Tennessee’s tradition of junior college stars is set to carry on
Tennessee has a rich history of giving players a second chance.
Running back Alvin Kamara is just the most recent example of a junior college player turning into a top-flight Volunteer. The former 4-star prospect from Hutchinson Junior College (Hutchinson, Kansas) rang up 1,016 all-purpose yards this season, his first as a Vol.
He’s far from the only junior college prospect to make an impact at Tennessee.
How about receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, running back Charlie Garner, defensive end/linebacker Leonard Little, defensive tackle Jesse Mahelona or defensive back Dale Carter? If you’ve ever worn orange to Neyland Stadium, those are household names.
The Vols hope to keep the tradition alive with two prospects from Dodge City Junior College (Dodge City, Kansas). Receiver Jeff George and defensive back C.J. Henderson are both Tennessee commitments. Both took their official visits to Knoxville, Tenn. this weekend.
Forget star rankings when it comes to George and Henderson, who have three and zero according to 247Sports, respectively. Junior college prospects are often underrated. Some of the top schools in the country agreed with Tennessee’s assessment of the Dodge City duo.
Auburn finally convinced George to take an official visit to “The Plains” in November. The Tigers have seemingly laid off since George told SEC Country that he only took the visit to get away from Dodge City for a weekend. Henderson received frequent calls from Florida’s coaching staff before his official visit to Knoxville. The Gators now seem out of luck.
“I’m shutting down recruiting,” the 5-foot-11, 173-pound Henderson said after his Tennessee visit. “I’ve made up my mind. I’m done with recruiting. I really won’t talk to them (Florida coaches) much anymore, just to let them know (I’m committed to Tennessee).”
George and Henderson both shared rave reviews about their official visit to Tennessee.
“I enjoyed the game a lot,” said George, who is 6-foot-5-and-a-half and 190 pounds. “It was a cool atmosphere.”
Securing the perfect junior college prospect is about finding the right fit more so than the right amount of stars. Tennessee’s coaches have reason to believe both prospects from Dodge City, Kansas can be just that.
George is a lanky pass-catcher that can extend defenses and provide depth to a receiver corps that has been known to wear thin during the past two seasons. Henderson could step in next season and help fill the void if junior Cameron Sutton decides to forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft.
George and Henderson were both present when the next potential Tennessee superstar was borne from junior college roots. Both cheered along when 4-star defensive end prospect Jonathan Kongbo from Arizona Western Junior College (Yuma, Ariz.) committed to Tennessee on Sunday.
“We were all in the same house when he committed; It was great,” Henderson said. “Everybody was jumping up and down celebrating. It’s great because I won’t have to cover as long while he’s rushing the quarterback.”
Said George, “The visit sold itself. We didn’t have to recruit him.”
The long history of junior college prospects who turned into Tennessee stars must have been a selling point as well.