The popularity of junior college recruits is on the rise in the SEC. That should surprise no one.
The league hasn't won seven consecutive national titles in football by overlooking any conceivable advantages.
But you don't have to be contending for a national title to see the upside of signing junior college players. They're for the desperate as well as the prosperous.
As awful as Tennessee was during a 5-7 2012 season, it would have been worse without junior college transfers, three of whom started on the defensive front, and another — wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson — who turned out to be one of the league's most exciting players.
New UT coach Butch Jones is committed to building a program through recruiting and developing high school players. However, he's not averse to supplementing that basic plan with occasional junior college recruits.
UT's 2013 recruiting class includes junior college cornerback Riyahd Jones. Butch Jones also has a commitment from junior college tight end Woody Quinn.
Quinn and Jones were targeted to fill positions of immediate need. In a best-case scenario, Quinn will help fortify a position last manned by senior Mychal Rivera; Jones will improve a secondary that stumbled through the 2012 season in disarray.
"You may see one or two individuals more from junior college," Jones said in a Sports Page interview Friday morning. "I believe they can help your football team."
UT isn't the only struggling SEC program hopeful of receiving a boost from junior college recruits. Arkansas has signed five junior college players. Auburn, which didn't win an SEC game in 2012, has signed three junior college players and has commitments from two more.
Auburn's recruiting is relevant to Tennessee in that the Tigers will return to the schedule this November. That looks like a winnable game for UT from this vantage point.
It might look different this season if junior college recruits Cameron Artis-Payne and Nick Marshall successfully make the transition to SEC football. Artis-Payne could give Auburn a power-running back, and Marshall might have sufficient running and passing skills to fit new coach Gus Malzahn's offense.
At the opposite end of the SEC standings, national champion Alabama has signed four-star junior college offensive lineman Leon Brown, who could compete for a starting position on a line that will lose three starters.
Texas A&M and Georgia, who tied for fifth in the final Associated Press top-25 poll, have been more active in the junior college market. Both likely will include five junior college transfers in their 2013 class.
Ole Miss made recruiting headlines last week when it received a commitment from Laquon Treadwell, ESPN's No. 1-rated wide receiver. But junior college recruits also figure in the Rebels' nationally prominent recruiting surge.
They have signed two four-star junior college recruits, wide receiver Quadarias Mireles and defensive tackle Lavon Hooks, and have a commitment from four-star junior college wide receiver/defensive back Nickolas Brassell.
Brassell has a history at Ole Miss. In 2011, he caught 24 passes and played cornerback as a freshman. He wasn't as successful academically and chose to continue his education at East Mississippi Community College.
One junior college season later, he's apparently healed academically and on pace to rejoin an Ole Miss team that will return 19 starters.
Sounds like another junior college success story for the SEC.