2011 Spring Preview
The Top JUCO Transfers
Okay, so who's going to be the next Cam Newton, going from the JUCO ranks to national notoriety?
No, there aren't any players of Newton's caliber coming out of the two-year schools. He was a once-in-a-generation revelation. However, there are scores of quality transfers from around the country ready to hit the ground running on a new campus. While blue-chip prep stars are pursued for the future of a program, junior college standouts are signed for today. When a kid from a two-year school is signed, he's expected to pay immediate dividends.
These athletes, who create a buzz at anonymous institutions, like Chaffey and Navarro Community College, are the quickest means for a coach to fill a pressing need. And why not? He's filled out since leaving high school, is more mature, and is better prepared to make a quick transition to the FBS. He also has a smaller, two to three-year window of opportunity, fueling a sense of urgency.
Their time is now. Their need is unequivocal. Start tossing around their names now, and they could make you look real smart by the end of the summer.
11. DE Toby Jackson, UCF
The Knights wasted little time finding a replacement for Bruce Miller at defensive end. Although he has a tough act to follow, Jackson has the talent to ascend up the depth chart and pick up where No. 49 left off. He had offers from much bigger programs, like Alabama and Tennessee, but opted to join his brother in Orlando instead. One of the country's most heralded high school ends, he originally signed with Georgia in 2008 before spending a year at Hargrave Military Academy and the last two at Navarro (Tex.) Junior College. At 6-5 and 265 pounds, he has the size and the explosion to dominate the competition in Conference USA and keep UCF among the league's nastiest D's.
10. DT John Jenkins, Georgia
Major programs from as far away as Oregon and Penn State wanted Jenkins' signature. However, the Bulldogs got it, which ought to provide an instant lift to last year's questionable run defense. A massive 6-4, 340-pound stop-gap in the middle, he's a classic nose guard capable of occupying more than one blocker at the same time. In Todd Grantham's 3-4 system, a player such as Jenkins is especially important to the overall success of the defense. He spent last season at Mississippi Gulf Coast, squaring away his academics and piling up the offers before deciding to continue his career in Athens.
9. DE Leon Mackey, Texas Tech
Mackey had a number of options coming out of Hinds (Miss.) Community College. He chose Lubbock, which has head coach Tommy Tuberville absolutely ecstatic. At 6-4 and 260 pounds, he has tremendous size for a pass rusher, blending the strength to stop the run and the speed to make plays in the backfield. Three years removed from high school, he's a physically and emotionally mature defender, who's going to help the Red Raiders as soon as he gets acclimated to his new surroundings. Flashing the light feet and balance of a former tight end, he's capable of adding some weight and sliding inside if the need arises.
8. S Daimion Stafford, Nebraska
Graduation is taking a bite out of a Husker secondary that's losing five key seniors. Stafford was signed out of Chaffey (Calif.) Community College to put some teeth back into it. A 6-1, 210-pound safety, with two years of experience at the junior college level, he'll arrive in Lincoln ready to compete for a starting assignment. A terrific all-around athlete, he possesses the size and physicality to fill lanes and run stop like a linebacker. However, it's his instincts and feel for the game that really have the Nebraska coached excited. He takes good angles and has a nose for the ball, rarely getting caught out of position or burned over the top.
7. DT Maurice Couch, Tennessee
One of Derek Dooley's top priorities in Knoxville is to raise the overall talent level at the program. Couch represents a step in the right direction for the defense. He fills a need area for the Volunteers and has three years of eligibility remaining. Last season was spent at Garden City (Kan.) Community College, honing his skills and whetting the appetite of recruiting coordinators across the South and Southwest. A raw athlete who played just one year at the high school level, he was a quick study over the last two years, improving his technique and remaining explosive off the snap. He's primed to explode early in his Tennessee career.
6. OL Jacob Fahrenkrug, Florida State
Changes are expected along the Florida State offensive line this fall. Fahrenkrug has been imported from North Dakota State College of Science to help with the transition. The top-rated offensive lineman within the junior colleges, he's a 6-4, 315-pound bruiser who figures to be an immediate help to the Seminole running game. Nasty at the point of attack, with a motor that never quits, he can also use his finesse and excel at the finer points of the position. While it's hard to imagine now that he wasn't looked at coming out of high school in Minnesota, line coach Rick Trickett can't wait to start working with him.
5. DT Jesse Williams, Alabama
Nick Saban's 3-4 defense is at its best when the coach has a rock in the middle at nose guard. At 6-4 and 320 pounds, Williams has the potential to be that guy at nose guard. A native of Australia, with a very high ceiling, he absolutely obliterated opposing linemen while at Arizona Western. A regular in the backfield, he has surprisingly light feet and tremendous upper body strength. Fair or not, expect to hear plenty of comparisons to Terrence Cody, who also used a JC as a stepping stone to Tuscaloosa. It's going to be fun watching Williams develop now that he's surrounded by a first-rate staff and top-notch facilities for the first time in his career.
4. DT Jared Ebert, Oregon
When talent meets opportunity, it's often a recipe for success. When Ebert signed a letter of intent in December to play for the Ducks, he showed he was paying attention to their depth chart. Oregon must replace Brandon Bair and Zac Clark on the interior, creating an ideal opportunity for newcomers to rise up the depth chart shortly after arriving on campus. A 6-5, 285-pounder from Iowa Western Community College, he has a tremendous motor and moves surprisingly well for his size. A late-bloomer, who was overlooked in high school, there's quiet optimism around Eugene that he has high ceiling that can be reached with the right coaching and surroundings.
3. DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Mizzou is thrilled to have signed Richardson ... again. He became a Tiger back in 2009, but never qualified academically and was forced to do an apprenticeship at College of the Sequoias (Calif.). One of the nation's top tackles coming out of high school, he possesses the kind of quickness and burst that's usually reserved for ends. In fact, his skill set and versatility will allow him to move up and down the line if necessary. Even on an already talented Missouri line, he's capable of forcing himself into the rotation and demanding snaps. The key, as it's been in the past, will be academics. If he can maintain his grades, he'll be raring to go in the summer.
2. QB Zach Mettenberger, LSU
After finishing last in the SEC in passing, the Tigers were desperate for an infusion of talent behind center. Enter Mettenberger in Baton Rouge. At this time last year, he was battling Aaron Murray for the starting job at Georgia. Since then, however, he got booted out of Athens for a series of off-field problems and spent a successful year at Butler (Kans.) Community College, throwing 32 touchdowns and four picks. At 6-5 and 250 pounds, he's an easy target in the pocket, but can uncork and reach any LSU speedster running a go-route on the outside. Purely as a hurler, he represents an instant upgrade from Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, last year's starter and caddy, respectively. Mettenberger is an ideal addition to the mix to push the two veterans outside their comfort zones.
1. DE Cornellius Carradine, Florida State
Jimbo Fisher and his staff cleaned up in the junior colleges this year. Witness Carradine. Arguably the best transfer available, he turned away offers from the likes of Georgia, Ohio State, and Alabama to play in Tallahassee. He used his time at Butler (Kans.) Community College wisely, bulking up and progressing from a nice high school recruit to a coveted pass rusher. An explosive 6-5, 245-pounder, he was productive both seasons, making 109 tackles, 20 stops for loss, and an NJCAA-high 16 sacks in 2010. There's plenty of competition at Florida State, but he has a shot of replacing Markus White and picking up the slack on the opposite side of All-American Brandon Jenkins.