|Oklahoma State RB/WR Tyreek Hill impressed during spring practice.|
Signing junior-college players is far from a sure thing, with a major reason being that players coming from the JC ranks generally went there for a negative reason (mostly academics).
But that doesn't mean JC players can't hit it big in college or in the pros. Four players that began their college careers in junior college became No. 1 overall picks (Cam Newton, Keyshawn Johnson, O.J. Simpson and Ron Yary), and five 2013 first-rounders were former JC guys: Minnesota's Cordarrelle Patterson, Carolina's Star Lotulelei, Chicago's Kyle Long, Denver's Sylvester Williams and the New York Jets' Sheldon Richardson. Some other JC transfers that have made their presence felt in the NFL include Corey Dillon, Cortez Kennedy, Aaron Rodgers and Roger Staubach.
There was one former JC transfer, Jason Verrett, taken in the first round of the 2014 draft, and there also were some other notable players with JC backgrounds, among them Cowboys second-round pick Demarcus Lawrence, Raiders fourth-rounder Keith McGill and Titans sixth-rounder Zach Mettenberger.
This season, Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory will be the most highly hyped former junior college player. But there are other former JC transfers that could intrigue scouts, among them Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, Oregon State cornerback Steven Nelson, Texas A&M tight end Cameron Clear, South Alabama tight end Wes Saxton and Mississippi quarterback Bo Wallace.
As for the junior college players that signed in the 2014 recruiting cycle, here are 10 that can be expected to make a big impact this fall. And who knows: Maybe one or two of them will make a splash like Newton or Patterson, two transfers that parlayed just one season of major-college ball into a first-round selection in the draft.
10. WR Geronimo Allison, IllinoisParticulars: 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, junior; transfer from Iowa Western CC, originally from Tampa (Fla.) Spoto.
Buzz: First, you have to love the name. Second, he joins an Illinois team desperate for a playmaker on the outside. Allison had a good spring, considering he wasn't 100 percent as he continued to recover from a broken arm he suffered in November. He had 69 catches for 872 yards and eight touchdowns last season at Iowa Western; it was just his third season playing football, as he played baseball in high school before taking up football as a senior.
9. OLB Jimmie Gipson III, South AlabamaParticulars: 6-0, 255, junior; transfer from East Mississippi CC, originally from Olive Branch (Miss.) High.
Buzz: He went through spring drills with the Jaguars and emerged as a starter. The Sun Belt Conference always seems to have an undersized pass rusher who stands out, and Gipson could be that guy this fall. He chose South Alabama over recruiting attention from, among others, Arizona State and California -- he had a huge 2013 season, racking up 17 sacks and 24 tackles for loss at East Mississippi CC. Gipson's favorite NFL player? Elvis Dumervil, another undersized pass rusher.
8. WR Von Pearson, TennesseeParticulars: 6-3, 181, junior; transfer from Feather River College (Calif.), originally from Newport News (Va.) Denbigh.
Buzz: Pearson is one of five JC transfers Tennessee signed in the 2014 recruiting cycle, and he is expected to start this fall for a Vols offense that returns just two players that had more than 18 receptions last season. Pearson was one of the top JC wide receivers nationally, with 93 receptions for 1,601 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013 -- he had five games with 200 receiving yards last season, including one outing with 311 yards. Pearson has good hands and excellent speed, and one trait that intrigued recruiters (and presumably will intrigue scouts) is that he gets in and out of his cuts without having to throttle down.
7. CB Shattle Fenteng, GeorgiaParticulars: 6-2, 200, junior; transfer from Hutchinson (Kan.) CC, originally from Loganville (Ga.) Grayson.
Buzz: Georgia's secondary is a huge concern, to the point that one of the starting corners coming out of spring practice was a walk-on. Fenteng will be expected to compete for (and, frankly, win) that starting spot. Fenteng has excellent size and prefers to play in a system that emphasizes man coverage -- one reason he should appeal to new Bulldogs defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. That's also a big reason he will be noticed by pro scouts if he plays well this fall: Big corners with high-level man-to-man skills are like gold. Fenteng had four picks and eight pass breakups for Hutchinson last fall.
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6. DE Jarran Reed, AlabamaParticulars: 6-4, 310, junior; transfer from East Mississippi CC, originally from Goldsboro (N.C.) High (also attended Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., for one year after high school).
Buzz: Reed signed with Florida in the 2013 recruiting class after only one season of junior college ball, but came up short of the required credits and re-entered the recruiting scene. This time, he signed with Alabama and is expected to play a major role for a Tide defense that lost both starting ends from its 3-4 set. While some schools recruited Reed as a defensive tackle, he fits at end for the Tide. He had 66 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss playing defensive tackle for East Mississippi last season, then looked good in spring practice for the Tide.
5. DE/OLB Trevon Young, LouisvilleParticulars: 6-4, 235, sophomore; transfer from Iowa Western CC, originally from Des Moines (Iowa) Lincoln.
Buzz: Young was a tight end and middle linebacker in high school, a defensive end in junior college and likely will play as a stand-up outside 'backer in Louisville's new 3-4 defense. He emerged from the Cardinals' spring practice as the starter at the 'Will' linebacker spot, and is expected to line up on the side opposite potential All-American Lorenzo Mauldin. With all the attention sure to be paid to Mauldin, who had 9.5 sacks last season, Young should get a lot of one-on-one matchups he will be expected to win. Young had 13.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss at Iowa Western last season, his lone year in the junior-college ranks.
4. DE Claudeson Pelon, USCParticulars: 6-5, 285, junior; transfer from Mesa (Ariz.) CC, originally from Orlando (Fla.) Agape Christian.
Buzz: Pelon has had a checkered academic career (two high schools in Orlando, three junior colleges in as many years), but he is a big-time athlete who claimed a starting role on USC's three-man defensive line during spring practice. Pelon could line up next to All-American candidate Leonard Williams, another Florida native (Daytona Beach), this fall. Pelon remains raw technique-wise, but his athleticism and power are impressive, and he has a big upside. He had 52 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles last season for Mesa.
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3. LB D'Vonta Derricott, Kansas StateParticulars: 6-0, 225, junior; transfer from Garden City (Kan.) CC, originally from Henrico (Va.) Hermitage.
Buzz: Derricott is one of nine junior-college signees for K-State, which never has been shy about dipping into the JC ranks. Derricott still has not enrolled for academic reasons, but that's supposed to happen either later this month or in July. There's a spot open for him: The Wildcats return only one starting linebacker and depth is a concern, too. He had 67 tackles, a sack, nine tackles for loss, three interceptions and four pass breakups for Garden City last season.
2. WR D'haquille Williams, AuburnParticulars: 6-2, 216, junior; transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, originally from Reserve (La.) East St. John.
Buzz: Williams was the consensus No. 1 junior-college recruit in the nation, and he and holdover Sammie Coates are expected to give Auburn an extremely athletic -- and potent -- receiving duo. Turning those guys loose certainly has to be a tantalizing thought for coach Gus Malzahn (and QB Nick Marshall). But Coates is proven in the SEC and Williams isn't. Williams did have a solid spring, though, signaling that he could be a breakout star. He has excellent size, is physical, owns 4.4 speed and is a great athlete. He had 26 TD receptions in two seasons at Mississippi Gulf Coast -- one more than he had as a high school senior.
1. RB/WR Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma StateParticulars: 5-10, 185, junior; transfer from Garden City (Kan.) CC, originally from Douglas (Ga.) Coffee.
Buzz: Hill wowed Oklahoma State coaches with his speed during spring drills, and should be a big-time weapon for the Cowboys this fall at tailback and in the slot. He is not a physical guy and could wear down, so look for Cowboys coaches to potentially have a special package of plays for him. Hill ran for 659 yards and five TDs and also had 32 catches for 532 yards and six more TDs last season at Garden City. As for his speed, let's just say he might be the fastest football player in the nation. He ran on K-State's indoor track team during the spring and won the Big 12 indoor title in the 200 meters and was second in the 60 meters. In high school in 2012, he ran the 200 outdoors in 20.14 seconds -- the second-fastest time in national high school history and a figure that would've meant a sixth-place finish in the Olympics that summer. His best clocking in the 100 in high school was 10.19 seconds. Also keep an eye on Cowboys LB Devante Averette, another JC transfer who enrolled early and won a starting job.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.