It's no secret that West Virginia had major roster holes this offseason. It needed wide receivers. It needed a pass rusher. It needed running back depth. And the Mountaineers didn't have time to wait for an incoming freshman, a high-school kid to develop and grow into a bonafide college football player.
So, West Virginia brought in nine JUCO transfers. And it has paid off. Seven of them (nine, if you want to add graduate transfers QB Clint Trickett and RB Charles Sims) have already registered a start this season, the exceptions being OL Stone Underwood (redshirting) and DE d'Vante Henry (dismissed after arrest).
That's a hit any way you look at it. You won't find a draft class with that kind of success rate at any point in their college careers. But does that make JUCOs the way of the future? Not exactly. Take a look at today's daily story: WVU's depth comes from a different source.
A quick breakdown of the benefits/drawbacks of JUCO vs. HS recruit:
• Benefits: Experience at the college level; more physically and mentally mature player; more of a calculated risk; can come in and play right away.
• Drawbacks: Doesn't help your long-term depth; have to learn new system; might not have developed proper technique; are expected to make an immediate impact, may not be fully adjusted quickly enough.
WVU has caught something of the front edge of this trend, and you'll see more and more JUCOs around here, but it depends mostly on the team's needs year to year.
Now, for some additional info I couldn't necessarily squeeze into print.
[AFTER THE CLICK: JUCO LIST, QUOTES]
• OL coach Ron Crook on the benefits: “They’re coming in ready to play. When they come they’re expecting to play. They’re looking for a place they can come in and play right away. ... You always try to find the guys, whether they’re junior-college guys or graduate transfers, that fit your scheme.” Have to fit in the meeting room. ... I think anytime you can find a guy that fits the mold you’re looking for, it’s a benefit.”
... on the adjustment period: “It’s different with each guy. Each guy learns and develops at a different pace, so it really depends on the individual and how much football knowledge they have. Sometimes it doesn’t go hand-in-hand with book smarts. People can be high GPA guys who can’t figure things out on the football field, and vice versa.”
... on the rise in JUCO popularity: “Part of it is you don’t have a long-term contract to get things done anymore. You’re looking for guys that can help you win right away. On one hand, it’s unfortunate, because you’re always going to build you program around guys who are here for an extended period of time, but at the same time, you have to be realistic and ask, ‘How can we get the best team on the field?’ ”
• RB coach JaJuan Seider says HS kids can be ahead of JUCOs: “Dreamius Smith is the exception, because running back is easy. He’s not a typical junior-college kid, because he picks things up fast.”
... on if JUCOs threaten traditional recruiting: “You never want to take a lot of them, because you want to build your depth. You like to build from within and let your own kids mature, but we in a situation where we needed depth. We needed guys that could come in and play right away and push the guys in front of them to create competition.” It’s like Dana’s first year all over again because there are so many new guys. “Everybody we’re playing with, none of those guys were here last year.”
... on the rise in JUCo popularity: Goes back to mid-1990s when he played -- you could sign 125 guys, now 85. Now, with the transition from Big East to Big 12 is a different style, you lose recruiting classes. “You’re behind the 8-ball in recruiting, so now you’re trying to catch up to guys that can play in the Big 12.”
... on having three newcomers, a true freshman (Wendell Smallwood), a JUCO transfer (Smith) and a graduate transfer (Charles Sims), all likely with different adjustment periods: “You went from Dustin/Buie potentially being starters. Coming out of spring we thought Dreamius was going to be the starter. Well, here comes Charles. So, trying to jell and make them still be brothers in that room and not be selfish were they’d hurt the room. To be honest with you, it could have almost been Wendell starting.”
• WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen (National Signing Day) on bringing in JUCO guys: "It is something that we have talked about for quite a while. Identifying these guys is not easy. You have to spend a lot of time making phone calls and going to see them to see if they are your type of guys. One thing that I have seen change in college football is the amount of guys from junior college that are being recruited. In my years at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State, it wouldn’t be strange to have a class without any junior college players. This year, a lot of schools are going after junior college guys. We were able to land nine of them. I don’t think anyone would have been happy to add 25 of them, so you have to identify guys that you have needs for. At running back, we got Dreamius, who is an experienced guy. The oldest guy in our receiving core right now is Kevin White. We have a bunch of freshmen and sophomores that are going to be out there. Stone is a guy that is a nasty guy that has played a lot football in the last two years. Defensively, we needed pass rushers. These guys are grown men. They will be able to compete physically in the Big 12."
... on if junior college players will now be considered on annual basis more often: "It is about getting the best guys. I don’t think it will be as important next year. Recruiting is important. It is our lifeline to our program, however, player development is important, too. Guys need to buy into the program and get better on a daily basis. They need to do everything they can to get bigger, faster, stronger and smarter at the end of the day. That is more important than the recruiting. It is a year to year thing.:
• P Nick O'Toole (Fullerton) on the adjustment: “There’s a change in the speed of the game. Everything’s just a little bit faster.”
... on what types of guys you'll find at JUCO: “In junior college you get a bunch of grab-bag kind of guys. You get the guys like me and a couple of friends that didn’t get any offers out of high school that want that big DI offer. Then you get the guys that didn’t make grades … and then you get the guys who are 26 years old and just come up because they like to hit people.”
• Smith (Butler CC) on the adjustment: “The game moved faster. It moved fast at JUCO, but it got a lot faster here. You’ve got to pay attention to the little stuff – keys, reads, where’s the defense flowing. You’ve got to open up your game. You can’t just be a running back that can run; you’ve got to block, pick up blitzes. We work on it every day.”
• OL Mark Glowinski (Lackawanna) on Kansas State, who has 23 JUCOs on its roster: “They always promote it.” They recruited him.
... on JUCO level: “You’re still playing against high-quality kids." Might just have injury or academic or financial issues that kept them from Division I.
... on biggest adjusment: “It’s learning a new offense.” At Lackawanna, he said, they just ran all the time or threw play-action, and it worked great.
• WR Kevin White on the adjustment period: “I’m still adjusting. The fan base and the crowd [are new]. If you have a bad game, good game, the Twitter and social media. There’s a lot more pressure.”
... on whether the pressure was a surprise: “I was expecting to come in and play right away. That was just my mentality.”
... on what makes JUCO a worthwhile route: “Speed of the game, maybe. Experience. Going against men and not boys. Taking big hits. In high school, you may get hit, but it’s a lot different at the HS level.”
• NT Shaq Rowell (Iowa Western) on Kansas State QB Jake Waters, his former JUCO teammate: “We used to call him Tim Tebow, man. The offense he’s running is what [Tebow] was good at doing. He could run the ball, throw it. That’s why I’m looking forward to the challenge. I want to hit him. He knows I’m coming for him.”
... on the adjustment: “The tempo was the biggest thing for me. I just had to get adjusted to it. There’s no tempo in JUCO like they run in Division I – especially in the Big 12 where it just happens to be the highest tempo conference in the country."
WVU'S JUCO TRANSFERS:
WR Derrick Smith (Ventura)
DE Fred Blueford (Jones County)
WR Durrell Robinson (NW Mississippi)
QB Charles Hales (Jones County)
LB Leandre Washington (Mesa)
TE Jason Hardee (College of San Mateo)
WR Jubal Thomas (Los Angeles Harbor)
DE Joe Sykes (Holmes)
OL Michael Watson (Pasadena)
RB Kay Jay Harris (Garden City)
S Dee McCann (Jones County)
TE Lou Davis (Cerritos)
MLB Archie Sims (Jones County)
CB Ellis Lankster (Jones County)
CB Anthony Wood (Lackawanna)
RB Zach Hulce (Glendale)
DT D.J. Shaw (Copiah-Lincoln)
S Courtney Stuart (Phoenix)
DE Larry Ford (Coffeyville)
WR Terrance Moore (Mesa)
DE Tevita Finau (Phoenix)
DE Bruce Irvin (Mount San Antonio)
C Benji Kemoeatu (Lackawanna)
NT Shaq Rowell (Iowa Western)*
OLB Joshua Francis (Lackawanna)
OL Mark Glowinski (Lackawanna)*
WR Mario Alford (Georgia Military)
LB Brandon Golson (Georgia Military)*
P Nick O’Toole (Fullerton)*
DE Dontrill Hyman (Hinds)*
OL Stone Underwood (Copiah-Lincoln)
OLB D’Vante Henry (Arizona Western)
WR Kevin White (Lackawanna)*
WR Ronald Carswell (Itawamba)*
RB Dreamius Smith (Butler County)
OL Sylvester Townes (Coahoma CC)
OL Justin Scott (Pierce CC)
DB Jaylon Myers (Hutchinson CC)
LB Edward Muldrow (Copiah-Lincoln CC)
* current starter