Junior college prospects provide four-year college coaches with the opportunity to fill holes caused by graduation, early departures to the NFL, attrition and at times straight up misevaluations in recruiting. They are by and large “roster pluggers” rather than “roster foundations” except in a few select cases.
Wide receiver D'haquille Williams is the No. 1 junior college prospect for the 2014 cycle. He already has enrolled at Auburn, which as it stands today has the top haul of JUCOs in the country.
At times a program can plug in a real difference maker from the junior college ranks or find an ideal quick fix at a position of need (see Auburn at quarterback in 2010 and this past season), but most staffs will tell you if the JUCO addition makes the two-deep rotation (particularly in their first season), it should be considered a successful evaluation.
These top five classes not only have several prospects that should be able to provide immediate help on the depth chart, but also a potential All-Conference performer or two.
No surprise here. This star-studded group is led by Williams, the No. 1 JUCO prospect in the 2014 recruiting cycle, and a prospect the Tigers had to fight off multiple advances from LSU to reel in. A raw wideout with off the chart measurables and the athleticism to be an instant impact as long as he is not asked to do much more initially than get vertical. Lambert is a highly-disruptive swing lineman that can play defensive end and slide inside on passing downs. Defensive line coach Rodney Garner was relentless in his pursuit of Lambert, even after his initial commitment to Tennessee back in the summer. Lambert would switch to the Tigers during the initial JUCO signing day, Dec. 18. Moncrief is built like a linebacker but covers ground like a safety, a perfect combination for the star position at Auburn. Stuckey often demands double-teams because of his pad level and ability to redirect and collapse as he finds the ball carrier. Dampeer moves well in both the running game and pass pro, and flashes the ability to deliver the punch needed to wall off defenders.
Tennessee already has one of the top junior college offensive tackles in the country- Dontavius Blair- on campus. The Alabama native should compete for snaps almost immediately.
Commitments: Chris Weatherd (Athens, Texas/Trinity C.C.)
The Volunteers got 10 touchdowns out of former JUCO Cordarrelle Patterson in 2012, and they are hoping to get similar production out of Pearson in 2014. Pearson is very fluid in his route running, especially for a taller receiver, and he is able to get separation and explode vertically after the catch, making him a big play threat, possibly even more so than Williams at Auburn. Blair is big and strong enough to completely wall off defenders once he locks on, but Don Mahoney is going to have to work with him on naturally mirroring defenders, pad level, hand placement and using the size he was blessed with. Weatherd is a long, explosive edge rusher with a great first step. He flashes the tools to physically dominate as an upfield disruptor. Williams is an active interior defensive lineman that can track the ball carrier down, as he possesses a high motor for a big man. Is at his best when he maintains low pad level and avoids getting locked up with blockers, where he is sometimes at a disadvantage strength-wise.
3. Kansas State
Commitments: Terrell Clinkscales (Dodge City, Kans./Dodge City C.C.), D'Vonta Derricott (Garden City, Kans./Garden City C.C.), Dominique Robertson (Riverside, Calif./Riverside J.C.), Jesse Mack (Highland, Kans./Highland C.C.)
The Wildcats are perhaps the prime example of using junior college players to provide a foundation for their roster. They continue to take advantage of the local resources, with Bill Snyder once again relying heavily on JUCOS to fill his class needs. Clinkscales is a load inside, capable of controlling the line of scrimmage and pushing the pocket back. Derricott covers a ton of ground for a linebacker and should be able to help out in both blitz and coverage packages. Hayes has the size and strength to be an asset at guard or tackle, but needs to work on being a natural knee-bender and maintaining the ability to mirror and redirect speed rushers. McDaniel has the size to play anywhere in the secondary, and his aggressive style of play should fit right in. Robertson does a nice job using his long arms to lock onto defenders, and seems to enjoy mixing it up in the trenches. Davis is sneaky good and flashes deep threat and return ability, as well the explosiveness to make plays in space out of the slot. Mack is a long, wiry corner that for better or worse plays very aggressively.
Commitments: Dominick Jackson (San Mateo, Calif./College of San Mateo)
Four-star Jermaine Eluemunor is one of two outstanding offensive tackle prospects already enrolled at Texas A&M. Avery Gennesy from East Mississippi Junior College is the other. The Aggies beat SEC West rival Arkansas for Eluemunor and another division foe, Ole Miss, for Gennesy.
The Crimson Tide only has three junior college prospects on board right now, but all three are among the top 15 JUCOS in the 2014 class. Jackson has the size and strength to win the battle at the point of attack, and frankly he usually does win the war in the trenches once he gets his hands on defenders. Mobile enough to help out at offensive tackle or guard. Reed shows the size and strength to be an asset for Alabama against the run, and should be able to do the dirty work needed inside and take up the center and guard on most plays. Pettway has improved his move repertoire since high school, and now seems to come off the ball with more of a plan of attack. He flashes violent hands and does a nice job in downfield as well as lateral pursuit.
The Aggies have brought in a potential pair of plug-and-play bookend tackles, although Eluemunor might be better suited to help at guard. He really knows how to use his hands to mirror defenders, and his powerful lower body allows him to get a solid down field push in the run game. Gennesy should be able to come in and help immediately as a run blocker, as he moves well and has a great combination of size and natural strength. He has to avoid coming off the ball too high and losing the leverage battle, as he will not be able to compensate with brute strength in the SEC. Reynolds has the physical tools to stretch the field, but the Aggies’ coaches are going to have to be patient in working on his route-running and use of his hands off the line of scrimmage to his advantage.
Other noteworthy junior college classes for the 2014 cycle...
Ole Miss: Fahn Cooper , Christian Russell, Jeremy Liggins, Akeem Judd. ... Oklahoma State: Tyreek Hill,Devante Averette, Jeremiah Ledbetter, D'Nerius Antoine. ...Illinois: Jihad Ward, Tyrin Stone-Davis, Geronimo Allison, Joe Fotu, Tyree Stone-Davis, Carroll Phillips. ...Texas Tech: Josh Keys, Devin Lauderdale, Rika Levi, Keland McElrath, Jamarcus Howard, Dontae Levingston, Brandon Thorpe, Marcus Smith. ... West Virginia: Edward Muldrow, Skyler Howard, Jaylon Myers, Justin Scott, Keishawn Richardson, Sylvester Townes.