More than once lately I've heard people express surprise at Auburn's sudden rise to prominence.
What's interesting is that the Tigers are doing it with junior college transfers. Not all over the place but in two key spots, and they obviously hit home runs with Cam Newton and Nick Fairley.
Every time you bring a newcomer into your program there's a risk. Every newcomer has some level of acclimation period.
If you're a coach signing juco kids, you're banking that acclimation period is going to be minimal.
The risk was probably less with Newton, because he'd been around big football at Florida. Still, Cam Newton didn't become Cam Newton until about the fourth game. He opened with a bang with 171 rushing yards in the first game, but that was Arkansas State. He was much more human against Mississippi State (18-70, no TD) and Clemson (17-68, no TD).
The fourth game was South Carolina, and Newton ran for 176 yards and three touchdowns on 25 caries. It's his least productive game in Auburn's last four outings, not counting the La.-Monroe game in which he was instructed not to run.
Fairley has obviously picked things up quickly with 17 tackles for loss.
Ole Miss has had mixed results from two key juco transfers this season. Safety Damien Jackson struggled in the season opener and was out of position on the decisive touchdown pass thrown by Jacksonville State. Jackson turned the corner quickly and is now second on the team in tackles with 49. His status for Auburn is unclear after what is believed to be a minor knee injury sustained against Arkansas. Jackson didn't practice Tuesday.
Defensive end Wayne Dorsey hasn't acclimated as quickly. He was removed from the starting lineup for the last two games but spent some time running with the first team in practice Tuesday. Change may be coming.
All of this got me thinking of successful - quickly successful - juco transfers at Ole Miss since I got on the beat in 2002. LB Patrick Trahan made a big splash last year, his second year. LB Rory Johnson was very productive in 2006, his first and only season. The Rebels likely would not have beaten Vanderbilt without him in 2006, one of Ed Orgeron's three SEC wins.
RB Ronald McClendon had lofty expectations in 2002. He had some moments but not a great deal of consistency.
The Ole Miss Spirit staff throws out RB John Avery, LB Cassius Ware and DL Tim Bowens as successful juco transfers from pre-2002 but still the modern era.
If we're overlooking anyone leave your candidates for the list in the comments section.