USC football's 25 best three-star recruits of the modern era

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Recruiting rankings dominate discussions on Signing Day, but they can only take a player so far. Who were USC football’s greatest three-star recruits of the modern era?

Since recruiting services like Rivals and Scout began assigning ratings to prospective college players, the value of stars and rankings have been hashed and rehashed. For USC football, who returned to prominence during the Pete Carroll era right around the time recruiting became a major industry, five-star superstars have never been hard to come by.

The likes of Reggie Bush and Matt Barkley got to Troy will immense hype and made due, proving the value of the most elite recruits. But, being a five-star player in high school does not guarantee success. And for every Su’a Cravens, there’s a Whitney Lewis.

The same can be said for three-star recruits, who make up the vast majority of recruits signed by college football teams. Either by being underrated, underdeveloped or simply doubted, several Trojans have produced careers that rival the elite, creating three-star success stories of their own.

Here’s a look at the best of the bunch from the internet era, starting in 2002.

USC football's 25 best three-star recruits of the modern era

Note: Ratings are reflective of the 247Sports Composite, which over the years has averaged the rankings of the four major recruiting sites — 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout. 

David Buehler, USC football
USC football kicker David Buehler. / Jeff Golden/Getty Images

25. David Buehler

National: 41 (JUCO) | State: 24 | Position: 5 (S)

When Pete Carroll offered David Buehler a scholarship out of Santa Ana Community College, he was rated by recruiting services as a safety. He also played fullback and kicked for the Dons.

At USC, his role would be on special teams. First and foremost he was a placekicker, but he also practiced at fullback and safety for a time. While he did not start right away, he was called in to hit the longest field goal attempt by a Trojans since 1998 — a 49-yard attempt against Cal which he made.

When he took over the full-time kicking job in 2007 he proved to be a reliable kicker and even more valuable presence on kick coverage. As a former defensive player, Buehler did not have the traditional kicker’s mindset. He wore neck pads like a linebacker and charged down the field as another level of protection defending against returns.

The range of his kicks also added to his value. While he hit 26-of-33 field goals in his career, he was successful on 6-of-11 from 40 yards or longer. On his 108 career kickoffs, he pinned opponents inside the 20-yard-line 58.3 percent of the time. For his efforts, Buehler was named to the 2008 All-Pac-10 first team and was named USC Football’s Co-Special Teams Player of the Year.