Top JUCO Players College Football Fans Must Watch for This Spring
The door has closed on the signing-day frenzy, and teams are moving into full-blown spring mode. Obviously the early-entry signees grab fans' attention, especially the highly touted freshmen who are getting a head start on adapting to the collegiate game.
Junior college players are also on campus, and while they arrive with a little less fanfare than their traditional classmates, these athletes enter with more promising prospects.
The JUCO player is not living on hope. He isn't waiting to grow into his body. He is not the guy that fans think can develop into a quality contributor. Rather, the JUCO enrollee is the player whom fans need to live up to his billing out of the gate. That means understanding the playbook and finding his spot as spring ball gets going, so he can step in and fill a hole that the team needs plugged.
There are some great junior college enrollees around the nation who will contribute this spring. Here is a look at some of the players that fans should know. Based upon team needs and skill set, expect them to have significant roles in this coming season.
D'haquille Williams, Derrick Moncrief and DaVonte Lambert
Coming off a BCS National Championship Game appearance, Auburn is looking to shore up the two areas of its game that were less than stellar in 2013: passing the football and defense. Gus Malzahn addressed both issues by way of the junior college ranks by picking up D'haquille Williams, Derrick Moncrief and DaVonte Lambert.
Williams is the No. 1 JUCO player at any position, according to 247Sports, and he comes in as a receiver who is expected to make an instant impact. At 6'3" at 213 pounds, he is physically ready to make plays. As quarterback Nick Marshall grows his passing ability, Williams will be there to reel in the tosses.
On the other side of the ball, Moncrief comes in as the top-ranked safety who is ready to hit an area of need for the national championship runner-ups. He is a grown man, and that is what Auburn needs in the back end as it tries to put together a secondary that matches the front-seven Ellis Johnson is building.
Lambert is another defensive addition, as the Tigers continue to grow the defense. As one of the nation's top defensive ends, he comes in to help ease the transition from Dee Ford for a young but talented defensive line.
Jermaine Eluemunor and Avery Gennesy
Texas A&M lost Jake Matthews, who is expected to be the first offensive tackle drafted in May, so head coach Kevin Sumlin hit the JUCO ranks to help stabilize his offensive line. While the nation focuses on Kenny Hill versus Kyle Allen at the quarterback position, A&M fans know that the fight to be the starting right tackle is equally as critical to the Aggies' success.
Enter Jermaine Eluemunor and Avery Gennesy, two 4-star transfers. Eluemunor enters as the No. 3 offensive tackle, while Gennesy comes in as the fifth-ranked player at the same position. Although the two are physically similar in size, the differences between them come in polish and athleticism.
Eluemunor possesses more athleticism, while Gennesy is the more polished player. However, it all may be for naught as both are not only competing for the same position but also fighting off another player who has eyes on being the right tackle. As ESPN Dallas reported, Germain Ifedi, the returner at right guard, is also getting reps at right tackle.
The Aggies just want to get the best five out there on the field, and that might mean moving Gennesy or Eluemunor inside so that the sophomore can protect the right corner of the line.
The Cornhuskers are down Avery Moss, who is suspended for the season, and the task of replacing the defensive lineman starts in the spring. Joe Keels is, hopefully for Nebraska fans, coming to the rescue.
He enters as the No. 29 junior college player overall, and while he has played at defensive tackle, his stout 6'4, 275-pound size makes him a prime candidate to play the end spot opposite Randy Gregory. As Gregory runs the hump, Keels is a player who can set a strong edge, squeeze from the offense's right hand side and be an every-down run defender.
2014 is a big season for the Huskers as they hope to play their way into the Big Ten Championship Game. Although the team has to replace some quality corners, the front seven returns a lot of talent, including Gregory, and Keels should add to that positive.
Calvin Heurtelou is another defensive lineman who makes the list because not only is the position tough to fill, it is even more difficult to get freshmen who can come in and contribute on an every-play basis. He is a junior college transfer at Miami and walks into a locker room that needs him.
Heurtelou checked in at the No. 9 defensive tackle and the No. 47 transfer player overall. For the Hurricanes, they get an athletic space eater who can generate push from the inside at a position where Al Golden's team is in need of serious help. If spring goes as expected, Heurtelou will not only be in the rotation but could emerge as the starter inside for Miami.
Spring is about opportunity, and for Miami, a team that is trying to grow some depth and hoping that young guys mature on the line, Heurtelou is one of the best midyear additions.
Other Notable Junior College Enrollees
Auburn and Texas A&M are not the only SEC schools looking at junior college players this spring to come in and contribute immediately. Fellow SEC West teams Ole Miss and Alabama are hoping for the same immediate impact out of their own JUCO players. Tennessee is also looking for big impact out of some developed players.
Linebacker Christian Russell and offensive lineman Fahn Cooper are pushing to improve the Rebels. After an eight-win campaign, coach Hugh Freeze is looking to get some immediate help out of them. Jeremy Liggins, an athlete, is also on campus, and the Rebels are working to find a place for the one-time LSU commit.
Alabama has plans for offensive tackle Dominick Jackson to help replace the loss of Cyrus Kouandjio. Jarran Reed and DJ Pettway will add some depth to a defense that lost some key starters on the line and at the linebacker position.
At Tennessee, Von Pearson, a receiver, is already making his impact felt, as the clip above highlights his great one-handed catch. Meanwhile, Dontavius Blair is the big man that folks are hoping can replace Antonio Richardson along the offensive line.
JUCO players are not just impacting the SEC, as Claudeson Pelon is adding some depth to the defensive line at USC. Florida State is going to get some offensive line help from Kareem Are, likely at the guard position.
There are new faces in spring ball, and these JUCO players are looking to fill voids in a hurry before the freshmen develop and the summer enrollees hit campus.