Junior college recruiting is a lot of things. It's unique. It's slow to develop. It's fickle. For some schools, it's downright necessary. It's also risky.
It's what makes five-star running back Jovon Robinson, an Auburn commitment, a rare and precious commodity. The No. 1-ranked junior college player in America takes the edge off. He may not totally eliminate risk, but he certainly limits it.
Sure things are non-existent in recruiting, especially at the JUCO level. But Robinson? Well, he's as close at it gets in this class.
"Robinson is so improved since high school," said Rivals.com national recruiting director Mike Farrell. "I mean, I can't believe the kid I'm watching on film. He was good in high school, built, a one-cut guy with not very good feet. Now he has great feet and a great body. He has excellent vision now. He is a guy that I could see really doing some big things at Auburn, especially in that offense they run."
Robinson rushed for 2,307 yards as a freshman at Georgia Military College last season and could easily eclipse that mark as a sophomore. He leads a junior college class that, while not particularly deep or elite in terms of historical significance, includes plenty of talent at the top.
Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College defensive end Marquavius Lewis and his 17 major scholarship offers holds down the No. 2 spot in Rivals.com's initial junior college rankings, but the guy in the No. 3 spot may be the most interesting prospect on the list. Lewis's Hutchinson teammate, running back Alvin Kamara, a Tennessee commit, is a former Rivals100 member and enrolling at a junior college hasn't zapped the elite-level talent out of his body.
That much is already clear.
"He's obviously a very good all-purpose back," Farrell said of Kamara, a one-time Alabama commit and the No. 45 overall prospect in the 2013 high school class. "I think he's going to fit perfectly at Tennessee. He's actually gotten bigger. He's not as tiny as he used to be. He has thickened up and gotten stronger. They need guys like him top complement [running back] Jalen Hurd. Kamara can make catches out of the backfield or line up in the slot. He's sort of a home run hitter in that way."
Other notable names on the list include four-star defensive end Takkarist McKinley, who committed to California out of high school, 310-pound East Mississippi Community College defensive tackle D.J. Jones and former Florida State commit Josh McNeil, who checks in at No. 31 after transferring to Mississippi's Copiah-Lincoln from Arizona Western in the middle of last season.
The top 20 of the initial rankings bring some semblance of balance. Ten of the 20 are committed prospects, 10 are offensive players and 10 play defense. A whopping five are defensive ends. And while the fact that 10 of the top 25 play their junior college football in Mississippi jumps off the page, Farrell says reading too much into geographical prospect distribution is dangerous.
Fluke? Maybe not, but it's presumptuous to assume a shift in junior college power is in the works.
"I don't think it means much because I think it's cyclical," Farrell said. "I think once we flesh things out after this season, we'll start to see more Midwest kids bump up the rankings. The Southeast junior colleges -- Georgia Military and the Mississippi schools - are starting to produce more kids, but they can have an amazing year and then a drought. The one thing that is always consistent in JUCO is the Midwest. They are always producing talented players that make a quick impact. I don't think that's anything that is going to change. The Mississippi thing might just be the way this cycle is."
In the end, though, where the talent comes from is largely unimportant. That goes doubly for a class that is yet to play a snap of the 2014 campaign. And while things are subject to change over the course of the upcoming junior college season, the early projections on the class as a whole are bright enough.
Not elite. Not overwhelming. But bright nevertheless. New prospects will likely find their way into the rankings as the upcoming season progresses, but the snapshot for now is encouraging.
"It looks pretty good," Farrell said. "A lot of these guys are going to make immediate impacts, but they're at JUCO for a reason, so it's risky to have too many junior college players to plug in, but I think it looks good. It looks like a very athletic class at the very least."