always facing at least double coverage. Projected as an early-round draft pick, Hoffman opted to return to BYU for his senior season, where he looks to add even more to his already stellar collegiate career.
Hoffman may have been an unknown coming out of high school, but he certainly isn't now.
Khalil Mack, Buffalo ILB
Mack was a Florida boy who didn't receive an offer from any of the Florida schools. So he went up to the cold climate of Buffalo, New York, accepting the only offer given to him.
The offer proved to be mutually beneficial, as Mack got a chance to prove himself, and Buffalo wound up getting the best player on its defense.
In his freshman year in 2011, Mack set the school record for tackles for loss by a freshman with 14.5. Last season, in his redshirt sophomore year, Mack grew into one of the top linebackers in the nation.
In that 2012 season, Mack had 94 total tackles, 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He also added four forced fumbles and a blocked punt.
His dominance led to him being named first-team All-MAC, as well as an Honorable Mention All-American by Sports Illustrated.
Not too shabby for a kid who had to go all the way up the country to the northern border just to get a shot to show what he can do.
Cairo Santos, Tulane K
Kickers often get no love, so it's not too surprising that a kicker would get only one offer. What is surprising, however, is that a kicker who won the Lou Groza Award as the best kicker in the country last season would get only one offer.
Santos is from Brazil but played high school football in St. Augustine, Florida as an exchange student. Tulane decided to extend him an offer when no one else would, and so he wound up in New Orleans.
That turned out to be one of the smartest decisions the Green Wave have ever made, as Santos has become the one constant on a team that has otherwise struggled. It's not often that a kicker is a team's best player.
Santos went a perfect 21-of-21 on field goals in the 2012 season. These weren't just chip shots he was making either, as 13 of the 21 were from over 40 yards, and two of them were from over 50 yards.
That included a school-record 57-yard field goal against Rice.
A lot of schools skipped over Cairo Santos. But the one school that gave him a chance was rewarded with the best kicker in all of college football.