Revisiting 2013 National Signing Day Sleepers: Two Stars To All-Stars

Four years ago, they were overlooked, two-star recruits. Today, they’re all-stars who are either in the NFL or headed in that direction.


For all of the hype that was directed toward blue-chip recruits like Jaylon Smith and Robert Nkemdiche four years ago, it’s often the off-the-radar two-star grinders that end up making or breaking the ultimate grade of a school’s recruiting haul. These embryonic student-athletes comprise the foundation for countless teams fortunate to land a single gem on National Signing Day, let alone multiple can’t-miss kids.

Every season, there are dozens of untapped athletes who quickly surpass expectations, making their high school grade appear uninformed and their new coaching staffs look like eye-for-talent seers. They bloom a little later than their peers, but they’ll have the attention of NFL scouts, GMs and agents by the time their eligibility has been exhausted.

Although many unexpected stars emerged from the 2013 recruiting class, a select handful stood out for the amount they grew in just four years. Sure, they began this college journey with a middling two-star rating and no high-profile reveal in front of TV cameras, but the following players have delivered four or five-star careers that’ll continue at the next level.

Historical rankings from 2013 are courtesy of Scout.com

National Signing Day 2-Star Studs From 2013

20. DT Filipo Mokofisi, Utah

Kyle Whittingham has made a living out of turning Off-Broadway recruits into bona fide stars. Mokofisi is on the verge of becoming the latest in a long line of Utes to surge past expectations this decade. While undersized for the interior at 6-3 and 278 pounds, he uses his hands, quickness and agility to beat opposing linemen off the snap. With a year of eligibility remaining, Mokofisi has the wind at his back after earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 as an interchangeable end and tackle.

19. DE Justin Lawler, SMU

Lawler was overlooked playing for tiny Pottsboro (Tex.) High School on the Oklahoma border. However, his development from a skinny and unpolished kid to a topflight pass rusher has been one of the few bright spots on the Mustang D. Lawler morphed into a First Team All-American Athletic Conference performer in 2016, making 65 tackles, 15 stops for loss, six sacks and two blocked kicks to capture the attention of pro scouts as a junior.

18. RB Phillip Lindsay, Colorado

Lindsay was undersized and rehabbing a serious knee injury at Denver South High School, hardly the ingredients of a can’t-miss recruit. But he has too much heart and want-to to be denied, leading the Buffaloes in rushing in 2015 and 2016. This past season, the 5-8, 180-pound dynamo was the offensive sparkplug of the Buffs’ Pac-12 South Division title, rushing for 1,252 yards and a league-high 16 touchdowns.

17. WR Thomas Sperbeck, Boise State

Sperbeck was positively unassuming coming out of Jesuit (Calif.) High School, and slated to play safety no less. But he’d go on to become the most prolific receiver in Boise State history, finishing with 224 receptions for 3,601 yards and 20 touchdowns. Sperbeck was named to the All-Mountain West First Team as a junior and senior, routinely showcasing the toughness and ball skills to outplay the more athletic opposing DBs.

16. LB Jermaine Carter, Maryland

Carter doesn’t just hit from the middle of the second level, he punishes the opposition. The rising senior, who had his tires kicked by very few Power Five schools, has been a rock for the Terps, amassing more than 100 stops in each of the last two seasons. Carter was named honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2016, a tip of the hat for his ability to diagnose, fill running lanes and lower the boom.

15. LB Marquel Lee, Wake Forest

The Deacons have had a penchant for years of coaching up recruits. Lee is a current example. He had just one other Power Five offer, from instate Maryland, but chose to play instead for then-Wake coach Jim Grobe. Lee really bloomed in Winston-Salem, particularly after Mike Elko became the defensive coordinator. He was a three-year starter for Elko, twice racking up more than 100 tackles and earning Second Team All-ACC as a senior.

14. DE Trey Hendrickson, Florida Atlantic

Carl Pelini had a tumultuous two-year career in Boca Raton. But he and his staff deserve credit for allowing Hendrickson to play defense when others viewed him as a tight end. Hendrickson wanted to hit, and he got a chance to do plenty of that with the Owls. He finished his college career with 29 sacks and eight forced fumbles, and he’s continued harassing quarterbacks at pre-draft all-star games.

13. WR Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech

Henderson traveled from good to unstoppable in 2016. In 2017, he makes the leap from amateur to pro a year earlier than the Bulldogs would have liked. Utah was the only Power Five program to extend an offer, prompting Henderson to remain close to his New Orleans home. He averaged almost 20 yards a catch during his career, running circles around Conference USA defensive backs last fall with 82 receptions for 1,535 yards and 19 touchdowns to tie for the FBS lead.

12. RB Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt

The Commodores were the only SEC school to offer Webb four years ago, but it was the only one he needed to make his mark. With a season still left, he’s already Vanderbilt’s all-time leading rusher, and he surpassed Zac Stacy’s single-season mark by running for 1,283 yards and 13 scores in 2016. Webb grew up in Gainesville wanting to be a Gator, but things have worked out quite well for him in Nashville.

11. LB Calvin Munson, San Diego State

The kid from Missouri had three offers in high school, play in the MAC for Ohio or Toledo, or head to the West Coast and become an Aztec. Munson chose the latter, setting the stage for an outstanding career on the Mesa. He was a three-year starter at San Diego State, earning First Team All-Mountain West as a junior and senior. Munson was especially effective at ratcheting up backfield pressure, notching 26 stops for loss and 13.5 sacks in those final two seasons.