2010 could have been labeled as the year of the Junior College Transfer in College Football. The Junior College Transfer, or in recruiting circles, the JUCO. If you don’t follow a lot of recruiting then these terms can seem confusing. Most of the time Junior College guys are there for a couple reasons. Either they did not make the grades out of high school to get into college, or things did not work out with the player at his first school and he goes the JUCO route in hopes for a second chance. Most of these guys get to campus with three years to play two.
For years, Bill Snyder at Kansas State took lots of criticism for signing JUCO players, and he still does sign Junior College guys all the time. After the season that Auburn’s Nick Fairley and Cam Newton had, I don’t think anyone will be saying much about signing JUCO transfers. Newton and Fairley were two of the biggest players in college football this year, and both of them were JUCO’s. Fairley had trouble getting into school, and he went to a Junior College right out of high school. Newton, on the other hand, started out at Florida and had trouble in Gainesville. From Gainesville, he went to a Junior College for a year, and then got his second chance at Auburn.
The argument against a JUCO guy is that those players did not come up through the ranks of the program, and they are usually not leaders on the team. However, most coaches feel that the positives far exceed the negatives, when it’s done right. Most JUCO players are recruited for situations where teams have an immediate need, and SEC coaches don’t normally sign a JUCO player unless he can come in and start immediately. In years past, coaches have brought these guys in mostly on the offensive and defensive line, because they are older and strong enough to play in the trenches of the SEC. However, recently the SEC has seen the emergence of JUCO guys coming in and playing at the skill positions.
Cam Newton, as a JUCO transfer, probably had the greatest impact on any team ever seen from a Junior College Transfer. He took an above average program at Auburn, and turned them into National Champions. It does make some Auburn fans upset to say that Cam made that team, but if Cam had gone to any other team in the SEC besides Vanderbilt, that team would have won the SEC. I believe there is no “I” in team, but I know there is a “CAM” in ChAMpionship.
While programs will still be founded on recruits coming straight out of high school, no doubt Junior College Transfers will be a staple of the College Football World. After the success of Newton and Fairley, this topic is too interesting not to talk about. In the past three years, SEC teams have signed 69 Junior College Transfers. Let’s take a look at which ones have had the biggest impact on their respective team.
2010 Recruiting Class
Cam Newton (Auburn) – 2854 Passing Yards, 30 Touchdowns – 1473 Rushing Yards, 20 Touchdowns, Won the Heisman Trophy and National Championship.
Matt Simms (Tennessee) – Simms may not have had a great campaign this year at Tennessee, but he does provide a good backup to Bray next year
2009 Recruiting Class
James Carpenter (Alabama) – Started every game at Left Tackle for the Crimson Tide from the day he stepped on campus. Helped to win a National Championship and blocked for Ingram’s Heisman Campaign
Nick Fairley (Auburn) – Played in 2009, but shined in 2010. In 2010 had 56 Tackles, and led the SEC in sacks with 12. Was to Auburn’s Defense, what Cam Newton was to the Offense.
Chris Matthews (Kentucky) – In 2010 accounted for 925 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns.
Pernell McPhee (Miss. State) – In the past two years MchPhee has 88 tackles and 7 sacks.
2008 Recruiting Class
Terrance Cody (Alabama) – Only accounted for 51 tackles in two seasons, but was an immovable force in the middle. Cody’s presence was huge in the 2009 campaign.
Chris Todd (Auburn) – May not have been Auburn’s best QB ever, but helped Auburn through some tough times.
*Feel free to comment and add names I missed, or add any impact JUCO’s prior to 2008.