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.