How are the SEC's top transfers adapting during camp?
Several teams throughout the SEC will look for big contributions from transfers, both from junior colleges and four-year institutions, in 2015.
Some schools, such as Auburn and Texas A&M, have frequently dipped into the transfer well. This year the majority of the conference finds itself looking for transfers to make a quick, significant impact.
Here’s a look at some of the key SEC transfers and how they are doing now that practice has begun and the first games are just a few weeks away.
ISAIAH JOHNSON, ULRIC JONES AND MARQUAVIUS LEWIS (SOUTH CAROLINA)
The Gamecocks went to the Sunflower State to pick up a few key newcomers on defense. Johnson, a graduate transfer defensive back from the University of Kansas was one of the few bright spots for the Jayhawks the past couple seasons. He’s joined by defensive end Lewis, who was a star a couple hours southwest at Hutchinson Community College and Jones, a defensive tackle played at rival Butler County Community College.
Johnson, who had six interceptions for the Jayhawks the last two seasons, looks set to start at safety. Lewis has impressed coaches ever since arriving for spring drills and while Jones was a later arrival, the 6-foot-5, 300-pounder has added size and athleticism to the middle and reportedly has impressed the South Carolina staff early on in camp.
RICHARD MULLANEY (ALABAMA)
The graduate transfer wide receiver from Oregon State isn’t going to replace Amari Cooper all by himself, but he looks like he’ll be a key contributor for a Crimson Tide squad that wanted to add depth to the receiver group.
While not much of a deep threat, Mullaney is a tough possession receiver who can move the chains 10-to-15 yards at a time. Mullaney is having to work his way up the depth chart, and even after losing its top three receivers, Alabama is deep at the position. But he should carve out a role for himself in 2015.
Ole Miss, like Texas A&M, benefits from being in a state with outstanding junior college programs. The Rebels certainly took advantage in the offseason by adding quarterback Kelly and defensive back Bridges, two of the top JUCO prospects in the nation.
Kelly was kicked off the team at Clemson before heading to East Mississippi Community College, then signing with Ole Miss. He was arrested shortly after signing, but seems to have gotten past any legal issues that might have prevented him from starting for the Rebels this fall.
Bridges, the top JUCO cornerback out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, appears ready to start alongside another JUCO transfer corner, Tee Shepard. Shepard, originally an Oklahoma signee, arrived in Oxford last year but missed last season with a toe injury.
ALVIN KAMARA (TENNESSEE)
Kamara, a five-star running back when he signed with Alabama out of high school, wound up at Hutchinson Community College where he helped the Blue Dragons become one of the best JUCO teams in the country. He’s hoping to be part of a similar turnaround at Tennessee where he will likely split carries with Jalen Hurd after arriving in the spring and putting on about eight pounds of muscle in Knoxville.
JOVON ROBINSON, TRAY MATTHEWS AND BLAKE COUNTESS (AUBURN)
After landing transfers as good as Cam Newton and Duke Williams in the recent past, why wouldn’t the Tigers stick with what works? Jovon Robinson is thought to be one of the biggest prizes in this JUCO transfer class, coming from Georgia Military College and a presumed starter at running back. But coaches and teammates haven’t had a lot to say about his progress in preseason camp while raving about others such as Roc Thomas.
Georgia transfer safety Matthews missed some of the early days of camp taking care of “personal business,” but has returned to work with the first-string defense. Countess is a graduate transfer from Michigan who started 10 games at corner for the Wolverines last year and was honorable mention All-Big Ten. At the very least Countess adds depth to an already crowded secondary, but early indications suggest he could start right away.
JAKE GANUS (GEORGIA)
The Bulldogs benefited from the temporary disbanding of the UAB football program as Georgia picked up one of the Blazers best players. Ganus recorded 226 tackles in three seasons playing linebacker at UAB and should add plenty to that total this season. Through the first few days of practice, Ganus was working with the second-team defense, but both he and coaches seem to think he’ll be on the field for plenty of snaps when the season begins.
JEREMIAH LEDBETTER (ARKANSAS)
The Razorbacks think they have one of the best two-deep sets of defensive tackles in the country and a big reason for that is the addition of junior college transfer Ledbetter. The 6-foot-3, 280-pound pass rusher is so athletic he’s been doing backflips in practice to fire up his teammates. That combination of size and explosiveness figures to make him extremely tough to block coming off the edge.
JUSTIN EVANS (TEXAS A&M)
Evans arrives from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College to join a talented, but relatively young secondary. He joined the team in the spring and essentially locked himself into a starting spot. He hasn’t done anything to lose it so far in preseason camp. Evans teams up with sophomore Armani Watts to give new defensive coordinator John Chavis two of the kind of hard-nosed, physical safeties he’s always loved.