Junior college transfers are becoming the most wanted men in college football.
The reason is simple—they are playing at a higher level.
Quarterback Cam Newton transferred to Auburn in 2010 from Blinn (Junior) College in Texas and won the Heisman Trophy. Defensive end Morgan Breslin transferred to USC in 2012 from Diablo Junior College in California and was a Hendricks Award finalist who was named to the All-Pac-12 team.
Coaches are fighting over JUCOs because they're a proven commodity. No one really knows how a teenager will adjust to college life. The JUCO transfer already has two years of college academics under his belt. He's a man, not an 18-year-old freshman.
There is also a greater demand for them. With more and more underclassmen declaring early for the NFL draft, teams are facing an unexpected shortage of experienced players.
LSU had 11 underclassmen declare early for the 2013 draft. Head coach Les Miles was probably not expecting such a high number of defections, but his four turn-key JUCOs in his class of 2013 will certainly help to alleviate the mini-crisis.
The Big 12 has taken its love affair with the JUCO to a new level.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops signed four JUCO linemen in the class of 2013, including the late addition of 3-star guard Andrew Tony Feo (Fullerton College). Texas Tech signed five JUCO players, Baylor four, Oklahoma State and Iowa State three, TCU and Texas two.
So far, nothing to get excited about, right?
Kansas State lost just about everyone on its defense—linebacker Tre Walker is the front seven's only returning starter. Head coach Bill Snyder signed five JUCOs in his 2013 class. That's a low number for a school that signed 39 between 2007 and 2010, according to an AL.com report.
Perhaps that's because so many other coaches are going after the same prospects as Kansas State. The word is out.
Quarterback Jake Waters of Iowa Western Community College caused a tug-of-war between Penn State and Kansas State. Waters set a single-season completion percentage record (73.3) that was previously held by Blinn College's Newton. He also led his team to its first 2012 NJCAA national championship.
Two schools fighting over Waters is pretty impressive, but we're just getting warmed up.
That still cannot hold a candle to what Kansas did in its class of 2013.
A high school football player that went the junior college route 10 years ago was generally considered not ready for FBS football. Maybe he was not mature enough or did not have the GPA to get in to his college of choice. Maybe he just wasn't good enough.
That was then.
Now he is being wooed by Nick Saban, Les Miles, Bob Stoops and Bill Snyder. Legendary coaches, all of them.
The year of the JUCO in the Big 12 is here. His time has come.