National Signing Day is always a busy time in the SEC, but the first wave of early enrollees from the freshmen and junior college ranks have already hit campus in preparation for the 2017 season. Even though coaches plan out their recruiting board in advance, some positions thin out or don’t develop as expected. The junior college ranks present a good stop-gap solution or fill the need for an instant impact recruit for any FBS team. The SEC is bringing in a handful of potential impact contributors this fall, including former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham (Auburn), former Georgia defensive lineman Chauncey Rivers (Mississippi State) and safety Johnathan Abram (Mississippi State). Additionally, recruits like Alabama offensive lineman Elliot Baker and defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs and Arkansas receiver Brandon Martin are just a few of the other instant impact additions from the junior college ranks to the SEC for 2017.
Which players will make the biggest impact at their new home this fall? Here’s a look at 35 key junior transfers to watch in 2017:
SEC's Top 35 Impact Junior College Transfers for 2017
Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
Abram returns to the SEC after one season at Jones County Junior College. The Mississippi native started his career at Georgia and played in 10 games (with four starts) as a freshman in 2015. During that season, Abram recorded 25 stops (1.5 for a loss) and one quarterback hurry. After ranking 108th nationally in pass efficiency defense in 2016, Abram is expected to provide an immediate boost for Mississippi State’s secondary in 2017.
Nate Anderson, DL, Missouri
Missouri has been a factory for talent off the edges in recent years, but the defensive line heads into spring ball with a few question marks. Charles Harris (eight sacks) is gone, leaving Marcell Frazier (8.5 sacks) as the top returner off the edge. Anderson was brought in to help right away after recording 31 tackles (13.5 for a loss) and five sacks at New Mexico Military Institute in 2016.
Lee Autry, DL, Mississippi State
Mississippi State’s defensive line is in need of instant help in its 2017 signing class after the departure of Johnathan Calvin, A.J. Jefferson, Nelson Adams, Nick James and Torrey Dale. Autry is one of four junior college prospects arriving in Starkville to help bolster the defensive front. The North Carolina native checks in at 315 pounds and finished 2016 with 24 stops (6.5 for a loss) at Itawamba Community College.
Elliot Baker, OL, Alabama
Alabama’s line will look a little different next fall after the departure of standout left tackle Cam Robinson to the NFL. With Robinson leaving Tuscaloosa, Jonah Williams is set to flip from the right side to anchor the left after a standout freshman season. Baker – the No. 1 offensive line prospect in the 247Sports Junior College Composite – should push for a starting job at right tackle.
Related: Early SEC Predictions for 2017
Rashad Brandon, DL, Missouri
Brandon is the second junior college prospect Missouri is set to sign on the defensive line this spring. The 315-pound recruit bolsters the interior of a line losing Josh Augusta and Rickey Hatley. Terry Beckner is a potential All-SEC tackle in the middle, but he’s struggled to stay healthy in his first two years on campus. Brandon ranked as a three-star recruit from Asa College.
Isaiah Buggs, DL, Alabama
Alabama’s defensive line loses a couple of key contributors from its 2016 unit, as Jonathan Allen and Dalvin Tomlinson expired their eligibility following the national championship matchup against Clemson. Buggs is expected to provide immediate help for coordinator Jeremy Pruitt after ranking as the No. 2 prospect in the 2017 247Sports Junior College Composite. In 10 games at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in 2016, Buggs led the team with 75 stops (10 for a loss) and recorded 3.5 sacks. The Louisiana native has the size, speed and strength combination to make an impact on the interior or as an edge player.
Salvatore Cannella, TE, Auburn
Tight ends at Auburn combined for only six receptions in 2016. An increase in that total is expected for 2017, as new quarterback Jarrett Stidham should give the offense a boost through the air, and Cannella arrives as a three-star prospect from Scottsdale Community College. In 10 games last season, Cannella caught 29 passes for 443 yards and seven scores.
Kaleb Chalmers, CB, South Carolina
Chalmers heads to South Carolina after just one year at Northwest Mississippi Community College. The South Carolina native was an active defender in his only season at that level, recording 30 stops (1.5 for a loss), one sack, one interception and 13 pass breakups. Chalmers ranks as the No. 62 junior college prospect in the 2017 247Sports Composite.
Tommy Champion, OL, Mississippi State
Mississippi State’s offensive line loses three starters from its 2016 group, including center Jamaal Clayborn and tackle Justin Senior. Champion should help alleviate some of those departures, as the three-star recruit arrives on campus after a stint at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.
Michael Clemons, DL, Texas A&M
Myles Garrett is off to the NFL, and Daeshon Hall expired his eligibility, leaving a Texas-sized void on the depth chart for the Aggies. Garrett and Hall combined for 13 sacks and 28 tackles for a loss in 2016. Clemons played in six games at Cisco Community College last season and generated 30 stops (8.5 for a loss) and 2.5 sacks. He’s slated to arrive on campus this summer.
Brian Cole, S, Mississippi State
Cole started his collegiate career at Michigan but transferred to East Mississippi Community College prior to the 2016 season. While at the junior college level, Cole made the transition from receiver to defensive back and delivered a standout 2016 season. Cole registered 54 tackles, three forced fumbles and one tackle for a loss last year. He’s rated as the No. 45 recruit in the 2017 247Sports Junior College Composite.
Dennis Daley, OL, South Carolina
As part of an effort to upgrade an offensive line that surrendered 41 sacks last season, coach Will Muschamp is dipping into the junior college ranks for help. Daley was originally committed to South Carolina for its 2015 signing class but landed at Georgia Military College for two seasons. He played in 21 games during his stint there and ranks as a three-star prospect for the 2017 class.
Yasir Durant, OL, Missouri
With all five starters returning in 2017, Missouri’s offensive line should be one of the best in the SEC. This group should have some extra depth or competition at the guard spots with Durant’s arrival this spring. The Arizona Western College product was regarded was a three-star recruit in the 2017 247Sports Junior College Composite.
Stephen Guidry, WR, LSU
LSU needed immediate help on the recruiting trail with Malachi Dupre (41 catches) and Travin Dural (28) off to the next level. Guidry was supposed to be an instant contributor under new coordinator Matt Canada, as the Louisiana native ranked as the No. 1 receiver in the 247Sports Junior College Composite for 2017. In his first season at Hinds Community College, Guidry caught 30 passes for 547 yards and five scores. However, Guidry announced on National Signing Day he would return to Hinds for the 2017 season.
Javien Hamilton, CB, Ole Miss
With four contributors at cornerback – Carlos Davis, Tony Bridges, Kailo Moore and Derrick Jones – departing Oxford, Hamilton is expected to battle for significant snaps this spring. The Mississippi native spent two years at Jones County Junior College and recorded 27 tackles, one forced fumble and two pass breakups in 2016.
D’Marcus Hayes, OL, Georgia
The line is one of the biggest question marks surrounding Georgia’s offense next season. With two starters at tackle and center Brandon Kublanow departing, there are key voids for line coach Sam Pittman to address. Help could come in the form of Hayes. The four-star prospect arrives in Athens after spending two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
Phil Hoskins, DL, Kentucky
Kentucky’s run defense finished No. 110 nationally in 2016, so coach Mark Stoops needs help right away from his signing class. Hoskins is a potential contributor in 2017 but won’t arrive on campus until the summer. In 2015, Hoskins played in 10 games at Highland Community College and registered 25 stops and four sacks.
Lonnie Johnson, S, Kentucky
Safeties Marcus McWilson and Blake McClain have expired their eligibility, which opens the door for Johnson to compete for time right away in 2017. At Garden City Community College in 2015, Johnson recorded 35 tackles and five interceptions. He did not play in 2016.
Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
Kinlaw inked with South Carolina on National Signing Day. He’s rated as the No. 11 recruit in the 247Sports Junior College Composite after recording 26 tackles (four for a loss) and 4.5 sacks in his only season at Jones County Junior College.
Jaquarius Landrews, S, Mississippi State
Landrews is one of three defensive backs Mississippi State inked from the junior college level this December. In nine games at Copiah-Lincoln Community College last season, Landrews recorded 28 stops, two interceptions and six pass breakups. He’s rated as the No. 99 prospect in the 2017 247Sports Junior College Composite.
Brandon Martin, WR, Arkansas
Arkansas loses three of its top four wide receivers last season, so coach Bret Bielema dipped into the junior college ranks for immediate help. Martin is regarded as the No. 2 wide receiver recruit in the 247Sports Junior College Composite and heads to Fayetteville after catching 23 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in 2016. Martin originally signed with LSU in its 2015 signing class.
Octavius Matthews, RB, ?
Matthews is listed as a question mark here since he decommitted from Auburn prior to National Signing Day. The Itawamba Community College product decided to sign with Kansas on NSD. He rushed for 645 yards and five scores on 90 attempts in 2016.
Larrell Murchison, DL, Georgia/Ole Miss
Murchison is one of the top uncommitted junior college prospects and is set to decide between Georgia and Ole Miss on National Signing Day. In 2016 at Louisburg College, Murchison registered 41 tackles (17.5 for a loss) and 5.5 sacks.
Jonathan Nance, WR, Arkansas
Nance is expected to team with fellow junior college recruit Brandon Martin to help Arkansas quickly reload at receiver this offseason. Nance and Martin were teammates at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in 2016, but Nance was limited to seven games due to injury. During his time on the field, Nance caught 13 passes for 153 yards.
Keisean Nixon, CB, South Carolina
Nixon should be an impact addition for coach Will Muschamp in 2017. As a sophomore at Arizona Western College last year, Nixon recorded 30 stops (6.5 for a loss), three sacks, one forced fumble and six interceptions. He also averaged 42.0 yards per kickoff return on nine attempts. Nixon ranks as the No. 19 junior college prospect by the 247Sports Composite.
Jeremy Patton, TE, Arkansas
Even though Arkansas is losing standout tight end Jeremy Sprinkle, the cupboard is hardly bare for coordinator Dan Enos. In addition to Austin Cantrell and Cheyenne O’Grady, the Razorbacks landed Patton as an impact recruit for its 2017 class. Patton ranked as the No. 9 recruit in the 2017 247Sports Junior College Composite after catching 18 passes for 242 yards and six touchdowns at Arizona Western College in 2016.
Tyre Phillips, OL, Mississippi State
Phillips is the second offensive lineman to appear on this list headed to Mississippi State for 2017. The 6-foot-5, 355-pound Mississippi native played in all 11 games for East Mississippi Community College in 2016. He’s regarded as the No. 87 prospect in the 2017 247Sports Junior College Composite.
Deion Pope, DL, Mississippi State
Of Mississippi State’s nine December junior college signees, four of them hailed from Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Pope is one of those players, as he heads to Starkville after recording 51 tackles (seven for a loss), one sack and one forced fumble last season.
Chauncey Rivers, DL, Mississippi State
Mississippi State made arguably the biggest splash through the junior college ranks by inking nine prospects in mid-December. Rivers is the highest-regarded prospect out of the haul, as the former Georgia player returns to the SEC after one season at East Mississippi Community College. In his only year at the junior college level, Rivers recorded 45 tackles (12.5 for a loss) and eight sacks. He’s regarded as a four-star prospect at the No. 13 overall player in the 2017 247Sports Junior College Composite.
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn
Stidham is the nation’s No. 1 impact player from the junior college ranks for 2017. The Texas native was regarded as one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2015 signing class and played in 10 games as a true freshman at Baylor. Stidham completed 75 of 109 throws for 1,265 yards and 12 scores in 2015 and spent 2016 out of football at McLennan Community College. Auburn’s ground game is already one of the best in the SEC. And with Stidham at the controls under center, coach Gus Malzahn now has one of the league’s best quarterbacks.
Montez Sweat, DL, Mississippi State
Sweat – a former Michigan State defensive end – returns to a Power 5 conference after a short stint at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. In nine games last season, Sweat recorded 39 stops (six for a loss), five sacks and two forced fumbles. The Georgia native ranks as the No. 51 prospect in the 2017 247Sports Junior College Composite.
Related: Early SEC Predictions for 2017
Jordan Ta’amu, QB, Ole Miss
Shea Patterson is set as the starter for coach Hugh Freeze in 2017, but depth is an issue at quarterback. Ta’amu arrives in Oxford after throwing for 3,014 yards and 32 scores for New Mexico Military Institute in 2016. He will compete with Jason Pellerin for the No. 2 job.
Eldridge Thompson, LB, South Carolina
Thompson’s 2016 season was cut short due to injury, but he showcased his potential in 2015 Coffeyville Community College. During an 11-game stint, Thompson recorded 102 tackles (four for a loss), three sacks, one forced fumble and an interception. He ranked as the No. 147 junior college prospect by the 247Sports Composite.
Brenden Williams, LB, Ole Miss
The linebacker unit was an ongoing concern for Ole Miss last season, and new coordinator Wesley McGriff is losing three contributors (Rommel Mageo, Tayler Polk and Terry Caldwell). Williams ranked as a three-star prospect in the 2017 signing class and registered 89 stops as a freshman in 2016.
Markel Winters, DL, Ole Miss
Marquis Haynes returns as one of the SEC’s top defenders, but the Rebels need to identify more depth off the edge this spring. Winters is expected to be part of the solution in the trenches after spending two years at Jones County Junior College. He registered 16 sacks in 2016 and posted five as a freshman in 2015.