Auburn's run to the national championship last season showed just how much of a difference a junior college transfer can make.
Cam Newton arguably had the best season of any junior college transfer in the history of the game, as the former Blinn (Texas) College star won the Heisman before going to the Carolina Panthers with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Auburn also had one of the nation's best defensive players in Nick Fairley, who won the Lombardi Award in his second year with the Tigers after beginning his college career at Copiah-Lincoln CC in Wesson, Miss.
Nobody on this list figures to make the same kind of impact as Newton or Fairley. Most of them play for schools with no shot at the national title. But even if they're not likely to contend for national individual awards such as the Heisman or Lombardi, they still should have major roles on their new teams. Nearly all of them already have won starting jobs with their new teams.
Here's a breakdown of junior college transfers who should make an instant impact this season.
Particulars: Bennett: 6-1/190, Jr.; Navarro College (Texas), preceded by Sachse (Texas) High. Hayden: 6-0/185, Jr.; Navarro College (Texas), preceded by Missouri City (Texas) Elkins.
The buzz: These former Navarro College teammates likely will open the season as starters in Houston's secondary. Bennett and Hayden helped Navarro win the National Junior College Athletic Association championship last season. The Cougars are counting on this duo to upgrade a secondary that ranked 73rd nationally in pass efficiency defense last season.
Particulars: Bowie: 6-4/310, Jr.; Navarro College (Texas), preceded by Sand Springs (Okla.) Page. Elkins: 6-3/225, Jr.; Blinn College (Texas), preceded by Keller (Texas) High.
The buzz: Oklahoma State seems likely to open the season with Bowie and Elkins in the starting lineup. Both are interesting stories. Bowie has performed so well that he has managed to win a starting spot on a line that returned five starters. Bowie beat out incumbent starter Nick Martinez at left tackle. Elkins walked-on at Blinn after participating in an open tryout. He now is on the verge of winning a starting spot at weakside linebacker.
Particulars: 5-9/176, Jr.; Arizona Western CC, preceded by Las Vegas High.
The buzz: Bullock ran for 1,830 yards and 20 touchdowns last season to lead all NJCAA players in rushing. Bullock should step right into a feature role for an East Carolina team that lost its two leading rushers. His arrival should upgrade an East Carolina rushing attack that ranked 99th last season.
Particulars: 6-4/315, Jr.; North Dakota State College of Science, preceded by Robbinsdale (Minn.) Cooper.
The buzz: FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett doesn't hand out praise generously, but he has raved about Fahrenkrug for much of the preseason. Fahrenkrug, who once weighed as much as 400 pounds, got himself into shape and performed well enough at North Dakota State College of Science to arrive at FSU as the No. 4 junior college prospect in the 2011 recruiting class. The Seminoles are counting on him to replace four-year starter Ryan McMahon at center.
Particulars: Garbutt: 6-2/205, Jr.; Fullerton (Calif.) CC, preceded by Westminster (Calif.) High; Grant: 6-1/280, Jr.; Fullerton (Calif.) CC, preceded by Miramar (Fla.) Everglades High; Pendleton: 5-11/180, Jr.; Copiah-Lincoln CC (Miss.), preceded by Natchez (Miss.) High.
The buzz: Ole Miss will open the season with all three of these junior college transfers on its first-team defense. Garbutt, a former high school running back who rushed for 1,245 yards as a senior, will start at the "spur" position, a hybrid outside linebacker/safety position. Grant, the Rebels' starting nose tackle, took an indirect route to Ole Miss. He originally signed with Wake Forest but instead enrolled at West Virginia. He transferred from West Virginia to FCS member Eastern Kentucky before heading to Fullerton. Pendleton, a starting cornerback, is a former NJCAA All-American in track who has posted times of 10.49 in the 100-meter dash and 21.03 in the 200. The Rebels are counting on these additions to upgrade a defense that allowed the most points in the SEC last season.
Particulars: 6-0/200, Jr.; Snow College (Utah), preceded by Pleasant Grove (Utah) High.
The buzz: This former Eagle Scout redshirted at Snow College in 2006, then spent three years on an LDS mission before returning to Snow and producing 65 tackles last season. He has won a spot in the starting lineup for BYU, which must replace its two starting cornerbacks. Hadley will be tested immediately, as BYU faces Ole Miss, Texas, Utah and UCF in its first four games. The Cougars would love to see him make the same impact as Andrew Rich, a former Snow College player who was a first-team All-Mountain West safety for BYU last season.
Particulars: Highsmith: 6-1/229, Jr.; Phoenix College, preceded by Missouri City (Texas) Elkins. Thomas: 6-3/308, Soph.; Coffeyville (Kan.) CC, preceded by Muskogee (Okla.) High.
The buzz: Both could end up in Arkansas' starting front seven. Highsmith, the son of former University of Miami and NFL running back Alonzo Highsmith, seems to have locked up a starting spot at weakside linebacker. Highsmith made 94 tackles at Phoenix last season. Thomas should play a vital role in Arkansas' defensive tackle rotation. He recorded 15 tackles for loss last season at Coffeyville.
Particulars: 6-3/224, Jr.; City College of San Francisco, preceded by Nevada City (Calif.) Nevada Union.
The buzz: Jantz will be Iowa State's starting quarterback in the Cyclones' opener Saturday against Northern Iowa. Jantz threw for 3,075 yards and 23 touchdowns and also ran for 601 yards and 14 touchdowns last season while helping City College of San Francisco win the state junior college championship. He enrolled at Iowa State in time to participate in spring practice. Jantz played linebacker and safety as well as quarterback in high school.
Particulars: 6-0/186, Jr.; Garden City (Kan.) CC, preceded by Muskegon (Mich.) High.
The buzz: Troy has emerged as the Sun Belt's premier program in part because of its history of success with transfers. The Trojans are counting on a number of transfers again this season, and we believe Johnson will make the biggest impact. Johnson could come in and play right away for a team that has a serious lack of proven receivers. Troy fans can only hope Johnson proves as productive as his older brother, former USC star Ronald Johnson.
Particulars: 6-1/210, Jr.; Mt. San Antonio College (Calif.), preceded by West Covina (Calif.) South Hills.
The buzz: Lamaison is replacing four-year starter Trevor Vittatoe as the Miners' quarterback. Lamaison enrolled at UTEP in time for spring practice after leading Mt. San Antonio College to a 13-0 record last season. Lamaison completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 3,993 yards with 30 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He will direct a UTEP offense that includes a couple of former Mt. San Antonio College teammates in junior WR Mike Edwards and junior OL James Martin.
Particulars: 6-5/256, Jr.; Hinds CC (Miss.), preceded by Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy and Newark (Del.) Christiana
The buzz: The No. 7 junior college prospect in the 2011 recruiting class, Mackey should step right into the starting lineup at Texas Tech and is expected to emerge as a pass-rushing threat. Mackey had 15.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks for Hinds last season. Texas Tech defensive ends coach Robert Prunty was the Hargrave coach when Mackey played there. Mackey previously had signed with South Carolina and Virginia Tech before academic issues kept him from enrolling.
Particulars: McGill: 6-3/200, Jr.; Cerritos College (Calif.), preceded by La Mirada (Calif.) High. White: 5-8/186, Jr.; L.A. Harbor College, preceded by South Torrance (Calif.) High.
The buzz: Both have a good shot at opening the season in the starting lineup. McGill is competing for a starting safety spot, as Utah must replace all four of its starters from last season's secondary now that sophomore Brian Blechen has moved from safety to linebacker. McGill, a four-star recruit and the No. 11 junior college prospect in the 2011 recruiting class, picked off seven passes and blocked two kicks last season. Utah also lacks a proven running back, which has allowed White to move to the top of the depth chart. White rushed for 1,491 yards and averaged 8.1 yards per carry at L.A. Harbor last season.
Particulars: 6-4/290, Jr.; College of the Sequoias (Calif.), preceded by St. Louis (Mo.) Gateway Tech.
The buzz: Rated as the nation's No. 4 overall prospect in the 2009 recruiting class, Richardson spent two seasons at the College of the Sequoias before finally getting a chance to play big-time college football this season. He recorded 19 sacks and scored six defensive touchdowns his senior year at Gateway Tech. Although he is opening the season second on the depth chart, Richardson should earn plenty of playing time and ought to play a key role on Missouri's defensive line. Tennessee's Maurice Couch and Georgia's Jonathan Jenkins are a couple of other former junior-college defensive tackles who could have major impacts for their new teams, even if they don't open the season as starters.
Particulars: 6-5/220, Soph.; Coffeyville (Kan.) CC, preceded by Apopka (Fla.) High.
The buzz: Summerlin enrolled at Memphis in January 2010, but he injured his shoulder that spring and was redshirted last season. He will lead Memphis in Thursday's season opener with Mississippi State after beating out true freshman Taylor Reed and Wake Forest transfer Skylar Jones for the starting job. Summerlin primarily ran a triple-option offense at Apopka High, but he threw for 2,302 yards two years ago at Coffeyville.
Particulars: 5-10/180, Soph.; Santa Rosa (Calif.) JC, preceded by Fairfield (Calif.) Rodriguez.
The buzz: Verrett has performed well in preseason workouts and seems likely to open the season in the starting lineup for TCU, which returns only four fulltime defensive starters. Although he primarily played offense in high school, Verrett has proved a quick study since moving to defense early in his JC career. Verrett will have a tough assignment Friday trying to keep Baylor QB Robert Griffin under wraps in the Horned Frogs' season opener.