- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
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For the second straight recruiting class, more than 100 players from junior colleges signed with schools from the power five conferences. And for the second straight class, Florida State contributed to that number.
Of course, that’s nothing new for Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher. He has signed a junior college player every recruiting cycle since he was named coach in 2010, and that will be extended again in 2015.
A decade ago, some programs were unwilling to recruit junior college players. (One assistant coach told ESPN that his head coach once characterized junior college players as “nothing but thugs, criminals and dummies.”) But recruiting junior college players is a must for nearly every FBS program now.
“Those guys are making an impact,” Fisher said, “… and we’ve had some pretty good success with our guys here lately.”
That’s a slight understatement from Fisher. Former Noles Menelik Watson and Cornellius Carradine were both second-round selections in the 2013 NFL draft, and Fisher could have another player from the juco ranks taken high in the draft in the coming years. Last week, Fisher said Kareem Are, who enrolled in January out of Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College, is the surprise of spring practice.
Are has only participated in half of Florida State’s practices, but he has seen significant time with the first-team offense at left guard as the Noles battle some injuries and experiment with varying lineups along the offensive line. Senior Cameron Erving has been alongside Are for much of those drills working at left tackle and even some center. Erving said there is a different level of maturity with Are and junior college players in general.
“For the most part the guys we’ve had here that transferred from juco, they’ve come with a different focus,” Erving said. “They were hungry and always felt like they had something to prove. Those guys have always played hard from what I’ve seen, seeing Menelik, seeing Kareem come from juco, seeing guys like [senior Desmond Hollin].
Troy Morrell has coached Butler (Kan.) Community College to three national championships in his 15 seasons as coach. He said junior college recruits are better prepared physically and academically than they were even just a few years ago. Watson declared for the NFL after just one season at Florida State. Coaches are constantly looking for ways to improve their team, and the junior college ranks have a number of able bodies that can contribute immediately.
“They’re going to maybe be more prepared in the classroom. That gives the schools a little more freedom to be able to recruit a junior college kid that maybe they haven’t been able to before,” Morrell said.
“And there’s a tremendous amount of pressure for those big schools to win.”