With spring practice getting under way across the nation, here's a look at the top junior college transfers who already are enrolled and need to make an impact during spring drills.
LB Sammy Brown, Houston PARTICULARS: 6-3/232
JUNIOR COLLEGE: Mississippi Gulf Coast CC in Perkinston, Miss.; he went to Wiggins (Miss.) Stone High
BUZZ: If you saw Houston play defense last season -- or, rather, attempt to play defense last season -- you saw a team that lacked playmakers on that side of the ball. Houston has one starting linebacker spot open, but if Brown is as good as expected he will force his way into the starting lineup. He had 64 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble last season. He has good size and can run.
LB Derek Earls, Arizona PARTICULARS: 6-3/225
JUNIOR COLLEGE: North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, N.D.; he went to Waconia (Minn.) High
BUZZ: Arizona must replace all three of its starting linebackers, meaning there is ample opportunity for Earls -- as well as fellow JC signee Paul Vassallo -- to impress coaches this spring. Earls was a first-team National Junior College Athletic Association All-America selection this past season, when he had 108 tackles and 14 tackles for loss. Arizona coach Mike Stoops already has praised Earls' athleticism. Earls was a second-team all-state running back in high school.
S Jakar Hamilton, Georgia PARTICULARS: 6-2/196
JUNIOR COLLEGE: Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, Ga.; he went to Johnston (S.C.) Strom Thurmond High
BUZZ: Georgia has two open safety spots, and Hamilton is being counted on to fill one of them -- most likely at free safety. Georgia has a new defensive coordinator in Todd Grantham, so Hamilton won't be at a disadvantage when it comes to learning the defensive schemes because they will be new to everybody. Hamilton was a finalist for NJCAA defensive player of the year this past season, and he finished his two-year JC career with 88 tackles and six picks. Hamilton has good size and is known as a big hitter.
OT Jermarcus Hardrick, Nebraska PARTICULARS: 6-7/335
JUNIOR COLLEGE: Fort Scott (Kan.) CC; he went to Batesville (Miss.) South Panola High
BUZZ: The Huskers return four linemen who started in the Holiday Bowl rout of Arizona, but coach Bo Pelini wants more physical play from the guys up front. Hardrick -- whose nickname is "Yoshi" -- has a chance to earn a starting job. Pelini talked about Hardrick's physical nature in a National Signing Day news conference, and Hardrick also has shown well in early strength and conditioning workouts. He committed to Auburn out of high school, but the Tigers eventually pulled their offer. Hardrick went to Fort Scott and originally committed to LSU in this recruiting cycle before signing with Nebraska.
WRs DeJay Lester and Mazi Ogbonna, Wyoming PARTICULARS: Lester is 6-2/195; Ogbonna is 6-1/190
JUNIOR COLLEGE: Both went to Snow College in Ephraim, Utah; Lester went to Layton (Utah) Layton Christian, and Ogbonna went to Hicksville (N.Y.) High
BUZZ: Wyoming has an exciting young quarterback in sophomore Austyn Carta-Samuels but also a relatively lackluster receiving corps. Senior David Leonard has all-league capabilities, but the Cowboys need some playmakers on the outside after throwing just 11 TD passes last season. Ogbonna had 40 receptions for 827 yards and 11 TDs at Snow last season; Lester had 27 catches for 456 yards and two scores. Both have good size and will be given every opportunity to win a starting job.
DB Malcolm Murray, Oklahoma State PARTICULARS: 6-2/205
JUNIOR COLLEGE: Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif.; he played at Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra High
BUZZ: Murray was the only JC transfer signed by Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State has three spots open -- both corners and free safety -- in its secondary. While Murray can play either safety or cornerback, he seems destined to play corner -- where his size will be a huge plus. The Cowboys lost their top three corners from last season, and depth is a big issue at the position. Murray had 39 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, with six interceptions and seven pass breakups this past season. After committing to Oregon out of high school, he signed with FCS member Weber State in 2008 and redshirted that season. He then transferred to Mt. SAC and played one season of junior college ball.
QB Cam Newton, Auburn PARTICULARS: 6-6/245
JUNIOR COLLEGE: Blinn College in Brenham, Texas; he went to Atlanta Westlake High
BUZZ: Newton signed with Florida in 2007 as a five-star prospect out of high school and played as a reserve that season. He redshirted in 2008, then transferred after a brush with the law in 2009. He led Blinn to the NJCAA national title in '09 by throwing for 2,833 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushing for another 655 yards and 16 scores. Auburn has an open quarterback job, and Newton is expected to win the competition this spring. He's a punishing runner, with surprisingly good speed. He has a strong arm but still is relatively raw as a passer.
CB Taikwon Paige, Toledo
JUNIOR COLLEGE: Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, Ga.; he went to Aiken (S.C.) High
BUZZ: Paige signed with North Carolina out of high school in 2007 but didn't qualify academically. Toledo coach Tim Beckman was at Oklahoma State at the time, and he recruited Paige -- who was one of the state's top sprinters -- for the Cowboys. Paige signed with Auburn in 2008 but was a class shy of graduating from junior college. He then chose Toledo in this recruiting cycle. Toledo returns both starting corners, but Rockets cornerbacks combined for just two picks last season and Paige's playmaking ability should mean a lot of playing time for what was a shaky pass defense.
OT Brice Schwab, Arizona State PARTICULARS: 6-8/320
JUNIOR COLLEGE: Palomar College in San Marcos, Calif.; he went to West Sunbury (Pa.) Moniteau High
BUZZ: The Sun Devils' coaching staff wanted a left tackle who could play right away, and they think they got their man in Schwab -- who chose Arizona State over USC. He generally is considered one of the best JC linemen in the nation. Schwab is one of three junior college linemen to sign with the Sun Devils and one of six JC transfers overall for coach Dennis Erickson, who is under some pressure to win this fall. "We really think he has a chance to be one of the better players I've been around in a long time," Erickson said.
CB Anthony Young, Iowa State PARTICULARS: 5-9/174
JUNIOR COLLEGE: Palomar College in San Marcos, Calif.; he went to Ontario (Calif.) Colony High
BUZZ: The Cyclones have a starting cornerback spot open, and Young is expected to fill it. He had six interceptions, 16 pass breakups and 57 tackles as a sophomore at Palomar. Young, who also was a track star in high school, has gained more than 10 pounds since enrolling in January. "In junior college, the weight training was more for maintenance of what you already had physically," Young said. "Now we are working hard to add to what I've got."
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.