January 27, 2011

It doesn't take a football savant to determine which players had the biggest impact on this year's BCS National Championship Game between Oregon and Auburn.

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley and quarterback Cam Newton were two of the major reasons why Auburn won the national title.

But neither Fairley nor Newton took the conventional path to that championship game. Both players had junior college layovers before landing under the bright lights of the SEC, proving that those finishing national championship touches can come from some unlikely places.

With that in mind, here are 247Sports' Top 25 junior college prospects in the nation for the class of 2011.

1. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama, five stars Remember the immediate impact Terrance Cody at Alabama during the 2008 season? Williams has that same potential as a perfect addition to Alabama's 3-4 scheme. An Australian native who traces his athletic roots to basketball and rugby, Williams has emerged as an ideal 3-4 two-gap nose who can occupy blockers and clog up running lanes in the SEC.

2. Maurice Couch, DT, Tennessee, five stars Tennessee needs help on the defensive interior, and Couch should be a huge addition. Couch has a great motor, is very active with his hands and has an explosive get-off at the snap. In a penetrating defense, Couch has a chance to be a real disruptor.

3. Cornelius Carradine, DE, Florida State, five stars Carradine is a physical force off the defensive edge and has demonstrated that with 26 sacks over the past two seasons at Butler County. This past season, the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder piled up 16 sacks while showing a rare mix of power and speed around the corner. His early enrollment at Florida State should lead to him making an early impact this fall.

4. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU, four starsBefore transferring from Georgia to Butler County C.C. due to off-the-field issues, Mettenberger was battling for the starting quarterback job with Aaron Murray. By many estimations, Mettenberger was winning that competition before he left the Bulldogs. A big prospect with a bigger arm, Mettenberger put up more than 2,600 yards passing in 12 games for Butler County. As an early enrollee at LSU, he will be battling for a starting job to throw to the talented Tigers receiving corps.

5. Aaron Douglas, OT, Alabama, four stars Douglas is an early enrollee at Alabama, but it won't be his first SEC experience when he steps onto the practice fields in Tuscaloosa. Douglas was a freshman All-America at Tennessee before transferring to Arizona Western for his sophomore season. Coming out of high school, Douglas was a four-star tight end, showing the athleticism that he uses so effectively now as a blocker.

6. Daimion Stafford, S, Nebraska, four stars The most complete defensive back in the junior college ranks last season, Stafford brings size, speed, range and a heavy hammer. He's a fluid defender who can be moved around all over the defensive backfield to facilitate his big playmaking ability.

7. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri, four stars Richardson committed to Missouri in the 2009 class as one of the top defensive tackles in the nation, but failed to qualify. He also missed much of his sophomore year at Gateway Tech with a wrist injury. When on the field, Richardson is one of the most athletic jumbo athletes you will find with pursuit speed, down-the-line agility and strength at the point of attack.

8. Byron Moore, S, Uncommitted, four stars A USC signee out of high school, Moore redshirted and transferred to Harbor College where he emerged as a safety with tremendous range, ball skills and instincts. His play earned him conference defensive player of the year honors and he will step in next year as a sophomore who already has a lot of polish.

9. Matt Williams, OT, Cal, four stars A teammate of No. 11 Jacob Fahrenkrug, Williams will be given a great opportunity to start early for Cal because of his size (6-7, 285) and athleticism. Originally from Liverpool, England, Williams has a Rugby background but has shown tremendous upside on the football field.

10. Marcus Kennard, WR, Texas Tech, four stars At Butler County C.C., Kennard earned All-Conference honors as a sophomore after catching 45 passes for 893 yards and 13 touchdowns. Originally from Oklahoma, Kennard is already enrolled at Texas Tech and will provide not only a deep threat on the outside, but also a big target.

11. Jacob Fahrenkrug, OG, Florida State, four stars After transforming his body during his time at North Dakota State College of Science, Fahrenkrug has turned himself into a force on the offensive line. As an offensive guard, the massive prospect is a road-grading physical lineman who looks poised to step in somewhere along the starting five for Florida State as an early enrollee.

12. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina, four stars Williams is an active and explosive force on the inside. He didn't start playing football until his senior year in high school, but has excelled on the junior college level. As a second-year player, Williams had 52 tackles and 12.5 tackles for loss. He also added five blocked kicks in earning first-team all-conference and all-region honors.

13. Gilbert Pena, DT, Ole Miss, four stars Pena has a chance to be one of the most explosive interior defensive newcomers in college football next season. He enrolled in junior college after working for three years following high school to help out with his sick mother. Since returning to football, Pena has been a dominant junior college force and one of the nation's top linemen. He has enrolled for the spring semister.

14. Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Uncommitted, four stars Part of a tremendous defensive tackle class in the junior college ranks, Jenkins is also part of a strong pipeline of defensive tackles out of Gulf Coast C.C. Following Cody in 2008 and James Carmon in 2010, Jenkins is yet another 6-4-plus, 300-pounder coming out of the southern Mississippi school.

15. Izauea Lanier, S, Tennessee, four stars A superb athlete with speed and burst, Lanier likely will have his biggest impact in the defensive backfield at either safety or cornerback. His combination of size and speed should allow him to help all over the defensive backfield and on all of the special teams units.

16. Jared Ebert, DT, Oregon, four stars Emerging from Iowa Western, Ebert is a 6-5, 285-pound athlete in the middle. He will enroll at Oregon for the spring quarter and participate in spring practice and could see early playing time due to his light feet and good motor.

17. Keith McGill, S, Utah, four stars At 6-4 and 215 pounds, McGill is big enough to play linebacker. But with seven interceptions in 2010 and five more in 2009, he certainly has shown that he has coverage skills to boot. As a freshman, McGill returned three of his interceptions for touchdowns.

18. Leon Mackey, DE, Uncommitted, four stars A defensive end with tremendous size, Mackey is going through the recruiting process for the third time after being recruited out of high school and prep school. Due to a unique blend of physicality and athleticism, he has been heavily recruited in each instance.

19. Kaleb Broome, OT, South Carolina, four stars With great size and a great frame, Broome has enrolled early at South Carolina and is expected to be in the mix for playing time. At Georgia Military College, Broome earned All-America honors as a sophomore offensive tackle after allowing only one sack.

20. Thomas Tutogi, LB, Washington, three stars In 2010, Tutogi averaged 12 tackles per contest as a sideline-to-sideline head-hunter in what was only his first year out of high school. As an early enrollee, Tutogi will compete in spring practice, then have four years to play three as he attempts to replace the departed Mason Foster.

21. Dan Heiar, OT, Iowa, three stars As an early enrollee, Heiar returns to his home-state program after a junior college stint at Iowa Western during which he tacked on 50 pounds. At 6-6 and 280 pounds, Heiar will come in with hopes of rounding out an offensive line that returns four starters.

22. Quinton Dial, DT, Alabama, three stars Dial enrolled early and will play defensive end in the Crimson Tide's 3-4 scheme. He has great size at 6-6 and 315 pounds and finished 2010 with 76 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 10 games for East Mississippi Community College.

23. Malcolm Murray, S, Cincinnati, three stars A versatile prospect with the ability to play both safety and cornerback, Murray is an early enrollee and is expected to compete for immediate playing time. At Mount SAC C.C., Murray helped his team to an undefeated record in 2010 and had four interceptions after a six-interception season in 2009.

24. John White, AP, Utah, three stars Though he's not a big back, White is extremely explosive. He signed early with Utah and will be a leading candidate to step in and replace departing backs Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide. In 2010, White rushed for more than 1,400 yards and 16 touchdowns while showing tremendous big-play ability.

25. Nu'Keese Richardson, ATH, uncommitted, three stars Off the field, Richardson has been less than a sure thing every step of the way during his football career. However, on the field it is tough to ignore his talent. In his one year at Coffeyville Community College, the former Tennessee Volunteer wideout led his conference in interceptions with seven.

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