Recruiting and the JUCO debate

With glaring weaknesses now fully exposed along the trenches on both sides of the line of scrimmage, loyal Gamecock recruitniks are focusing their wishes, hopes (and for many, prayers) on these areas, especially along the woeful offensive line. Many a poster has visited NR recently and voiced a common-sense thought: "We need to bring in a few JUCOs on the OL who can help right away." This makes sense at first glance. JUCOs are typically...

players who have had a few years to mature physically and play at a higher level than our prep recruits, which, in theory at least, should mean that they are ready to contribute immediately.

But as another astute poster said, "Name for me one JUCO offensive lineman who has helped us in the last 7-8 years or so."


Our track record with JUCO OLs is nothing to write home about, it's true - but given the state and depth of our current prep-only OL, it would be safe to say that our track record evaluating these players as a whole has been dismal, not just with JUCO talent. But those were other coaches selecting those players, not our current staff. So, putting past performance behind us, is their a way to quantify whether or not JUCO offensive linemen are a bigger gamble than prep linemen, and that JUCO's are, in fact, ready to contribute right away?

Some quick Googling led me to the 2004 JUCO All-American team, and after further internet searching, I was able to find where most of them signed and where they stand this fall on their depth chart:

PAUL FISHER (6-8, 320), DIXIE STATE -- signed by Iowa State; #2 on depth chart
ADAM HAWES (6-7, 295), YUBA CITY -- signed by Arizona; #2 on depth chart
BROCK PASTEUR (6-7, 315), MESABI RANGE -- signed by Nebraska; not on 2-deep
PALAUNI MA SUN (6-5, 330), FRESNO -- signed by Oregon; STARTING
SAM DOWNS (6-3, 275), GROSSMONT -- signed by Idaho State; STARTING

This, at least theoretically, is the cream of the crop as far as JUCO OL goes, and you'd have to think that any of these players could walk into our situation at offensive line and certainly have a shot at a starting job. But as I went down to the second- and third-team All-American squads, there was quite a drop-off in both talent (based solely on the schools they signed with) and contribution, which leads to the inescapable fact that JUCOs are at least as big a gamble as a prep player, and with two fewer years to be coached by a quality staff, have a much higher chance of being a bust than a player in a 4-year rotation.

Even more so than with prep players, do your homework before offering a JUCO OL. That said, I still expect us to target a few JUCOs; Georgia Military's Willie Barton, a third-team preseason JUCO All-American, and Coffeyville's Brandon Walker are two names to keep an eye on. As always, check in on the Big Boards in Numinous Recruiting daily for any updates we can glean from across the web.

Additions and Subtractions
Recruits are beginning to set their visit schedules, and our recent losses to 'Bama and Auburn have not helped in this regard. Some of the players that had us on their radar (such as 4-Star Ohio OL Lee Tilley) have dropped us, but new names continue to pop up as well, and we are still on more Top 5 lists of quality, blue-chip prospects than any year that I can remember. Also, don't underestimate the value of a Top 5 list; each prospect gets five official (paid for by the school) visits, and if we can get those kids to Columbia, SOS' ability to either close the deal or open their eyes is incredible; last year, in a short recruiting season, he was just about perfect - just ask Jonathan Hannah and OJ Murdock.

Swayin's Top 5

We'll adjust this list of uncommitted prospects periodically as the recruiting season continues.

1. RB DeMarco Murray: Yes, we just spent the majority of this column talking about our needs at OL, but any time you have a shot at the #1 RB prospect in the country, you take it. We are fighting for his fifth visit right now; I'd give us an outside shot at it.

2. OL Clifton Geathers: Time keep one of the Geathers clan in-state. Why not start with a massive, bruising, 5-star stud you can build your OL around for the next 4 years? He's been very tight-lipped about his recruiting thus far; hard to get a read on where he stands at this point.

3. DE Adam Patterson: He was ours to lose early on, but has opened up his recruiting. We still have an excellent shot, and hopefully his teammate and Gamecock LB commit Rodney Paulk can help show him the way to SOS' house.

4. OL Lou Eliades: We need big, nasty, talented OL who fire off the ball and arrive with an attitude, and Lou fits that bill to a T. He has taken his official visit here, and rated it as perfect. We'll just have to wait and see how his other visits go. Think of this New Jersey product as Tony Soprano in the trenches --not a bad guy to have on your side.

5. OL Daron Rose: See above, regarding big, nasty and talented. Daron is one of the most coveted linemen in Florida, and it will not be easy to pry him out of the Sunshine State, but he's narrowing his list down, and we've made every cut thus far. Just got to get him here for a visit.

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