Mike Strange: A look at the Vols' rich legacy of junior college transfers

Mike Strange
University of Tennessee defensive back Byron Moore tries to stop wide receiver Cody Blanc as he carries the ball during a scrimmage at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, April 13, 2013 in Knoxville. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

University of Tennessee defensive back Byron Moore tries to stop wide receiver Cody Blanc as he carries the ball during a scrimmage at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, April 13, 2013 in Knoxville. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Even the most knee-jerk fan knows rebuilding a college football program takes time. That reality weighs heavy on the Tennessee fan base these days.

History shows the fastest way to get from the outhouse to the penthouse is hire Nick Saban.

Until cloning becomes more advanced, alas, everybody can’t hire Nick Saban.

But no matter who’s name is on the office door, recruiting is the lifeblood of rebuilding. Then there is the subset, junior-college recruiting.

Bringing in players who are already a year or two down the developmental path can be either or stop-gap move to fill holes or a slight accelerator in the overall process. Or, more likely, both.

UT has a rich history with juco transfers, which puts them in company with just about everybody this side of Harvard and Cal Tech. Even when the Vols were living large in the 1990s, a juco or three proved handy.

In these leaner times, they are an absolute necessity.

The 2012 Vols included six jucos who started all or most of the time. Cordarrelle Patterson was an other-worldly addition in his one-and-done season. Mychal Rivera was, for my money, a terrific tight end.

The other four were regulars on the worse defense in school history. Believe it or not, it would have been even worse without them.

As many as five jucos could start in 2013 if tight end Woody Quinn proves to be a quick study. Maurice Couch and Daniel McCullers are critical up front. Byron Moore, who started every game last year, and Riyahd Jones, a spring arrival at cornerback, could have a big say in how far back the Vols can come from defensive oblivion.

The trend will continue. Butch Jones’ commitments that comprise the nation’s (for now) No. 1-ranked class for 2014 include two jucos at positions of need, receiver Kameel Jackson and linebacker Chris Weatherd. Bank on more to come.

To observe this era of junior-college prominence, I submit my Tennessee all-juco team of the past 30 years.

Receivers: Patterson (2012) and the swift Anthony Miller (1986-87). Eric Swanson (’84-85) if you go three wide.

Running back: Not many candidates, but Charlie Garner (1992-93) is plenty.

Fullback: Phillip Crosby (1997-99) got two SEC rings.

Tight end: Rivera (2010-12) was excellent.

Quarterback: Not much to work with unless you budge the time frame to Steve Alatorre in 1980-81. He was slightly more productive than Matt Simms (2010-11).

Offensive line: I couldn’t even come up with five. Bernard Dafney (1990-91) and Albert Toeaina (2004-05) were legit. Mike Furnas started in ’83. Darin Gooch appeared out of nowhere in the summer of 2010 and started at center by default.

Defensive end: Chris Mims and Chuck Smith were disruptive bookends in 1990-91 on the way to the NFL.

Defensive tackle: Lots of options here. Jesse Mahelona made All-America in 2004. McCullers or Couch might yet prove more productive than Demetrin Veal (2001-02) or Aubrayo Franklin (2001-02).

Linebacker: Leonard Little (1995-97) is the only star, but Craig King started in 1996 and Anthony Sessions in 2000. Throw in Nevin McKenzie (2008) for a 3-4 look.

Secondary: Dale Carter, UT’s juco MVP, was a two-time All-American in 1990-91. Julian Battle was All-SEC in 2002 and Gibril Wilson was very good in 2003. DeAngelo Willingham was a two-year starter (2007-08) but Moore or Jones could bump him before they’re done.

Kicker: Greg Burke (1989-90) has little competition.

Punter: Larry Binion (1994-95) has even less.

Return man: Carter was in a class by himself.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.

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Comments » 12

sameolvolalum writes:

'Some nice info there, Mike. Our current juco transfers are going to be part of UT's surprising resurgence this fall, along with some seriously promising freshmen.

allvol32 writes:

Can't wait for football season to start and can't wait to see the beginning of the Butch Jones era at Tennessee. With the incredible legacy class coming in 2014 and a better coached and managed team this year things are looking up for the Volunteer Nation!

ralphie writes:

carter mims and dafney....thats a trio thats hard to beat. i cant believe this will be the 23rd season since the "100 years of volunteers" team

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ralphie:

carter mims and dafney....thats a trio thats hard to beat. i cant believe this will be the 23rd season since the "100 years of volunteers" team

Yeah, we could only hope to get juco reinforcements of that quality! There are always a few guys like that around, but this all-time juco team might give the impression that they are thick on the ground. I think Butch will get a few, some of whom may be a big help, but you know the boo-birds will be chirping if he doesn't sign a Carter or a Patterson or....

BigVolFaninSC writes:

Short time VFLs are VFL just the same! GBO!

tovolny writes:

Thanks for getting that information for us. Fine job, Mr. Strange. Some of those names were a surprise for me to find out they're jucos. I just remembered them to be fantastic Vols. I'll file this away in my Keeper File.

jandjhome#228397 writes:

I haven't been this excited in a long time. We probably won't win the East but everyone we play will know they have been a football game. Excitement will increase when the 2014 recruits arrive next year.

antonio14313 writes:

Great idea. And a great article.

go vols.

t

SeaBassHauling writes:

Go ahead and add (WR.)
Eric Lauderdale to the long list of stars and new 14' class

johnlg00 writes:

Way to go, Butch! No sooner did I express the wish that he could get another Patterson out of the juco ranks than he signs one! Or not. Let's not get too excited just yet. Personally, I think a potentially very good receiving corps, even if most of them are unknown, just got better. The key question of course is who is going to throw to them and what the actual role of the receivers is to be.

Sunshine27 writes:

Teams like Kansas St, Colorado, and Boise St have done quite well with a majority of their roster made up with JUCO players. More often than not these guys come in knowing they have 2 years to make an impact, to get noticed by the NFL. Great way to plug holes with a hungry player.

VolGrad writes:

Great addition to the 2014 class. But I'm eager to get this 2013 season underway.

Let's get it started: http://bit.ly/14U5nmx

GBO!

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