Todd Graham looked to the junior college ranks for help next season.
College football’s national signing day is essentially the start of a new season for every coaching staff. With the recruiting class officially in place, all coaches can turn the page to the next season and have a clear view of the roster for the upcoming year. But while most of the talk on national signing day centers around which true freshman can make the biggest impact for a program for that upcoming season, don’t overlook junior college recruits. While recruiting a JUCO prospect is risky, they are solid stop-gap solutions and a short-term answer for a team that might be short on depth at a particular position.
Arizona State coach Todd Graham dipped into the junior college ranks for help in defending the Pac-12 South title. The Sun Devils return only two starters on defense, which is where Graham looked for immediate help. Linemen Dalvon Stuckey and Edmond Boateng will help replace Will Sutton, while defensive back Kweishi Brown should factor into the mix to replace Robert Nelson, Osahon Irabor and Alden Darby in the secondary.
Arizona State was just one of a handful of programs looking for immediate help, as Alabama, Tennessee, Kansas State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State all signed potential instant impact players. The Crimson Tide signed two potential standouts for the defensive line, while the Cowboys added Tyreek Hill, a potential gamebreaker on offense.
Identifying which junior college prospects will make the biggest impact is no easy task. Athlon has compiled a list of 15 impact junior college transfers, as well as a list of other players to watch in 2014.
15 Impact Junior College Recruits for 2014
Dontavius Blair, OL, Tennessee
Blair is just one recruit in Tennessee’s whopping 35-man class, but the Alabama native is one of the most important signings for 2014. The Volunteers lose all five starters on the offensive line, including standout tackles Antonio Richardson and Ja’Wuan James. Blair ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the 247Sports Composite junior college ratings and comes to Knoxville after a two-year stint at Garden City Community College. Adjusting to life in the SEC is no easy assignment for a junior college lineman, but Blair played his high school ball in Anniston, Ala., so he’s no stranger to the expectations within the conference. At 6-foot-8 and 300 pounds, Blair has the necessary size to start at one of the tackle spots for Tennessee in 2014.
Terrell Clinkscales, DL, Kansas State
Clinkscales is one of nine incoming junior college recruits for Kansas State, ranking No. 10 in the 247Sports Composite ratings. Clinkscales played in 2011 at Grand Rapids Community College, recording only 13 tackles in six games. After Grand Rapids disbanded its program, Clinkscales sat out 2012 before landing at Dodge City Community College. In 2013, the Illinois native was a second-team NJCAA All-American and recorded 7.5 tackles for a loss in 10 games. Kansas State isn’t in dire need of talent on the line, as end Ryan Mueller will contend for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors, and Travis Britz returns after earning honorable mention all-conference honors last season. However, Clinkscales should be a key piece in the line rotation up front and could earn a starting spot before the first game.
Jermaine Eluemunor/Avery Gennesy, OL, Texas A&M
Even with first-team All-SEC tackle Jake Matthews departing, the Aggies should still have a formidable offensive line. Guards Jarvis Harrison and Germain Ifedi and center Mike Matthews are back, while tackle Cedric Ogbuehi turned down an opportunity to leave early for the NFL. But you can never have enough talent or depth on the offensive line in the SEC, so Kevin Sumlin and his staff landed two top-10 offensive linemen this signing class. Eluemunor is rated slightly higher by scouting services, checking in as the No. 7 player in the 247Sports Composite, while Gennesy is No. 9. According to Texas A&M’s signing day release, Eluemunor could play tackle or guard, while Gennesy is mentioned just as a tackle. While those positions could change in spring practice, both players are likely to factor prominently into the Aggies’ offensive line this year.
Tyreek Hill, RB/WR, Oklahoma State
Hill is listed as an athlete in Oklahoma State’s signing day release, and the Georgia native is expected to be an all-purpose threat for the Cowboys’ offense in 2014. How Hill will be utilized by coordinator Mike Yurcich isn’t exactly certain, but the 5-foot-9 speedster is a key piece of the rebuilding effort on offense next year. Hill ranks as the No. 3 junior college prospect per 247Sports' Composite ratings and he averaged 16.6 yards per reception in 2013. Speed is one of Hill’s best assets, as evidenced by his 20.14 seconds mark in the 200 meters. Desmond Roland should be set as Oklahoma State’s starting running back, but the coaching staff will find ways to get the ball in Hill’s hands out of the backfield or as a receiver.
Skyler Howard, QB, West Virginia
Quarterback play is usually an automatic strength in a Dana Holgorsen-coached offense. But that wasn’t the case last season, as the Mountaineers started three different players under center, and the offense finished with just 16 touchdown passes. Ford Childress is no longer on the team, leaving Paul Millard and Clint Trickett as the most experienced options heading into 2014. Trickett is not expected to play this spring due to shoulder surgery, which leaves Millard and Howard battling for the starting role. The Texas native played only one season at Riverside City College (coached by former San Diego State coach Tom Craft), throwing for 3,151 yards and 33 touchdowns. Howard also displayed nice mobility, rushing for 343 yards on 108 attempts. Considering he has only one year of starting experience on the collegiate level under his belt, Howard will need some time to adjust to playing in the Big 12. However, he was rated as the No. 89 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and shows good timing and anticipation on his junior college film. Howard is listed at 5-foot-11, but he is a good fit for West Virginia’s spread attack.
Kenny Iloka, S, TCU
Defense is always a strength for Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs, and TCU should have one of the best units in the Big 12 next season with the return of eight starters. The secondary is Patterson’s biggest concern with the departure of standout cornerback Jason Verrett and safety Elisha Olabode. Iloka is the brother of former Boise State safety George Iloka and ranked as the No. 61 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. At Tyler Junior College in 2013, Iloka recorded 126 tackles and 3.5 sacks. At 6-foot-2 and 209 pounds, Iloka has the size to be an impact safety and should have an easy transition into TCU’s 4-2-5 scheme.
Dominick Jackson, OL, Alabama
With left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio leaving early for the NFL, and guard Anthony Steen expiring his eligibility, Alabama has two significant holes on its offensive line. Spring practice is a key period for this unit, as the Crimson Tide once again has all of the pieces to win the national championship. However, the offensive line and quarterback play will determine how far this team can go in 2014. Kouandjio is a huge loss at tackle, but the cupboard is far from bare for line coach Mario Cristobal. Leon Brown was listed as Kouandjio’s backup and played in nine games last season. Talented sophomore Grant Hill and incoming freshman Cameron Robinson could all compete for time at left tackle. But Jackson also is squarely in the mix for snaps after a successful stop at the College of San Mateo. The 6-foot-7 tackle ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the 247Sports Composite junior college rankings and was a member of the PrepStar JUCO All-America Team. Jackson will have a tough transition from the junior college ranks to playing on the SEC level. However, he appears to have the size and skill set necessary to play a big role in Alabama’s offensive line next year.
Abu Lamin, DT, South Carolina
South Carolina’s defense ranked second in the SEC by holding opponents to just 20.3 points per game. Repeating that number in 2014 will be a challenge, especially as the line looks to replace ends Chaz Sutton and Jadeveon Clowney and tackle Kelcy Quarles. The Gamecocks still have talent in the trenches, led by sophomore end Darius English and senior tackle J.T. Surratt, but Clowney, Sutton and Quarles leave big shoes to fill. Lamin is expected to be a part of the solution up front next year. The North Carolina native redshirted in his first season at Fort Scott Community College and recorded 34 tackles with 1.5 sacks in 2013. At 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, Lamin already has the required size to be a factor in the SEC. And with the Gamecocks returning a few experienced options in the trenches, Lamin can serve as a rotation player until he is ready to push for a starting spot.
Derrick Moncrief, S, Auburn
Improving the defense is one of the top priorities this spring for Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, and the Tigers brought in three junior college recruits to provide competition with the returning options on the roster. Defensive linemen DeVonte Lambert and Devaroe Lawrence will play a lot, but Moncrief could have the biggest impact on the defense. The Alabama native spent two seasons at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and recorded seven interceptions during that span. Moncrief ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and is expected to play a significant role in the secondary.
Claude Pelon, DL, USC
Steve Sarkisian has a few holes to fill next year, but the Trojans could rank as a top 10-15 team in most preseason polls. The defense returns nearly intact, starting up front with ends Leonard Williams and J.R. Tavai and nose tackle Antwaun Woods. Pelon was a key pickup on the recruiting trail for Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, as he will help with depth right away in the trenches. The Florida native was a Prep Star JUCO All-American and recorded 9.5 tackles for a loss last season. Pelon ranked as the No. 15 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and is likely headed for a spot on the interior of USC’s line. Even with Woods returning at nose tackle, Pelon is due for a role on USC’s defensive front in 2014.
D.J. Pettway/Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama
If you are signed as a junior college prospect at Alabama under Nick Saban, you certainly aren’t brought in to sit on the bench. Pettway and Reed will help replace Ed Stinson and Jeoffrey Pagan and will also add to an embarrassment of riches that Saban has assembled up front, including A’Shawn Robinson, Brandon Ivory, Darren Lake, Jonathan Allen and incoming freshman D’Shawn Hand. Pettway was dismissed from Alabama last February after an off-the-field incident, but he returned to Tuscaloosa after spending 2013 at East Mississippi Community College. Reed was a teammate of Pettway’s last season and ranks as the No. 13 prospect in the 247Sports Composite ratings. With Pettway and Reed poised to make an immediate impact, Alabama should have one of the top defensive lines in the SEC next year.
Dalvon Stuckey, DT, Arizona State
The Sun Devils lost a plethora of talent on defense, including standout defensive tackle Will Sutton, linebacker Carl Bradford and both starting cornerbacks (Robert Nelson and Osahon Irabor). To help with the rebuilding effort, coach Todd Graham is bringing in four junior college transfers to help on defense. Stuckey is one of the key recruits in the 2014 signing class, ranking as the No. 34 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. The Florida native checks in at 6-foot-3 and 308 pounds but can be explosive at the point of attack. At Pearl River Community College, he recorded 23 tackles for a loss as a freshman and posted two sacks as a sophomore in 2013. Stuckey should help Arizona State replace the production lost by Sutton and ends Davon Coleman and Gannon Conway.
Tui Talia, DL, Oregon
New defensive coordinator Don Pellum returns a solid core for 2014, but the Ducks have a significant need for players to emerge at defensive tackle. Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi and Ricky Heimuli expired their eligibility after the Alamo Bowl, leaving Alex Balducci and Sam Kamp as the team’s top tackles for next season. Talia is the No. 22 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite after spending two years at Diablo Valley College. The California native recorded 19 sacks over the last two years and is expected to be a key piece of the Oregon defensive line next year. Talia’s 270-pound frame suggests he will likely end up on the outside, but the Ducks could play him on a handful of snaps on the inside.
D’haquille Williams, WR, Auburn
Even though running back Tre Mason and left tackle Greg Robinson left early for the NFL, Auburn’s offense should once again be among best in the SEC. But 2014 could signal a slight shift in play calling for Gus Malzahn, as Nick Marshall should be more comfortable in his second year under center, and the Tigers return one of the SEC’s top receiving corps. This group got even deeper during the offseason with the addition of Williams from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The Louisiana native ranked as the No. 1 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite after catching 51 passes for 733 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. Williams is a big target at 6-foot-3 and should be another valuable weapon for Marshall.
Rika Levi/Keland McElrath/Marcus Smith/Brandon Thorpe, DL, Texas Tech
We generally list one player in this spot, but let’s cheat a little and cover all of Texas Tech’s junior college signings on the defensive line in this space. The Red Raiders are bringing in four junior college prospects up front, with Levi rated the highest as the No. 119 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. As evidenced by the four incoming prospects, the defensive line is a significant need for coach Kliff Kingsbury. Texas Tech has to replace Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush, and this unit struggled to stop the run last year (98th nationally). Even if none of these four players become impact performers for Texas Tech, the defense has more options to rotate in the trenches and the overall depth seems to be improved.
Other Names to Watch in 2014
Geronimo Allison/Tyrin Stone-Davis, WR, Illinois
The Fighting Illini desperately need receivers to emerge for quarterback Wes Lunt. The top three targets from last season are gone, leaving Allison and Stone-Davis with a chance to play right away.
Kareem Are/Chad Mavety, OL, Florida State
Neither player is expected to start, but Are and Mavety will bolster Florida State’s depth in the trenches.
Devante Averette, LB, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys need to overhaul their linebacking corps with Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey expiring their eligibility.
Tarow Barney, DL, Penn State
Barney is a rare junior college prospect headed to Happy Valley. He’s a key pickup for a Penn State defense that needs more depth on the defensive line and has to replace DaQuan Jones.
Edmond Boateng, DL, Arizona State
Boateng should help Arizona State’s need for talent on the defensive line. The Virginia native will participate in spring practice.
Kweishi Brown, DB, Arizona State
Brown is due for a significant role in Arizona State’s secondary with the departure of Robert Nelson, Osahon Irabor and Alden Darby.
Jarell Broxton, OL, Baylor
The Bears tapped into the junior college ranks to help replace three starters on the line. Broxton could play at tackle or guard.
Jamie Byrd, DB, South Florida
Rated as the No. 85 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings. Expected to push for a starting role in a young South Florida secondary this preseason.
Darrius Caldwell, LB, Arizona State
Another junior college player likely to make an impact at Arizona State. Caldwell will help the Sun Devils replace Carl Bradford and Chris Young at linebacker.
Fahn Cooper, OL, Ole Miss
Has some work to do in order to get eligible, but Cooper would be a key pickup for Hugh Freeze’s rebuilding effort on the offensive line.
Andre Davis, WR, Kansas State
Averaged 20.5 yards per reception at Santa Rosa Junior College in 2013. Wildcats need another receiver to team with Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton after Tramaine Thompson expired his eligibility after the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Kenya Dennis, CB, Missouri
Dennis is rated as the No. 100 recruit in the 247Sports Composite and is the only junior college prospect signed by Missouri in this year’s class. He should help fill the void left behind by departing senior E.J. Gaines.
D’Vonta Derricott, LB, Kansas State
Kansas State is in need of impact players at linebacker with Blake Slaughter out of eligibility. Jonathan Truman is settled in at one spot, but the other two positions are up for grabs.
Dominique Harrison, CB, Oregon
Harrison is a cousin of Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch and will help the Ducks replace Terrance Mitchell in 2014.
De’Chavon Hayes, RB, Arizona State
D.J. Foster should be Arizona State’s go-to back, but there will be carries available for Hayes.
David Hedelin/Miguel Machado, OL, Michigan State
Hedelin and Machado help bolster the depth in the trenches for Michigan State, as the Spartans lost three starters from last season.
Calvin Heurtelou/Michael Wyche, DL, Miami
Hurricanes need more depth and talent on the defensive line. Heurtelou and Wyche will help both of those areas in 2014.
Cory Johnson, DT, Kentucky
Johnson could team with incoming freshman Matt Elam to anchor Kentucky’s defensive tackle spots in 2014.
Jonathan Johnson/Trevor Kelly, DL, California
With a new coordinator (Art Kaufman) and the return of a few players from injury, California’s defense should show improvement in 2014. Adding players like Johnson and Kelly will only help improve the talent and depth for next season.
Akeem Judd, RB, Ole Miss
Rated as the No. 31 prospect in the 247Composite, averaging 5.9 yards per carry at Georgia Military College in 2013. Judd should factor into Ole Miss’ backfield rotation, which returns I’Tavius Mathers, Mark Dodson and Jaylen Walton.
Joe Keels, DE, Nebraska
Keels is listed as the No. 29 prospect in the 247Composite and will help fill the void created by the departure of Avery Moss.
Josh Keys, DB, Texas Tech
Another key pickup for Texas Tech on the recruiting trail. Could factor into the mix at safety or cornerback.
Nick Kurtz/Devon Blackmon, WR, BYU
BYU’s receiving corps is set for a major makeover next season, as Cody Hoffman, JD Falslev and Skyler Ridley have all expired their eligibility. Kurtz and Blackmon – and UTEP transfer Jordan Leslie – will head the rebuilding effort in Provo.
Davonte Lambert/Devaroe Lawrence, DL, Auburn
Lambert and Lawrence will help the line replace the production lost by the departure of Dee Ford and Nosa Eguae.
Devin Lauderdale, WR, Texas Tech
Red Raiders need a few targets to emerge with the departure of Eric Ward and tight end Jace Amaro.
Eric Lauderdale, WR, Arizona State
Sun Devils need a No. 2 receiver to emerge to pair with Jaelen Strong. Is Lauderdale the solution?
Jeremy Liggins, ATH, Ole Miss
Massive 6-foot-4, 295-pound prospect could play tight end, defensive end or even quarterback for the Rebels.
Haniteli Lousi, OL, Oregon
Lousi is rated as the No. 20 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and will compete for one of the starting guard spots this offseason.
DeAndre Mann, RB, Kansas
Should help the Jayhawks replace 1,000-yard rusher James Sims.
Von Pearson, WR, Tennessee
The Volunteers had success in the junior college ranks with former receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, and Butch Jones hopes Pearson can provide the same type of impact. The Virginia native caught 93 passes at Feather River College in 2013.
Jerrard Randall, QB, Arizona
Expected to battle Jesse Scroggins, Anu Solomon and Texas transfer Conner Brewer for the starting job in Tucson.
Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M
Another weapon for Texas A&M’s high-powered offense.
Chris Sanders, DB, Baylor
Former Georgia defensive back comes to Baylor after two years at Eastern Arizona College. Sanders picked off three passes last season.
Drew Sarvary, OT, Florida
Gators need immediate help in the trenches. Sarvary is a three-star prospect according to 247Sports and will have a chance to earn snaps this spring.
Justin Scott/Sylvester Townes, OL, West Virginia
Scott and Townes should compete for a spot on West Virginia’s line this preseason, which returns only two starters in 2014.
Tee Shepard, CB, Ole Miss
Former Notre Dame commit was a late flip to Ole Miss. Shepard should help upgrade the overall depth and talent in the secondary for the Rebels.
Sebastian Tretola, OL, Arkansas
The Razorbacks must replace standout center Travis Swanson, but there’s reason for optimism with young linemen Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper back after each started eight games in 2013. Tretola should factor into the mix at tackle next year.
Jihad Ward, DL, Illinois
The defense was a huge liability in Champaign last year. The Fighting Illini ranked 104th in scoring defense and 110th in yards allowed. Ward ranked as the No. 26 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and will have a chance to start or make an immediate impact next year.
Chris Weatherd, LB, Tennessee
Ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. Weatherd is expected to help Tennessee’s pass rush next year.
Kenderius Whitehead, DE, Georgia Tech
Yellow Jackets need help on the defensive line with the departures of Jeremiah Attaochu, Emmanuel Dieke and Euclid Cummings.
Blake Whiteley, TE, Texas
Whiteley is a native of Vancouver and ranks as the No. 51 product in the 247Sports Composite.
Owen Williams, DL, Tennessee
Rebuilding both lines will be a priority for coach Butch Jones this offseason. Williams was the No. 113 prospect in the 247Sports Composite.
Jeff Worthy, DT, Arizona
Former Boise State lineman was a key pickup for Rich Rodriguez as Arizona looks to upgrade its defense.