Which junior college transfers will make an impact in the ACC next year?
College football’s 2017 National Signing Day is less than 10 days away, but some freshman and junior college prospects have already arrived on campus. The ACC has its share of talent through the freshmen ranks on the way and a small junior college crop of six players is set to arrive this offseason. While only six incoming junior college prospects are slated to join the ACC as of late January, a couple of the players could make big impacts in 2017. Linebacker Adonis Thomas is expected to push for snaps at Florida State, and quarterback A.J. Bush will provide competition this spring in Virginia Tech’s quarterback battle. Syracuse signed three junior college prospects, while Ronald Rudd should provide a boost for Louisville’s offensive line.
Which junior college recruits could have the biggest impact on the ACC in 2017? Here are six players to watch this offseason:
6 Junior College Transfers to Watch in the ACC for 2017
A.J. Bush, QB, Virginia Tech
With Jerod Evans leaving early for the NFL Draft, all eyes in Blacksburg will be on the quarterbacks this spring. Coach Justin Fuente has an outstanding track record of developing quarterbacks, so while this position is a question mark headed into offseason workouts, the Hokies should find the right answer. Bush started his career at Nebraska and transferred after two seasons to Iowa Western Community College. Bush played in 10 games in 2016 and threw for 602 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 285 yards and five scores on the ground. Redshirt freshman Joshua Jackson is considered the early favorite to win the job, but Bush provides some much needed depth and competition for the spring.
Ryan Guthrie, LB, Syracuse
Scoring points won’t be a problem for coach Dino Babers’ team in 2017, but the defense needs to improve for Syracuse to make a bowl game. This unit doesn’t lose much in the way of personnel and the addition of Guthrie should add competition and depth to a linebacker unit already returning Paris Bennett and Zaire Franklin. Guthrie ranked as the No. 114 junior college prospect in the 2017 247Sports Junior College Composite after recording 139 stops and 7.5 sacks at Ellsworth Community College in 2016.
Adonis Thomas, LB, Florida State
Thomas is the highest-ranked junior college recruit on defense coming to the ACC next fall. The Georgia native started his career at Alabama but left Tuscaloosa after a redshirt year in 2015. Thomas landed at Northwest Mississippi Community College for the 2016 season and recorded 73 tackles (11.5 for a loss), six sacks, one interception and one forced fumble in 12 games. The Seminoles should have one of the ACC’s top returning linebackers in Matthew Thomas, but depth has been an issue in this unit. Ro’Derrick Hoskins and Jacob Pugh also return next fall at linebacker. Thomas ranked as the No. 25 player in the 2017 247Sports Junior College Composite and should push for snaps right away this offseason.
Ravian Pierce, TE, Syracuse
The departure of Amba Etta-Tawo leaves big shoes to fill in the receiving corps. The return of Ervin Phillips (90 catches) and Steve Ishmael (48) is a good starting point for quarterback Eric Dungey, but a reliable third option needs to emerge. Pierce is one to watch in the passing game this fall, as he joins the high-powered offense after ranking No. 21 nationally in the 2017 247Sports Junior College Composite. In 2016 at Southwestern Mississippi Community College, Pierce caught 50 passes for 426 yards and two scores.
Related: Early ACC Predictions for 2017
Ronald Rudd, OL, Louisville
Louisville’s offensive line surrendered 47 sacks in 2016, and coach Bobby Petrino wasted no time in making changes this offseason. Former assistant Mike Summers was hired by Petrino away from Florida to coach the offensive line, and the staff dipped into the junior college ranks for immediate help. Rudd is considered one of the top junior college offensive linemen in the 2017 class and ranks as the No. 33 overall prospect in the 2017 247Sports Junior College Composite. The Chaffey College prospect checks in at 6-foot-7 and over 300 pounds and could claim the starting right tackle job this offseason.
Brandon Berry, DL, Syracuse
Berry is the third Syracuse recruit to make this list. The Georgia native was a disruptive force around the line of scrimmage in his one season at Highland Community College. He recorded 48 tackles (6.5 for a loss), 11.5 sacks and one forced fumble and 12 quarterback hurries in 2016. Berry has three seasons of eligibility remaining and is considered a three-star recruit by 247Sports Junior College Composite. He should compete for snaps on a defensive line that featured contributions from five freshmen last season.