NCF On The Trail: Lavon Pearson

The Class of 2014 is almost in the books, and that includes the junior college ranks as well. While there aren’t major changes in the final 2014 ESPN Junior College 50, there are some noteworthy moves.

No longer in the 2014 class
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It is always difficult to pinpoint just one guy, but I will point out a few that I think will be immediate impact players who can help in critical areas and also list some prospects who have a high ceiling for development. Let’s start off with some impact players. Tennessee needs offensive weapons as badly as anyone and this has been a focus. Therefore the additions of Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp) and No. 2 ranked juco player LaVon Pearson (Newport News, Va./Feather River College) will be expected to play significant roles within this scheme to add to Alton "Pig" Howard and Marquez North. Considering the losses along the offensive line, OT Dontavius Blair (Anniston, Ala./Garden City Community College) will likely be expected to start right away. As far as some high ceiling prospects, we think TE-Y Daniel Helm (Chatham, Ill./Glenwood) has a bright future as a movement flex TE who is very gifted in the passing game. Once DE Dewayne Hendrix (O’Fallon, Ill./Township) gets into the weight room we feel he could really escalate over time. The key for this Tennessee class is for 70 percent of the players to pan out. That would be a great number. There are always going to be misses, but Butch Jones and his staff have done a great job addressing needs and winning the state. As many as 14 of these prospects will be mid-year guys which is huge as many will likely be expected to play. There will be disappointments and there will be guys who exceed expectations, but mostly this class needs to be the one that starts producing wins.
The junior college midterm signing period opened on Wednesday and the Auburn Tigers came away as the clear-cut winners.

Despite relentless pursuit by LSU, Auburn signed receiver D'haquille Williams, the nation’s No. 1 junior college player, out of Mississippi Gulf Coast College. The Tigers also announced the signings of his teammate, four-star linebacker/safety Derrick Moncrief, and offensive lineman Xavier Dampeer from Wesson (Miss.) Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

[+] EnlargeD'haquille Williams
Courtesy of Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C.D'haquille Williams, the No. 1 juco prospect, signed with Auburn and Gus Malzahn called him "a dynamic player who can run, catch, do all the things it takes to be a great wide receiver."
The good news continued Wednesday afternoon as defensive tackle DaVonte Lambert (Milledgeville, Ga./Georgia Military College), the No. 6 player in the ESPN JC 50, flipped his pledge from Tennessee and said he was signing with the Tigers.

By the end of the day, the Tigers had inked three of the top 14 players in the country and are now poised to crack the top 10 of the ESPN Class Rankings with more than a month left before signing day. But make no mistake, Williams was the prize of the haul.

"He's a dynamic player who can run, catch, do all the things it takes to be a great wide receiver," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "If you look back we've had years when we threw it a lot. We are going to get more balanced next year. Anytime you have a dynamic player like him coming, that's a good thing."

Despite missing out on Lambert, it was still a banner day for the Vols.

Tennessee signed the nation’s No. 2 juco prospect in Lavon Pearson, an impact receiver from Quincy (Calif.) Feather River College. The Vols also landed No. 26 Dontavius Blair, an offensive tackle from Garden City (Kan.) Community College, and No. 40 Owen Williams, a defensive tackle from El Dorado (Kan.) Butler Community College.

All three are expected to see the field quickly at Tennessee and are a major part of the Vols’ second-ranked recruiting class.

"Von was as productive of a player as there was in all of junior college football this past season,” Tennessee receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Zach Azzanni said. “He brings instant help as a threat on the outside to our offense.”’

Oklahoma State also came away a big winner with the addition of running back/receiver Tyreek Hill, No. 4 in the ESPN JC 50, out of Garden City. Hill had flirted with Texas and even took an official visit to Austin last weekend, but in the end he stuck with the school he committed to early in the process.

“It feels good to finally get this all out of the way,” Hill said. “I owed it to myself to make sure Oklahoma State was the right place for me. In the end, it was OSU and it wasn’t even close.”

Hill is one of the fastest players in the country, with a 200-meter time of 20.14 seconds and a 100 time of 10.19.

Several other teams filled major holes with commitments as the signing period opened Wednesday.

Kansas State landed Andre Davis (Santa Rosa, Calif./Santa Rosa JC), a receiver who is No. 36 in the juco rankings and is expected to complement All-Big 12 receiver Tyler Lockettnext season. Davis said he told the K-State coaches he plans on coming in and being better than Locket.

Florida State added to its offensive line depth with the addition of Kareem Are (Fort Scott, Kan./Fort Scott Community College), who is No. 45 in the ESPN JC 50. Are is a nice addition because he can play virtually every position along the offensive line.

Florida also landed a nice signing day surprise when Drew Sarvary, an offensive tackle from Tyler (Texas) Junior College switched his commitment from Texas Tech and signed with the Gators. UF needs as much help as it can get up front and Sarvary, a Tallahassee, Fla., native, jumped at the opportunity to stay near home.

2014 junior college overview

December, 5, 2013
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The Junior College signing period is almost here, and with that is the release of the 2014 JC player rankings.

The best way to build a program is through recruiting high school prospects who can be developed in a particular program's mold and will be around for a longer period of time.

As someone who both played (Nassau) and coached (Hutchinson) at the junior college level, I have a tremendous respect for this level of football and the opportunities it can offer to young prospects and the talent it can produce. Junior colleges can provide college programs with opportunities to fill holes on their rosters with older and more experienced players while they recruit and develop high school prospects for the long term.

Junior colleges can provide a program with an impact-type player at times, the way quarterback Cam Newton was at Auburn or linebacker Lavonte David was at Nebraska. At other times and more frequently, it can provide ways for a college program to supplement and strengthen its depth chart.

Below is an overview of the 2014 crop of junior college prospects and what they have to offer for college programs.

The big catch: The battle for the top spot came down to a pair of receivers, and it was a close call. The edge went to D’haquille Williams (Laplace, La./Mississippi Gulf Coast CC), a receiver with an excellent combination of size and athleticism. A current Auburn verbal, Williams is still a bit raw in areas, but he possesses great ball skills and big-play ability and is talented enough to come in and make an impact as a receiving target.

An argument for the No. 1 spot was also made for Lavon Pearson (Quincy, Calif./Feather River College), who is close behind at No. 2. A Tennessee verbal, Pearson is arguably a little more well-rounded as a pure receiver prospect at this point than Williams, but he doesn’t possess quite the same stature or physical tools. What the fluid receiver does bring is excellent ball skills and the ability to be dangerous after the catch. Pearson could come in and have an immediate impact in a similar manner to former Volunteers receiver and juco import Cordarrelle Patterson.

Tight coverage: It is not a particularly strong crop of secondary prospects, but a pair of talented cornerbacks lead this group and landed in the top 10. Shattle Fenteng (Loganville, Ga./Hutchinson CC) is the top-rated CB. He is a physical, explosive man-to-man matchup defender. A Georgia commit, he possesses the ability to mirror quicker wide receivers. Standing 6-foot-1, he also holds up against bigger targets in red-zone/jump-ball matchups.

The other top-10 defensive back is Tee Shepard (Fresno, Calif./Holmes Community College), likely a familiar name to many recruiting fans as he was a Notre Dame commit in the 2012 class out of high school. A corner with nice size, he displays good leaping ability and ball skills and can be a physical presence at the position.

Another cornerback outside the top 10 who we believe is worth keeping an eye on is Danzel McDaniel (Dodge City, Kan./Dodge City CC). A top-50 prospect, he is an aggressive, physical, tall (6-1) and athletic corner.

Jermaine Eluemunor
Josh Moyer/ESPNJermaine Eluemunor, the top-ranked juco offensive guard, is committed to Texas A&M.
Think big: The strength of this 2014 junior college class is within the trenches as the offensive and defensive lines are the deepest group. A dozen offensive linemen landed in the top 50, including six in the top 20. The group is led by two offensive tackles and top-10 overall prospects in 6-6, 310-pound Dominick Jackson (San Mateo, Calif./College of San Mateo) and Chad Mavety (Garden City, N.Y./Nassau CC). Jackson, an Alabama verbal, brings good size, strength and agility and can offer some versatility as well. Mavety needs some polish but is a big tackle prospect (6-6, 320) with the tools to be a good, well-rounded OT and come in and contribute to a program.

Jordan Prestwood (Tampa, Fla./Arizona Western) is a name that probably rings a bell to recruiting fans as he was a promising prospect in the 2011 class and bounced around some before landing in junior college. A good athlete for his size (6-6, 315), he has grown and gained some experience as he transitions back to the FBS level. The guard position features a pair of Lackawanna College teammates in Jermaine Eluemunor and Jarell Broxton. Eluemunor (6-6, 300), who is committed to Texas A&M, could contribute at offensive tackle, though we believe his best fit will be at guard. Broxton (6-5, 328) is a big man we believe is a bit underrated in this juco class. He is a nice pickup for Baylor.

The largest group represented is the defensive tackles, with 15 in the top 50. Three defensive tackles are among the top 10, including Tennessee verbal DaVonte Lambert (Milledgeville, Ga./Georgia Military College), a tough and disruptive player. Dalvon Stuckey (DeFuniak Springs, Fla./Pearl River CC) was a promising prospect coming out in the 2012 class and remains one as an active defensive tackle. One of the more interesting prospects in this class is Alfonso Hampton (Chula Vista, Calif./Southwestern College). Someone to keep an eye on, he didn't play football in high school and is a bit of an underrated prospect, but he possesses a nice combination of size, strength and agility and displays promising upside. Recent Nebraska verbal Terrell Clinkscales (Dodge City, Kan./Dodge City CC) brings very good size (6-3, 315) and strength to the trenches.

The defensive end group is not as strong as the interior group, but some good talent can be found, led by Oregon verbal Tui Talia (Pleasant Hill, Calif./Diablo Valley) and D.J. Pettway (Pensacola, Fla./East Mississippi).

An interesting prospect in this group is jumbo athlete Jeremy Liggins (Oxford, Miss./Northwest Mississippi). With an excellent blend of size (6-4, 285) and athleticism, he has played quarterback in both high school and junior college, but we believe his best long-term fit is along the defensive line. Listed as an athlete, he could contribute in more than one way, though his lack of focus at one position could be a bit of a concern.

Empty backfield: While we believe there are some good prospects to be found on the perimeter offensively, this is not a strong group for those looking for some help in the backfield.

At quarterback, we don’t see another Cam Newton, Zach Mettenberger or Nick Marshall in this group and no quarterbacks landed in the top 50.

Tyreek Hill
Jeremy Crabtree/ESPNVersatile athlete Tyreek Hill is committed to Oklahoma State.
The running back position is slightly stronger, but only one player, Ole Miss verbal Akeem Judd (Milledgeville, Ga./Georgia Military College), is ranked among the top 50. Sitting just outside the top 50 is De’Chavon Hayes (Richmond, Va./Lackawanna College), a good all-purpose back who flashes big-play ability. Listed in the athlete category but capable of making a play in more than one way offensively -- including out of the backfield -- is Tyreek Hill (Garden City, Kan./Garden City CC). An Oklahoma State verbal, Hill is ranked No. 4 overall and can be an explosive weapon with his speed, ability to make defenders miss and ball skills. He is capable of making plays as a running back, wide receiver and in the return game.

Look beyond: The ESPN JC 50 represents the top prospects in the class, but there are also some promising prospects beyond the top 50. Geronimo Allison (Council Bluffs, Iowa/Iowa Western CC) is a tall receiver who can win foot races and make plays. Dominique Robertson (Riverside, Calif./Riverside CC) is a physical and nasty offensive tackle who landed just outside the top 50. David Moala (Norwalk, Calif./Cerritos College) is a wide-bodied and surprisingly agile defensive tackle who can be a disruptive presence.

These are just a few of the prospects who didn’t make the top 50 but can still help an FBS program. You can look at the Recruiting Nation database for evaluations of more than 100 juco prospects.

Top 2014 junior college classes 

December, 3, 2013
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National signing day is quickly approaching, but first up is the midyear junior college signing period. The opportunity for juco prospects to sign with Football Bowl Subdivision programs starts Dec. 18, and several prospects have already made commitments. More commitments are likely to come between now and the start of the signing period, but with the release of the ESPN JC 50, let’s take a look at five programs (in alphabetical order) having success on the juco recruiting trail.

Arizona: The Wildcats have commitments from a half-dozen junior college prospects. Only one verbal, LB Antonio Smothers (Scottsdale, Ariz./Scottsdale CC) is in the ESPN JC 50. Smothers can give them a big, physical downhill run defender between the tackles. They might sit outside the top 50 in the recruiting rankings, but DT Jeff Worthy (Santa Ana, Calif./Santa Ana College) and OL Kaige Lawrence (Victorville, Calif./Chaffey) are solid pickups in the trenches. With the secondary featuring several upperclassmen, they also bring in some help with CB Patrick Glover (Gilbert, Ariz./Scottsdale CC) and instinctive and aggressive S Jamie Byrd (Dade City, Fla./Iowa Western).


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Top juco prospect comparisons 

December, 3, 2013
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For every recruiting class that includes junior college signees, there is a high-risk, high-reward proposition because most juco prospects are expected to provide immediate help while not having much time to do so. If you are a "two-to-play-two" prospect, your time is limited and the risk is higher. Below are three of our top 10 prospects in the ESPN JC 50, as well as current college stars we feel they resemble with their skill sets.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

October, 21, 2013
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On the field there was some huge upsets over the weekend in the Southeastern Conference and off the field there was a ton of recruiting news. Here's a closer look at the latest recruiting news in the SEC:

Biggest commitment: After watching Texas A&M's defensive performance on Saturday, there is no question five-star defensive end Myles Garrett's (Arlington, Texas/James Martin) commitment to the Aggies on Friday was the biggest recruiting news of the weekend. Garrett had been a long-time Aggie lean and finally decided to pull the trigger.

For the Aggies, Garrett becomes their 15th commitment including 10 that are ranked in the ESPN 300. Garrett is the No. 7-ranked player in the nation.

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Steve Spurrier vs. Phil Fulmer once had the attention of every prospect in the Southeast Region. While Fulmer is long gone from coaching the Vols, Spurrier leads South Carolina into Knoxville to take on Tennessee in a game that will have more than its share of eyes closely watching despite the fact the two programs are not going head-to-head on many remaining prospects in 2014.

Tennessee will have a trio of big time junior college prospects on official visits, and a number of other key prospects paying close attention. Which prospects could be impacted on Saturday?

Jarran Reed (Goldsboro, N.C./East Mississippi Community College): The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Reed was one of the most heavily recruited junior college prospects a cycle ago, signing with the Florida Gators. Now back at East Mississippi C.C. after not being admitted to Florida, the uber-talented defensive tackle is back on the market. The Vols are the first up to play host to Reed with Kentucky, Florida and others remaining possibilities for official visits. A December graduate, the chance to come in and play right away will be huge in Reed’s decision.

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