The SEC is not accustomed to seeing too many JUCO players make an impact in their first season, but recent history proves it can and will happen. I don’t have to remind you about the massive impact Cam Newton had at Auburn, and Cordarrelle Patterson made an instant splash at Tennessee last season and should be a first-round pick in April. It’s never a good thing to sign too many JUCO players, but sprinkling them in at specific positions of need can bode well for instant impacts.
Here are five who will make an impact in 2013, all of whom play defense:
Ben Bradley, DT, Auburn: Bradley’s 6-3, 315-pound frame will allow Auburn to improve upon their SEC-worst run defense. The Tigers allowed nearly 200 yards per game on the ground. Bradley racked up 43 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and five sacks last season, but his biggest asset is his ability to clog running lanes in the middle of the defense. Bradley won’t wow anyone on the stat sheet, but his presence alone in the middle for the Tigers will be very important in 2013.
Darious Cummings, DT, Florida: With tackles Sharrif Floyd and Omar Hunter leaving Florida, Will Muschamp knew he had to find an SEC-ready tackle who could play opening day. Cummings, who has stated he wants to go by “Bear”, should be a bear for the Gators’ run defense in ‘13. Cummings is already enrolled at Florida, and he’ll split time with Damien Jacobs, Dominique Easley and others at tackle. At 6-2, 301 pounds, Cummings is SEC ready and will make a splash.
Lavon Hooks, DT, Ole Miss: Arguably the top JUCO player in the country Lavon Hooks will be suiting up for Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss. The 6-4, 300-pound tackle should make an instant splash for the Rebels’ defensive line. Seeing Ole Miss lost two tackles in Uriah Grant and Gilbert Pena, Hooks will combine forces with undersized freshman standout Isaac Gross in 2013. Hooks will be the anchor of a much improved defense in 2013.
Za’Darius Smith, DE, Kentucky: Mark Stoops knew he had major holes on defense to fill, namely along the defensive line. And Stoops went out and grabbed an impact defensive end in Za’Darius Smith. The 6-5, 255-pound Smith was more of a surprise for Stoops than anything, because Mississippi State was thought to be the leader, but when Stoops hired Smith’s JUCO position coach Jimmy Brumbaugh, the deal was sealed.
Carroll Washington, CB, Arkansas: The biggest defensive need for the Razorbacks is undoubtedly in the secondary. The Hogs finished dead last in the SEC in pass defense, allowing over 285 yards per game, and Carroll Washington will help new head coach Bret Bielema immediately. Washington is athletic enough to play receiver, but he’s a true corner and should be a big asset for Bielema and company.
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