It’s not just freshman recruits that get added to schools over the offseason. Junior College recruits can also play an integral part in a team’s success as shown over the past few years.
Guys like Marion Grice (Arizona State) and Bo Wallace (Ole Miss) had successful seasons last year despite moving up in class. Who will do the same in 2013?
Jake Waters, QB, Kansas State
Despite bringing in the No. 1 JUCO quarterback in 2012, it will be difficult for head coach Bill Snyder and the Wildcats to replace a school legend and former Heisman candidate in Collin Klein. While primarily known as a passer, Waters brings some athletisism to the table as well, which will make him a good fit in this run-heavy offense. Waters is not guaranteed the starting spot, though. David Sams, the backup to Klein last season, is also a dual-threat option but has yet to prove he can throw the ball consistently. Waters vs. Sams will go deep into the summer.
Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, Auburn
The No. 1 junior college running back in the nation landed at Auburn and will be a much-needed addition to a backfield that lost Onterrio McCalebb to the NFL, and Mike Blakeley who transferred. 1,000-yard back Tre Mason returns, but will need help because of the speed in which head coach Guz Malzahn likes his offenses to play. Having two rushers in this system is critical, and that’s what Artis-Payne will provide—a tough, downhill runner that can push the pile.
Deon Long, WR, Maryland
Injuries played a critical part, but Maryland legitimately had only one legitimate playmaker on offense last season, Stefon Diggs. Other than Diggs, no other skill player for the Terrapins had more than 400 yards of offense. The addition of Long should change that next season. After beginning at Maryland, Long transferred to New Mexico. Despite a successful season, Long moved again to Iowa Western where he had 100 receptions for over 1,625 yards and 25 touchdowns. If Maryland can get even a fourth of the production next season, it would be an upgrade.
Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn
If there was any team in the SEC where a quarterback was needed, it was Auburn. After producing the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft in Cam Newton (a fellow JUCOer), the position went to shambles last season as the Tigers used three different starting quarterbacks, neither of which had any success. In comes Marshall, who combined for over 4,000 total yards of offense last season. He was hand-picked by Gus Malzahn to come to Auburn, and you have to trust a guy who has led some of the best offenses in college football the past few seasons. Marshall will battle incumbent starter Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace to see who leads the offense in 2013.
Corey Smith, WR, Ohio State
Originally scheduled for Mississippi State, Smith made a late switch to Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes late in January. A four-star prospect, Smith should compete for playing time immediately as WR was a weakness on offense last season for OSU. He has good size at 6’1”, and enough speed to get open in the middle of the field. After Devon Smith and Philly Brown, there is not much experience, so Corey Smith will have a great chance to prove he can play in the big leagues.
Dreamius Smith, RB, West Virginia
With the uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position in Morgantown, it will be critical for the Mountaineers to get something out of the rushing attack in 2013. Smith should at the very least provide a boost to what is already a potentially solid ground game with the likes of Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison already in the fold. Adding Smith provides a different style than the previous two as he is a between-the-tackles running back that can also help with pass protection and be a lead blocker. He could have a defined role in the offense.
Tanner McEvoy, QB, Wisconsin
McEvoy has enough talent to come in and win the starting job in the new offensive system that is being brought to Madison. The only problem—there are about 100 other guys vying for the position as well. OK, it’s more like five other guys, but that still means it will be a steep hill to climb to get that No. 1 role. Unlike the others, McEvoy can really move around to provide a dual-threat option, while the rest of more prototypical drop-back passers. Knowing the kind of quarterbacks head coach Gary Andersen utilized while at Utah State, that should give McEvoy a leg up on his competitors.
Beau Sandland, TE, Miami
According to some, Sandland was the best JUCO recruit available, regardless of position. At 6’6”, 260 lbs. there is a reason that he was rated that high and recruited by the likes of Oklahoma, Nebraska, Ole Miss, and on down the line. There is not much weakness to his game, as well. He can both block and catch, and will be a valuable target for quarterback Stephon Morris. Clearly, head coach Al Golden is loading up on tight ends, as Miami brought in two other 4-star recruits in addition to Sandland.
Jesse Scroggins, QB, Arizona
Just like the situation with McEvoy and Wisconsin, Scoggins will be battling with a number of quarterbacks to try and replace Matt Scott to lead the Wildcats’ offense. After coming in at USC as a highly-touted recruit, Scroggins spent a few years on the bench before transferring to El Camino College where he threw for 1,148 yards and eight touchdowns. Scroggins has the most throwing ability of any of the quarterbacks at Arizona, but knowing the offense Rich Rodriguez employs, a dual-threat quarterback is a must. Rodriguez must have a plan for Scroggins, though, or he would not have brought him in. Expect Scroggins to at the very least get ample play time in 2013.
Derrick Thomas, RB, Boise State
Last year the Broncos had to replace Doug Martin. Now, they have to replace D.J. Harper. Jay Ajayi is the clear favorite to start from Day 1, but some younger players have been impressing already in spring practice—including Thomas. He is another big back that will compete with Ajayi and Devan Demas for carries. It will be critical for the Broncos to establish a ground game in 2013, as that is a big part of the offense and why the team has been so successful in the past few years.