Power Ranking the Top 2015 JUCO Recruits
It's imperative to account for junior college products when assessing the crop of eligible 2015 prospects. Many of these players initially signed with top-tier FBS programs as high school seniors but were unable to attend the universities of their choice for a variety of reasons, most frequently due to academic issues.
For many, the recruitment process starts fresh during this transitional period. It's another opportunity for players to showcase their skills and perhaps command more offers than they accrued in high school while fine-tuning for the next level.
We examine the latest class of JUCO recruits, ranking the top 10 to monitor moving forward. Although they'll arrive on college campuses in 2015 with limited eligibility, these standouts are ready to make an immediate impact.
10. RB Chase Abbington (St. Peters, Mo.)
Running back Chase Abbington remains on target to play for Missouri, the program he signed with in 2013. The 6'2", 210-pound prospect fielded offers from Arkansas, Michigan State, Texas A&M, UCLA and several other schools during his career at Fort Zumwalt South High School.
Abbington, who rushed for more than 2,400 yards and 39 touchdowns during his junior and senior seasons, now plays for Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. He finished his first JUCO campaign with 768 yards and eight scores on 154 carries, according to NJCAA.org.
He remains committed to the Tigers, but that pact won't become official until he signs. Missouri hopes to get the powerful runner on campus and quickly implement him as a member of the backfield rotation.
9. WR Donald Gray (Memphis, Tenn.)
Former White Station High School wide receiver Donald Gray ranked among the elite downfield speedsters in the 2013 recruiting class. He signed with Mississippi State, spurning offers from the likes of LSU, Ole Miss and USC.
The 5'9", 185-pound playmaker is now rated the No. 1 JUCO pass target in 247Sports' composite rankings. He missed his entire freshman season at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi due to an ankle injury.
He returns to action with plenty to prove, and a strong start would garner significant interest from colleges across the country. Gray recommitted to Mississippi State last summer.
8. OT Paris Palmer (Plymouth, N.C.)
Mammoth offensive lineman Paris Palmer committed to South Carolina on March 23, capping a recruitment process that heated up in recent months. The 6'8", 305-pound tackle received offers from Penn State, South Florida, Miami and Missouri in March.
Palmer, who previously played at Plymouth High School, has matured against JUCO competition while attending Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania. His impressive power and relatively polished technique provide the framework for a formidable bookend along the offensive front.
The Gamecocks may have openings at both tackle positions next year, so expect him to challenge for playing time upon his arrival in Columbia.
7. DT D.J. Jones (Piedmont, S.C.)
Defensive tackle D.J. Jones offers another example of how a prospect's stock can rise with strong junior college play. The former Wren High School standout didn't warrant much high-level interest in 2013 when his offers included Coastal Carolina and Charlotte.
A year later, the East Mississippi Community College defender is considered one of the most coveted JUCO recruits in America. He has gathered a long list of choices, headlined by Clemson, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida State.
The destructive interior presence displays a consistently high motor and provides solid pass-rushing skills up the middle. He tallied 49 tackles and eight sacks for the Lions last fall, according to the team website.
6. ATH Jason Smith (Mobile, Ala.)
Alabama native Jason Smith is rated the nation's No. 1 JUCO athlete in 247Sports' composite rankings. The 6'1", 180-pound prospect projects favorably as a receiver in college, though he also played quarterback at McGill-Toolen High School.
He took a red shirt during his first season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, setting the stage for a crucial 2014 campaign. There's still an opportunity for him to take snaps behind center this year and perhaps eventually at Auburn.
Smith signed with the Tigers in 2013 and remains fully committed to the program, though he understands time can change things.
"It kind of depends on how Auburn feels about me," Smith told AL.com reporter Ben Thomas in January. "I'm sure with them playing for the BCS title, that will just increase interest from a lot of guys in them. But, yes, if they still want me, I'm Auburn all the way."
5. DE Marquavius Lewis (Greenwood, S.C.)
Marquavius Lewis was primarily viewed as an outside linebacker at Greenwood High School, but he's blossomed into a dominant defensive end at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. The 6'4", 271-pound prospect picked up 55 tackles and seven sacks in 11 games last season, per NJCAA.org.
Despite his relative rawness at the position, he displays excellent awareness along the outside edge. His formidable frame makes him a rangy playmaker on the perimeter.
South Carolina is a strong contender for his signature, but Lewis has plenty of options if he'd rather not return to his home state. Alabama, UCLA, Georgia and Auburn are among his other suitors.
4. RB Alvin Kamara (Norcross, Ga.)
Alvin Kamara's abbreviated career at Alabama came to an end in January. The 5'11", 200-pound running back was granted his release under foggy circumstances and will spend this season at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.
He wasn't a factor as a freshman in Tuscaloosa but arrived on campus with plenty of expectations in place. He rushed for more than 2,200 yards and 26 touchdowns during his senior season at Norcross High School, rising to a No. 1 rating among all-purpose backs in 247Sports' composite rankings.
He'll have a second chance to go through the recruiting process and restart his promising career. Expect Kamara's offer sheet to rapidly expand, just as it did in high school.
3. CB Tony Bridges (Hattiesburg, Miss.)
The 2013 Hattiesburg High School graduate went directly to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, where he played throughout his freshman season. Tony Bridges registered 28 tackles and a forced fumble in nine games last fall, flashing signs of sensational coverage skills.
The 6'2", 185-pound Auburn commit shadows receivers with a large physique and impressive reach. He handles himself well near the line of scrimmage, lending capable support against rushing attempts.
He pledged to the Tigers in February. His FBS options feature Florida State, Alabama and Georgia.
2. DE Dante Sawyer (Suwanee, Ga.)
Dante Sawyer deserved consideration as one of the premier defensive end prospects in the 2014 class. However, he was forced to take the JUCO route after signing with South Carolina and will suit up for East Mississippi Community College next season.
Sawyer, who registered three sacks during the Army All-American Bowl in January, is a balanced defender who has the potential to grow into a dominant run-stuffer along the edge. The 6'2.5", 262-pound prospect punishes offensive linemen with acceleration and agility in the trenches.
South Carolina remains a clear favorite to again secure Sawyer's signature, but other programs are sure to join the pursuit.
1. RB Jovon Robinson (Memphis, Tenn.)
Georgia Military College running back Jovon Robinson emerged as a superstar prospect during a dominant 2013 campaign. He set an NJCAA rushing record with 2,387 yards and scored 34 touchdowns.
The 6'0", 220-pound playmaker has the makings of an effective every-down runner at the next level. He shows tremendous burst and can create offensive opportunities between the tackles or along the sidelines.
His offer list includes Alabama, Tennessee, Florida State, TCU and Georgia. He signed with Auburn in 2012, but controversy concerning his high school transcript derailed an opportunity with the Tigers.
Robinson is searching for redemption and appears destined to eventually make his mark against FBS competition.
Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.