Michael Reaves/Getty Images
While much of the attention centered on where the top high school players would land, some of the best junior college players in the country took advantage of Wednesday’s early signing day.
The JUCO ranks can be fertile ground for head coaches who want immediate help for their teams.
Jarrett Stidham was the No. 1 junior college recruit in 2017, and he had the Auburn Tigers a game away from reaching the College Football Playoff in his first year at quarterback. Cornerback Kendall Sheffield, who ranked third overall a year ago, had 37 combined tackles and five pass breakups in his first season with the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Ohio State went to the JUCO well again and landed the top recruit in the class, defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson Jr. Jackson had initially enrolled at Auburn before transferring after the 2016 season. In 10 games for Blinn College this year, he finished with 70 total tackles and nine sacks.
Jackson will join Taron Vincent, who’s the No. 1 high school defensive tackle in 2018 and also signed with Ohio State.
With Tyquan Lewis and Tracy Sprinkle graduating and Sam Hubbard potentially leaving for the NFL, Jackson and Vincent will help ensure the defensive line remains a strength for the Buckeyes next year.
Below are a few more of the notable JUCO signings from Wednesday:
Saivion Smith, CB (Alabama); No. 2 OVR
Stephen Guidry, WR (Mississippi State); No. 4 OVR
Travez Moore, WDE (LSU); No. 6 OVR
Tramonda Moore, OT (Oklahoma); No. 7 OVR
Badara Traore, OT (LSU); No. 8 OVR
Tayland Humphrey, DT (FIU); No. 9 OVR
Devonte Wyatt, DT (Georgia); No. 10 OVR
Tayland Humphrey signing with the FIU Panthers was unquestionably the biggest coup Wednesday. He announced his commitment to FIU last week, so him officially signing with the Panthers wasn’t a huge surprise.
Still, FIU head coach Butch Davis and Panthers fans had reason to celebrate the early signing day. The team shared a highlight reel of Humphrey from his season at Hutchinson Community College:
More sauce added to the Panther Family! Welcome Tayland (@Big_Saucy_)! #18utchBoyz https://t.co/vBKAcDXpWX
“He is one of the most destructive football players in college football,” Davis said of his newest defensive tackle, per Joel Delgado of FIU’s official site. “Guys cannot block this cat. He is big, physical and can dominate the line of scrimmage.”
In his first season in charge, Davis led the Panthers to their first bowl appearance since 2011, while their eight wins tied a school record. By recruiting players as talented as Humphrey, Davis can turn FIU into a consistent winner at the FBS level.
Given his experience as a defensive line coach, it’s no shock LSU head coach Ed Orgeron signed a pair of linemen—defensive end Travez Moore and offensive tackle Badara Traore—on Wednesday. According to Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman, getting Traore on board wasn’t easy, with a number of top programs pursuing him hard:
#LSU gets Badara Traore, the nation's top JC offensive tackle. Was a big battle with Texas, and then Tennessee coming in late on him. Quite an early Christmas present for new Tigers OL coach James Cregg.
Elsewhere in the SEC, Dan Mullen’s move to the Florida Gators didn’t appear to hit the Mississippi State Bulldogs too hard. They signed the No. 4 junior college recruit, wide receiver Stephen Guidry, while further strengthening their passing game by adding Devonta Jason and Malik Heath, who are the Nos. 30 and 34 wide receivers, respectively, in the high school ranks.
Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald appeared to be happy with what the school was doing on signing day:
#StateTeam18 👀 https://t.co/AkJbuG6VeN
Naturally, it was fair to wonder how the Bulldogs will fare after Mullen’s exit, since they didn’t experience a ton of success before he arrived in December 2008. Mullen built a strong foundation in Starkville, but that can come undone quickly.
New head coach Joe Moorhead should be a great replacement. In his two years as Penn State’s offensive coordinator, the Nittany Lions finished 18th and 12th in S&P+ offensive rating, according to Football Outsiders.
In Guidry, Jason and Heath, Moorhead will have three talented wideouts to join a unit that returns Fitzgerald, leading rusher Aeris Williams and leading receiver Keith Mixon. Mississippi State’s offense should be a lot of fun to watch in 2018.
Recruit rankings are courtesy of 247Sports’ composite rankings.