Junior college prospects are some of the biggest wildcards in a recruiting class for college football teams. Not every program taps into the junior college ranks for options, but immediate help can be found at this level. While junior college recruits often help right away, some are more of a project and can take half (or more) of a season to develop. Additionally, junior college recruits are often utilized to bolster the depth of a position with a lot of underclassmen or provide a bridge to a player that may not be ready to play by the first game.
This season’s crop of junior college prospects has plenty of intriguing names, including Alabama offensive lineman Charles Baldwin, Texas Tech receiver Derek Willies, Baylor offensive lineman B.J. Autry, Tennessee defensive end Jonathan Kongbo and Utah offensive lineman Garrett Bolles. And that doesn’t include an interesting crop of quarterbacks coming to the FBS level, starting with Virginia Tech’s Jerod Evans and Utah’s Troy Williams.
Here’s a quick look at some of the key impact junior college recruits for 2016:
College Football's Top 25 Impact JUCO Transfers for 2016
File Away for 2017: Greg Bryant, RB, UAB/Clifton Garrett, LB, UAB
UAB is a year away from officially returning, but coach Bill Clark just put the finishing touches on a recruiting class ranked No. 2 among Conference USA teams in the 247Sports Composite. Bryant – previously at Notre Dame – and Garrett – previously a five-star recruit at LSU – should be impact players in Conference USA in 2017.
25. Dre Massey, WR, Florida
Massey is the first of two Florida junior college prospects to make this list. The South Carolina native transferred to Gainesville after two seasons at Holmes Community College and is expected to make an impact for a receiving corps that returns only two players with more than 25 catches last year. He displayed big-play ability at the junior college level, grabbing 21 receptions for 548 yards and six touchdowns.
24. Chris Gaynor, OL, TCU
In addition to finding a quarterback – likely Kenny Hill – to replace Trevone Boykin, TCU opens spring practice looking to find four new starters on the offensive line. Tackle Joseph Noteboom is the lone returning starter, but there’s talent and experience in the form of Austin Schlottman, Aviante Collins and Matt Pryor. Gaynor is another name to watch this spring, as the Florida native ranked as the No. 77 JUCO prospect in the 247Sports Composite and was a second-team NJCAA All-American at Dodge City Community College.
23. David Luafatasaga, LB/Alec Dana, WR, Utah
Two of Utah’s biggest concerns next fall revolve around the linebacker unit and receiving corps. However, the junior college ranks should provide some instant help for coach Kyle Whittingham. Luafatasaga ranked as the No. 19 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite and lands at Utah after a standout season at Arizona Western (93 tackles, four sacks). Dana is another impact recruit, as the California native has three seasons of eligibility remaining and grabbed 39 passes for 543 yards at Chaffey College.
22. Javon Wims, WR, Georgia
The Bulldogs weren’t particularly deep at receiver last season, and with the departure of Malcolm Mitchell, this unit is in need of a few more playmakers for true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason. One answer should come in the form of Wims – the No. 11 junior college recruit in the 247Sports Composite. The Hinds Community College product caught 47 passes for 779 yards and nine scores last season and the necessary size (6-foot-4) to be a physical addition to the receiving corps.
21. Emmanuel Beal/Kapri Doucet, LB, Oklahoma
Oklahoma is poised for another run at the playoffs next season, but the defense has to reload at a few spots for the Sooners to advance to the national championship. Linebacker is the biggest area of attention this spring, as All-Big 12 performer Eric Striker expired his eligibility and Dominique Alexander declared for the NFL Draft. Jordan Evans (83 tackles in 2015) returns, and four-star recruit Ricky DeBerry is ready to contribute after a redshirt year. Beal and Doucet were two pickups in the 2016 signing class for coach Bob Stoops, and both could factor into the linebacker rotation. Even if he’s not a starter, Beal could help replace some of the pass rush off the edge left behind by Striker (7.5 sacks in 2015).
20. Tyree Horton, LB, TCU
TCU’s linebacking corps was in good shape prior to Signing Day, but this group got a little deeper with the addition of Horton. The Florida native ranked as the No. 8 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite and recorded 63 tackles and 6.5 sacks at Highland Community College last year. He should bolster one of the Big 12’s top linebacking groups in 2016.
19. Justin Crawford, RB, West Virginia
Wendell Smallwood’s surprise departure to the NFL has opened the door for Rushel Shell to regain the No. 1 spot in the West Virginia backfield. However, the coaching staff wants to have competition and needs a second option to emerge. Crawford should compete with Donte Thomas-Williams for the No. 2 role in Morgantown after an impressive two-year stint at Northwest Mississippi Community College. Crawford rushed for 3,161 yards and 30 scores and was voted the 2015 Spalding NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year.
18. Na’Ty Rodgers, OL, Houston
Houston’s offensive line was hit hard by injuries last season, but this unit did just enough for the Cougars to win the American Athletic Conference title and claim a Peach Bowl victory over Florida State. The good news for coach Tom Herman? This unit should be even better in 2016. Will Noble and Colton Freeman are back after solid freshman seasons, and Rodgers could bolster one of the tackle spots. The Maryland native ranked as the No. 7 junior college recruit by ESPN.
17. Larry Williams, OL, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State’s offensive line has struggled over the last two years, but there are some signs of optimism for 2015. The Cowboys return all five starters from last season’s group, and coach Mike Gundy landed a potential impact addition from the junior college level. Williams started 11 games at Hutchinson Community College last season and was the No. 78 player in the 247Sports Composite for JUCO recruits. He could help right away at one of the guard spots in 2016.
16. Malcolm Pridgeon, OL, Ohio State
Ohio State isn’t bringing a junior college lineman to sit on the bench next fall. And with the Buckeyes replacing three starters from last season’s unit – including both tackles – Pridgeon should factor right away into the rotation. The New York native checks in at a massive 6-foot-8 and 325 pounds and ranked as the No. 4 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite.
15. Tyrell Chavis, DT, Penn State
The Nittany Lions’ defense was hit hard by departures this offseason, as coordinator Bob Shoop left for Tennessee, end Carl Nassib and tackle Anthony Zettel expired their eligibility and tackle Austin Johnson left for the NFL. With the departures up front, the door is open for impact newcomers this season. Chavis heads to Happy Valley after a two-year stint at Nassau Community College, which included a strong 2015 campaign (39 tackles and six sacks). The Virginia native ranked as the No. 23 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite.
14. Jamarcus King, CB, South Carolina
New coach Will Muschamp’s acumen on defense should help South Carolina take a step forward on this side of the ball in 2016. The Gamecocks struggled mightily on defense last year, surrendering 30.4 points a game in SEC contests. Additionally, South Carolina ranked 83rd nationally in pass efficiency defense in 2015. King should help the secondary right away after two years at Coffeyville Community College. He picked off three passes in 2015 and was regarded as top junior college cornerback by ESPN.
13. Nate Strong, RB, Missouri
Finding ways to jumpstart the offense is new coach Barry Odom’s biggest priority this spring. Missouri ranked last in the SEC in rushing offense and averaged only 13.6 points a game last season. Drew Lock is a promising quarterback to build around, but the sophomore needs help in the supporting cast. Ish Witter returns after leading the Tigers with 518 rushing yards last season, but Russell Hansbrough expired his eligibility and Morgan Steward retired due to a hip injury. Strong is a potential impact recruit for Odom and the ground attack, as he ranked as the No. 15 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite.
12. Nick Terry, DL, UCLA
UCLA’s front seven was hit hard by injuries last season, with standouts Myles Jack (LB) and Eddie Vanderdoes (DL) missing significant portions of the 2015 campaign. As a result, the Bruins finished eighth in the Pac-12 against the run and ranked eighth in the conference with 28 sacks generated. Improving both of those areas will be a priority this offseason for coach Jim Mora, and Terry should provide help in the trenches. He was the No. 38 junior college prospect by ESPN after a standout season at American River College. Fellow JUCO teammate and defensive lineman Chigozie Nnoruka is also joining the Bruins in 2016.
11. Mark Thompson, RB, Florida
With Kelvin Taylor leaving early for the NFL, there’s an opportunity for a new starter to emerge at running back for the Gators. Sophomores Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite have a head start on the No. 1 spot, but Thompson will be a player to watch. The Pennsylvania native ranked as the No. 5 junior college recruit in the 247Sports Composite and rushed for 1,298 yards and 18 scores at Dodge City Community College last year.
10. Jeremy Faulk, DT, Baylor
All four starters are gone from last season’s defensive line in Waco, and there are big shoes to fill on the interior with the early departure of Andrew Billings to the NFL. Just like he did on the offensive line, coach Art Briles went to the junior college ranks for immediate help. Faulk – a 6-foot-1, 295-pound tackle – should help right away. In one season at Garden City Community College, Faulk recorded 87 tackles (18.5 for a loss), 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. The Bears also signed a second junior college defensive tackle (DeQuinton Osborne) to bolster the line this season.
9. West Virginia Defensive Backs
The secondary is West Virginia’s biggest need entering spring ball, and coach Dana Holgorsen used the 2016 signing class for immediate reinforcements. Four junior college recruits are headed to Morgantown, including Mike Daniels (Globe Tech CC), Elijah Battle (Dodge City CC), Toyous Avery (Coffeyville CC) and Kyzir White (Lackawanna College). White is the highest-profile signee of the bunch, ranking as the No. 20 junior college prospect by ESPN. He’s also the brother of former West Virginia standout receiver Kevin White.
8. Arizona State’s JUCO Class
The Sun Devils inked eight junior college prospects on Signing Day, and coach Todd Graham should get key contributions from his recruiting class on both sides of the ball. On offense, linemen Tyson Rising and A.J. McCollum will have a chance to push for playing time right away with only one returning starter up front. The secondary was torched last season (35 TD passes allowed) and Lloyd Carrington and Kweishi Brown have expired their eligibility. Defensive backs Maurice Chandler and J’Marcus Rhodes should play a lot next year, while linemen – Koron Crump, Christian Hill and Dougladson Subtyl will bolster the depth and talent in the trenches.
7. Ryan Parker/Taj Williams, WR, TCU
TCU’s receiving corps isn’t in bad shape, but the Horned Frogs are losing two of their top targets in Josh Doctson (79 catches) and Kolby Listenbee (19.9 ypc). Parker and Williams ranked as top-10 junior college recruits in the 247Sports Composite and both should push for playing time right away.
6. Jonathan Kongbo, DE, Tennessee
Kongbo ranked as the No. 1 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite and had several – USC, Ole Miss and Florida State – high-profile suitors before choosing Tennessee on National Signing Day. The Congo native has an interesting backstory in his route to Knoxville, as he spent a redshirt year at Wyoming and transferred to Arizona Western College for the 2015 campaign. During his only year at Arizona Western, Kongbo recorded 16 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks. And in even more good news for Tennessee – Kongbo is only a sophomore and has a ton of untapped potential.
5. B.J. Autry, OL, Baylor
The offensive line is the biggest question mark for Baylor entering offseason practices. Center Kyle Fuller is one of the best in the nation and is a good place to start the rebuilding project. However, four spots are up for grabs, and coach Art Briles has recruited plenty of talent at this position to add competition and depth. Autry was a key pickup in the 2016 signing class, as the Alabama native is considered the nation’s No. 1 guard prospect in the junior college ranks. He should push for immediate playing time.
4. Garrett Bolles, OL, Utah
Utah enters the 2016 offseason with uncertainty at quarterback and receiver, but coach Kyle Whittingham’s team should have one of the Pac-12’s top offensive lines this year. This unit loses center Siaosi Aiono, and returns five players with significant starting experience from 2015. Additionally, Bolles was a huge pickup on the recruiting trail for Whittingham, as the Utah native ranked as the No. 3 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite. Expect to see Bolles as a major contributor to Utah’s offensive line next fall.
3. Derrick Willies, WR, Texas Tech
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes needs a new go-to target with Jakeem Grant out of eligibility. The Red Raiders’ offense may not have to look far for an answer, as the incoming recruiting class featured two talented junior college prospects at receiver, including Willies – the No. 3 overall prospect in the ESPN JC 50. The California native caught 49 passes for 1,115 yards and 14 scores at Trinity Valley Community College last season.
2. Charles Baldwin, OL, Alabama
Alabama’s offensive line loses two starters, but there’s a solid core in place with the return of left tackle Cam Robinson and guard Ross Pierschbacher. Baldwin ranked as the No. 1 junior college prospect by ESPN and should have an opportunity to step in immediately as the team’s new starter at right tackle.
1. The Quarterbacks
Earlier this offseason, Athlon Sports profiled 10 junior college quarterbacks poised to make an impact in 2016. Virginia Tech’s Jerod Evans, Utah’s Troy Williams and Auburn’s John Franklin III are just a few to watch next season. Go more in-depth with our 10 impact junior college quarterbacks to watch article.
Other JUCO Transfers to Watch
Offense: Juwann Winfree, WR, Colorado; Darrion Landry, WR, Bowling Green; Dwayne Wallace, OL, California; Jonah Trinnaman, WR, BYU; Marquez McNair, WR, UTSA; Byron Pringle, WR, Kansas State; Jeff George, WR, Tennessee; Demetri Moore, OT, Virginia Tech; Paul Ramirez, OL, Arkansas; Chris Gaynor, OL, TCU;
Defense: Tramal Ivey, DE, USF; Mat Boesen, DL, TCU; William Johnson, LB, North Texas; Handsome Tanielu, DT, BYU; Paul James, DE, Auburn; Phillip Napoleon, DL, Oregon State; Josh Allen, DE, Arizona; Ronald Walker, DB, Louisville; A.J. Hotchkins, LB, Oregon; Lashard Durr, DB, Mississippi State; Jayme Thompson, DB, Indiana; Tre Brown, DT, Mississippi State; Alexis Johnson, DT, Tennessee