SEC schools recruit at the highest level, but transfers often play big roles on their teams. Many former junior college players and FBS/graduate transfers will have major impacts this season.
Trevor Knight, QB, Texas A&M
After being beaten out for the Oklahoma starting job by Baker Mayfield a year ago, Knight landed in the perfect spot. He joins an offense loaded with talent at the skill positions, an offensive coordinator who prioritizes getting the ball to playmakers and a school crying out for senior leadership at the position.
It’s a great marriage for the player and the program. Knight brings stability to a position that has seen plenty of turnover. The Aggies give him an offensive coordinator who wants to run a modern version of the triple-option, taking advantage of both Knight’s arm and legs.
Travonte Valentine, DT, LSU
LSU received a needed boost on Monday, when Valentine was ruled eligible. Valentine was kicked off the team 13 months ago because of a violation of team rules. His reinstatement is a major positive in the wake of a pair of knee injuries to defensive linemen Christian LaCouture and Isaiah Washington.
Valentine is a perfect fit for new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s scheme. Valentine, the top-ranked junior college defensive tackle in 2016, has quick feet. Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman said Valentine has shed 40 pounds and wants to become an every-down player. With the loss of LaCouture and Washington, the Tigers need Valentine to develop into more than a two-down run stopper.
Gehrig Dieter, WR, Alabama
The addition of Dieter from Bowling Green – a key cog in one of the nation’s best offenses in 2015 – seems almost unfair.
Dieter is a graduate transfer who dominated the MAC with 94 catches for 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. In Week 1 last season against Tennessee, Dieter caught 7 passes for 133 yards. Dieter excels at separating from press coverage and tracking the ball down the field. He should be a movable piece in Lane Kiffin’s offense.
Jonathan Kongbo, DE, Tennessee
Kongbo adds talent and depth to an already-talented unit in Knoxville. Considered by many to be the top junior college prospect last season, Kongbo can play inside or outside. He can play the run and rush the passer. Playing with standout Derek Barnett, Kongbo will be able to pressure the quarterback.
Luke Del Rio, QB, Florida
Del Rio, the son of NFL head coach Jack Del Rio, is expected to be Florida’s starting quarterback. He previously spent time at Alabama (redshirt, 2013) and Oregon State (2014).
Del Rio does things that Florida coach Jim McElwain stresses: get the ball to playmakers, limit mistakes, command the huddle and be consistent. Florida has depth at the position, including Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby and freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask.
John Franklin III, QB, Auburn
A star of the recent Netflix docu-series Last Chance U, Franklin is projected to be the starter heading into a critical year for Gus Malzahn.
Franklin struggled last season at East Mississippi Community College, failing to beat out a guy who no longer is playing football. Franklin’s athleticism and arm should be a good fit within Malzahn’s offense, though.
Keith Ford, RB, Texas A&M
Ford transferred from Oklahoma to Texas A&M. He is a former top 25 recruit nationally, according to 247 Sports. Ford was suspended indefinitely by the Sooners for team violations before he transferred. He is a powerful runner and an excellent receiver out of the backfield. New A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone uses multi-back and split-back formations, making Ford a perfect fit.
Mark Thompson, RB, Florida
Thompson is a junior college transfer. With Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett, Thompson provides depth at the position. Thompson provides the most size and power between the tackles. He had trouble hanging onto the ball in the spring, though.