It's the lesser publicized signing period in college football. No one really talks too much about the JUCO signing period until after national signing day in February. Many times, teams can get players that are ready to play at the FBS level with very little development during this time.
Only three American Athletic Conference programs have taken advantage of the JUCO transfer period this season and signed players. When looking at the players signed, all three schools look to be improved significantly with the additions.
Let's take a look at the AAC and how the programs did during the JUCO transfer window.
Beating out offers from Arizona State, Iowa State, Louisville, Missouri, Ole Miss, and West Virginia, the Cougars landed 4-star offensive tackle Na'Ty Rodgers. The 6-5, 290 pound player from Iowa Western Community College was an Under Armor All-American out of his school. He started his career at South Carolina, before leaving the program in the fall of 2014. If Houston is able to keep their top commits from the high school ranks, they will have a 5-star and two 4-star players in this recruiting class.
Joining Rodgers are a pair of 3-star defensive backs, J.J. Dallas out of Blinn CC and Terrell Williams out of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. While not as highly ranked as Rodgers, the two will be looking to earn playing time for a secondary that loses seven players to graduation, including both William Jackson III and Adrian McDonald.
With junior quarterback Paxton Lynch expected to declare for the NFL draft, the Tigers made a big splash in getting 3-star quarterback Riley Ferguson. The 6-3 signal caller started his career across the state at the University of Tennessee. He then made the move to Coffeyville Community College after seeing his chance of seeing playing time diminish.
Adding size in the trenches, the Tigers also inked linemen Harneet Gill and Jocelee "Lio" Lafaele. Gill, a 6-7, 265 pounder that can play offensive tackle or defensive end, was originally a Missouri signee out of high school. He left the program before the season started, moving to Butler Community College. Lafaele, a 300 pound tackle, originally signed with Utah. He quickly changed his mind, going the JUCO route with Riverside City College. Memphis beat out Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, and Washington State for his services.
Safety Jonathan Cook was yet another highly-rated player that started his career at another FBS program. Cook enrolled at Alabama, staying with the Crimson Tide for his freshman and redshirt freshman seasons. After a redshirt freshman season that included very sporadic playing time, he then made the move to Garden City Community College for his sophomore season.
All four recruits can easily come in an earn significant playing time this spring if they are able to find their niches.
The Bearcats, coming off of a disappointing 2015 season, got started early in the recruiting period with three JUCO signees. The first was 3-star cornerback Eric Jenkins. The 5-10 defender had 27 tackles and three interceptions, including one pick-six, for Los Angeles Valley College. Cincinnati beat out Central Michigan, Colorado State, Illinois, Indiana, and UTEP for Jenkins' signature. He will be in the mix to play immediately.
Offensive Lineman Kendall Calhoun, 2-star ranked player, may be one of most desired lineman prospects in all of the group of five. The Bearcats beat out Boise State, Buffalo, Houston, MTSU, Southern Miss, UAB, and many more for his services. At 6-7, 290, Calhoun has the size to slide in immediately to a Cincinnati offensive line that will need the help next fall, but will probably need a season to acclimate to the FBS level.
Filling out the Bearcats JUCO class, wide receiver Devin Gray is expected to make his presence known quickly. The 2-star receiver out of Sierra College caught 69 passes for 1,154 yards and 11 touchdowns in the 2015 season. With Shaq Washington graduating and taking all of his school records with him, Gray should be able to help keep the passing game in great shape.
Central Florida, Tulsa, Navy, Southern Methodist, South Florida, Connecticut, Temple, Tulane, and East Carolina have not signed anyone from the JUCO ranks as of today.