It didn’t take a football savant to determine the players that had the biggest impact on the National Championship Game between Oregon and Auburn earlier this month.
Auburn stars Nick Fairley (pictured) and Cam Newton showed how invaluable proper recruiting of the JUCO ranks can prove to be this past season.
Nick Fairley on the defensive side of the ball and Cameron Newton on offense managed to gift-wrap their Auburn supporters a national championship with a little help from their teammates.
But neither Newton nor Fairley took the conventional path to that championship game. Both players had junior college layovers before landing under the bright lights of the SEC, proving that those finishing national championship touches can come from some unlikely places.
Below are the 247Sports top 25 junior college prospects in the nation for the class of 2011.
25. Nu’Keese Richardson, ATH, Uncommitted, 88
Off the field, Richardson has been less than a sure thing every step of the way during his football career. However, between the whistles, it is tough to ignore his talent. In his one year at Coffeyville Community College, Richardson led his conference in interceptions with seven.
24. John White, APB, Utah, 88
Though he’s not a very big back, White is extremely explosive. He signed early with Utah and will be a leading candidate to step in and replace departing backs Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide. In 2010, White rushed for more than 1,400 yards and 16 touchdowns while showing tremendous big-play ability.
23. Malcolm Murray, S, Cincinnati, 88
A versatile prospect with the ability to play both safety and cornerback, Murray is an early enrollee at Cincinnati - where he is expected to compete for immediate playing time. At Mount SAC C.C., Murray helped his team to an undefeated record in 2010 and had four interceptions after a six-interception season in 2009.
22. Quinton Dial, DT, Alabama, 89
Dial enrolled early and will play defensive end in Alabama’s 3-4 scheme. He has all the size you want at 6-6, 315 pounds. He finished 2010 with 76 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 10 games for East Mississippi Community College.
21. Dan Heiar, OT, Iowa, 89
As an early enrollee at Iowa, Heiar returns to his home-state program after a junior college stint at Iowa Western during which he tacked on 50 pounds of good weight. At 6-6, 280 pounds, Heiar will come in with hopes of rounding out an offensive line that returns four starters for the Hawkeyes.
Florida target John Jenkins checks in at 14 in the JUCO rankings according to 247Sports.
20. Thomas Tutogi, LB, Washington, 89
In 2010, Tutogi averaged 12 tackles per contest as a sideline-to-sideline head-hunter in what was only his first year out of high school. As an early enrollee, Tutogi will compete in spring practice then have four years to play three as he attempts to replace departed Mason Foster at Washington.
19. Kaleb Broome, OT, South Carolina, 90
With great size and a great frame, Broome has enrolled early at South Carolina and is expected to be in the mix for playing time very quickly. At Georga Military College, Broome earned All-American honors as a sophomore offensive tackle after allowing only one sack all year.
18. Leon Mackey, DE, Uncommitted, 91
A defensive end with tremendous size, Mackey is going through the recruiting process for the third time, after being recruiting out of high school and prep school previously. Due to a unique blend of physicality and athleticism, he has been heavily recruited in each instance.
17. Keith McGill, S, Utah, 91
A big safety, McGill is big enough to play linebacker at 6-4, 215 pounds. But with seven interceptions in 2010 and five more in 2009, he certainly has shown that he has coverage skills to boot. As a freshman, McGill returned three of his interceptions for touchdowns.
16. Jared Ebert, DT, Oregon, 91
Emerging from Iowa Western, Ebert is a 6-foot-5, 285-pound athlete in the middle of the line of scrimmage. He will enroll at Oregon for the spring quarter and participate in spring practice and could see early playing time due to his light feet and good motor.
15. Izauea Lanier, S, Tennessee, 92
A superb athlete with speed and burst, Lanier likely will have his biggest collegiate impact in the defensive backfield at either safety or cornerback. That combination of size and speed are the separators for Lanier and should allow him to help all over the defensive backfield - as well as on all of the special teams units.
14. Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Uncommitted, 92
Part of a tremendous defensive tackle class in the junior college ranks for 2011, Jenkins is also part of a strong pipeline of defensive tackles out of Gulf Coast C.C. Following Terrance Cody in 2008 and James Carmon in 2010, Jenkins is yet another 6-4-plus, 300-pounder coming out of the southern Mississippi school.
13. Gilbert Pena, DT, Ole Miss, 92
Pena has a chance to be one of the most explosive interior defensive newcomers in college football next year. He enrolled in junior college after working for three years following high school to help out with his sick mother. Since returning to football, Pena has been a dominant junior college force and one of the nation’s top DL. He has enrolled at Ole Miss for the spring.
12. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina, 92
Continuing the defensive tackle theme, Williams is an active and explosive force on the inside. He didn’t start playing football until his senior year in high school but has excelled on the junior college level. As a second year player, Williams had 52 tackles and 12.5 tackles for loss. He also added five blocked kicks in earning first team all-conference and all-region honors.
11. Jacob Fahrenkrug, OG, Florida State, 92
After transforming his body during his time at North Dakota State College of Science, Fahrenkrug has turned himself into a force on the offensive line. As an offensive guard, the massive prospect is a road-grading physical lineman that looks poised to step in somewhere along the starting five for Florida State as an early enrollee.
10. Marcus Kennard, WR, Texas Tech, 93
At Butler County C.C., Kennard earned All-Conference recognition as a sophomore after catching 45 passes for 893 yards and 13 touchdowns. Originally from Oklahoma, Kennard is already enrolled at Texas Tech and will provide not only a deep threat on the outside but a big target for his quarterback.
9. Matt Williams, OT, Cal, 93
A teammate of No. 11 Jacob Fahrenkrug, Williams will be given a great opportunity to start early for Cal because of his size (6-7/285) and athleticism. Originally from Liverpool, England, Williams has a Rugby background but has shown tremendous upside on the football field.
8. Byron Moore, S, Uncommitted, 94
A USC signee out of high school, Moore redshirted and transferred to Harbor College where he emerged as a safety with tremendous range, ball skills and instincts. His play earned him Conference defensive player of the year honors and he will step in next year as a sophomore that already has a lot of polish.
7. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri, 95
Richardson committed to Missouri in the 2009 class as one of the top defensive tackles in the nation but failed to qualify. He also missed much of his sophomore year at Gateway Tech with a wrist injury. When on the field, Richardson is one of the most athletic jumbo athletes that you will find with pursuit speed, down-the-line agility and strength at the point of attack.
6. Daimion Stafford, S, Nebraska, 95
The most complete defensive back in the junior college ranks for 2011, Stafford brings size, speed, range and a heavy hammer to the table out of the safety position. He’s a fluid defender that can be moved around all over the defensive backfield to facilitate his big playmaking ability.
5. Aaron Douglas, OT, Alabama, 96
Douglas is an early enrollee at Alabama and it won’t be his first SEC experience when he steps onto the practice fields in Tuscaloosa. Douglas was a freshman All-American at Tennessee before transferring to Arizona Western for his sophomore season. Coming out of high school, Douglas was a four-star tight end, showing the athleticism that he uses so effectively now as a blocker.
4. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU, 97
Before transferring from Georgia to Butler County C.C. due to off-the-field issues, Mettenberger was battling for the starting quarterback job with Aaron Murray. By many estimations, Mettenberger winning that competition before he left the Bulldogs program. A big prospect with a bigger arm, Mettenberger put up more than 2,600 yards passing in 12 games for Butler County. As an early enrollee at LSU, he will be battling for a starting job to throw to the talented Tigers receiving corps.
3. Cornelius Carradine, DE, Florida State, 98
Carradine is a physical force off the defensive edge and has demonstrated that through 26 sacks over the past two seasons at Butler County. This past season, the 6-5, 250-pounder piled up 16 sacks showing a rare mix of power and speed around the corner. His early enrollment at Florida State should lead to him making an early impact this fall. He is a player that is ready both physically and athletically for big-time football.
2. Maurice Couch, DT, Tennessee, 98
Tennessee needs help on the defensive interior, and the commitment of Couch should be a huge addition. Though he isn’t massive in terms of height, Couch is a prospect that brings a great motor to the table. He is very active with his hands, and he has an explosive get-off at the snap. In a penetrating defense, Couch has a chance to be a real disruptor.
1. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama, 99
Remember the immediate impact that Terrance Cody had on the Alabama program during the 2008 season? Jesse Williams has that same potential as a perfect addition to the Alabama 3-4 scheme. An Australian native that traces his athletic roots to basketball and rugby, Williams has emerged as an ideal 3-4 two-gap nose that can occupy blockers and clog up running lanes in the SEC.