While it does not get the fanfare that national signing day in February gets, the middle of December is a very important time for the development of college football rosters.
Why, you ask? Simply put... Junior College transfers.
Junior Colleges and four-year institutions are finishing/have finished their fall semesters, allowing players the opportunity to commit and transfer to other programs. As mentioned here, UAB was able to clean up with a significant number of JUCO transfers to bolster a program that is scheduled to begin competing once again in 2017.
Let's take a look at the rest of Conference USA and how they did during the JUCO transfer window.
The Southern Miss Golden Eagles again went JUCO heavy with four wide receivers, a safety, and a quarterback. The Golden Eagles had to go wide receiver heavy as their top two receivers from 2015 were seniors. Among the wide receivers signees is Marquez McNair, the nephew of former Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair. If he has anywhere near the ability that his uncle had, he should be a very fun player to watch moving forward.
Joining the 3-star McNair are wide receivers Shannon Smith (2-star), Allenzae Staggers (2-star), and Isaiah Jones (3-star). Safety Tarvarius Moore (2-star) and quarterback Kwadra Griggs (3-star) round out the JUCO class.
The Roadrunners were very young in 2015 and need as much ready to play talent as possible. They definitely found quite a bit of talent in this seven member JUCO class. The signing class includes two offensive linemen, two defensive backs, two linebackers, and Austin Blake-Smith as a hopeful replacement tight end end for David Morgan II.
Joining Blake-Smith are linemen Stefan Bearn (2-star) and Tanner Myers (3-star), linebackers Anthony Hickey (2-star) Leslie Maruo (2-star), as well as defensive backs Brenndan Johnson (2-star) and Derrick Worthy (3-star). At least three of the defensive signees are expected to immediately push for significant playing time immediately.
Another team to go JUCO heavy in the signing period was the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders. The Blue Raiders got much needed reinforcements at linebacker and defensive backs, along with wide receivers and offensive linemen signee Angelo Owens.
Joining Owens in Murfreesboro are linebackers Detric Bing-Dukes (3-star) and Kory Lamberts (2-star), wide receivers Ricky Blair (2-star) and Jermel Walker (3-star), and defensive back Charvarius Ward (2-star). With the loss of first team All-CUSA safety Kevin Byard and star linebacker T.T. Barber to graduation, expect the defensive signees to play immediately.
The Marshall Thundering Herd only snagged one JUCO player in 3-star defensive back C.J. Reavis. The safety from East Mississippi Community College will help Marshall attempt to replace the very talented and All-CUSA honorable mention safety Taj Letman.
Reavis originally started his career with Virginia Tech, where he was dismissed from the team during the summer of 2015. Reavis went the the JUCO route and ending up with the Herd. He is a great talent that should be hungry to prove doubters wrong after his bitter ending at Virginia Tech.
If you noticed one thing from the Charlotte 49ers in their first season at the FBS level, it was the lack of solid quarterback play. None of the three that played behind center could play well enough to retain the job, much less run a successful passing game.
Therefore 3-star quarterback Kevin Olsen is a great fit. The Garden City Community College transfer was originally a 2013 Under Armor All-American that started his career with the Miami Hurricanes. He is the brother of Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen. He transferred to Towson, but was dismissed from that program for a violation of team rules. Charlotte will be his fourth college in three years for the talented quarterback.
Olsen will be joined by 6-8, 265 pound defensive end Jamar Winston.
If there was a team that needed some help on the offensive line, it was UTEP. The Miners gained a huge pickup in the 6-2, 300 pound Tanner Stallings. Stallings is projected to be a center at the FBS level for UTEP, but has experience playing all over the line for JUCO power Hutchinson Community College. The 2-star talent should fit in well with the run first philosophies of UTEP.
An under the radar JUCO signing came from the North Texas Mean Green as offensive lineman TJ Henson signed with the program. The 2-star lineman was quite coveted with North Texas beating out UTSA, ECU, Georgia State, Hawaii, Iowa State, Nevada, and Southern Miss for his signature.
The 6-5, 305 pounder should immediately compete for a starting job somewhere on the Mean Green offensive line.
The reigning Conference USA champions only signed one player from the JUCO ranks, defensive tackle Chris Johnson. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College player will be significant addition to a defensive line that loses five players to graduation.
The Panthers added one JUCO transfer during the transfer window. Defensive end Newton Salisbury, a native of Collinsville, Oklahoma, is going to join the talented front seven of the Panthers. He will be expected to help replace key defensive ends Denzell Perine and Michael Wakefield, a duo that combined for 85 tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, and 12 sacks in 2015.
Florida Atlantic, Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech, and Rice have not signed anyone from the JUCO ranks as of today.