SEC recruiting classes will include a few high-profile JUCO signees, and some of those players may have to fill big roles right away.
JUCO recruiting is almost always a temporary solution to a problem while a team finds a more long-term answer. Departing seniors and draft-eligible juniors often leave holes that younger players aren’t ready to fill.
This year in the SEC, most of those holes are in the trenches. A bunch of teams are pursuing JUCO transfers who can step in and make a difference as pass rushers, pass protectors or run stuffers. It helps that JUCO recruits usually have been in a college weight program for two years, so their bodies are more SEC-ready than true freshmen.
Let’s take a look at where each SEC team may look to a JUCO transfer for help in 2017:
Alabama: Offensive Tackle
Alabama probably is losing its two most experienced offensive tackles after this season. Cam Robinson likely will declare early for the draft, and Korren Kirven is a senior. The Crimson Tide have three freshman tackles on the roster and four high school recruits in their 2017 class. A veteran JUCO tackle, such as 4-star commit Elliot Baker, could be a helpful stopgap while the Crimson Tide develop all those young linemen.
Arkansas: Offensive Line
The 2016 Razorbacks weren’t able to establish the dominant running game Bret Bielema likes his teams to have, especially in short yardage. Arkansas needs help up front, especially with Dan Skipper graduating. The Hogs have an offer out to 3-star OT Kelby Wickline, but he committed to North Carolina in November.
This one is obvious. Former Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham made Auburn happy when he committed last weekend. The 4-star QB is the No. 1 JUCO recruit in the country, and he solidifies the position the Tigers have been trying to figure out how to fill for two years. Sean White played well when healthy this season, but Stidham’s talent as a passer will add a new dimension to Auburn’s offense.
Florida: Defensive Tackle
Javier Edwards withdrew his commitment to the Gators on Dec. 4. That leaves Florida with another defensive tackle spot to fill in this year’s class. With one commit for 2017, the Gators are expected to have five defensive tackles on the roster. A JUCO transfer would add some depth at a position Florida prides itself on dominating.
Georgia: Offensive Tackle
The Bulldogs have struggled with run blocking and pass protection all season. Graduate transfer Tyler Catalina offered a one-year solution. But a JUCO transfer with two years of eligibility could give the Bulldogs more stability there while they groom some of their highly rated recruits. D’Marcus Hayes of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College could offer just that. He committed to Georgia on Monday.
Kentucky: Defensive Tackle
Kentucky’s run defense was 105th in the country, according to Bill Connelly’s S&P+ metric. The Wildcats have to get bigger and more physical in the middle of their defense. That’s why they have a commitment from Highland Community College 3-star DT Phil Hoskins. They also have an offer out to 3-star DT Craig Evans of Arizona Western College.
LSU: Defensive End
A breakout season for Arden Key in 2016 means more double-teams for the rising junior in 2017. The Tigers could use a complementary pass rusher to divert some attention from him. They have a shot at 4-star DE Isaiah Buggs, the No. 4 JUCO player in the country. Having the Ruston, La., native on the edge would benefit LSU when playing talented SEC West quarterbacks including Stidham, Arkansas’ Austin Allen, Alabama’s Jalen Hurts, Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald and Ole Miss’ Shea Patterson.
UPDATE: Buggs reportedly committed to Alabama on Tuesday.
Ole Miss: Defensive Tackle
The possibility of impending NCAA sanctions has affected Ole Miss’ recruiting. The Rebels have the No. 51-ranked class in the nation after putting together top-20 classes each of the past four years. They have no commits at defensive tackle for 2017. Landing 4-star JUCO prospect Teair Tart-Spencer would be a big boost to the class.
Mississippi State: Offensive Tackle
The Bulldogs will lose two offensive tackles to graduation, and junior Martinas Rankin may skip his senior year to go to the NFL. The Bulldogs are preparing for that, getting a commitment from 6-foot-5, 320-pound Tommy Champion. He could give them a quick fix while their freshmen and sophomores get their footing.
Missouri: Wide Receiver
Josh Heupel’s offense is fast-paced and predicated on putting good athletes in space. The Tigers want some more of those athletes at receiver, especially if they can draw coverage away from rising star J’Mon Moore. Missouri has offers out to two of the nation’s top three JUCO receivers for 2017: Stephen Guidry and Marquise Brown. The only problem is that both look like they’re on their way to Oklahoma.
South Carolina: Offensive Line
Will Muschamp has a young quarterback for the future in Jake Bentley, but the Gamecocks have to protect him. Georgia Military College OT Dennis Daley has the frame to do just that. He could stand to gain some weight, but the 6-6 lineman’s wingspan gives him plenty of range to fight off pass rushers.
Tennessee: Defensive End
The Vols graduate two defensive ends this year and probably will lose a third in Derek Barnett. Barnett is arguably the best pass rusher in the SEC and likely a top draft pick. The Vols, however, don’t seem to be as interested in JUCO prospects this year as other SEC programs. They had an offer out to Buggs, the top defensive end from Louisiana, but they weren’t expected to be in contention for his signature.
Texas A&M: Defensive End
The Aggies are losing an all-time great pass rusher in Myles Garrett. And in an SEC West filled with promising quarterbacks in 2017, disrupting the passer’s rhythm will be even more important. Good news for Texas A&M: 4-star Cisco College DE Micheal Clemons committed Dec. 10, and he could make an immediate impact.
Vanderbilt is a unique case when it comes to JUCO recruits. Many players go the JUCO route because they fail to academically qualify for an FBS program out of high school. At Vanderbilt, the standards are much higher, which precludes most JUCO players from truly considering the Commodores. As a result, Vanderbilt doesn’t get into the JUCO recruiting game as much. One of the only offers the Commodores have made to a 2017 JUCO prospect went to S Johnathan Abram from Jones County (Miss.) Junior College. However, 247Sports lists his top three schools as South Carolina, Alabama and Ole Miss.
All ratings and rankings are from the 247Sports Composite unless otherwise noted.