Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Junior college transfers that are projected to be on the Colorado roster in 2018:
WR Kabion Ento
LB Drew Lewis
S Kyle Trego
WR Juwann Winfree
DL Javier Edwards
DB Kevin George
LB Shamar Hamilton
DL Chris Mulumba
CB Dante Wigley
CB Delrick Abrams
DL Mustafa Johnson
TE Darrion Jones
S Aaron Maddox
LB Davion Taylor
Not long ago, getting junior college transfers into Colorado to play football was a difficult task and it didn’t happen often.
During the past five years, however, CU head coach Mike MacIntyre has leaned on junior college transfers for depth, competition and to provide immediate help to his football team.
On Wednesday, CU signed 19 new players to national letters of intent, with five of them being junior college transfers.
This is the fifth year in a row that MacIntyre has signed at least four JUCO transfers, a considerable change from the past. From 2008-13, CU signed a total of six JUCO transfers.
Prior to the 2017 class, CU hadn’t signed as many as five JUCO transfers since 2000. Now, they’ve signed five in each of the last two classes.
One reason for the change is that CU’s staff has ties to California, Kansas and the southern states, places where JUCO football thrives.
“(CU’s coaching staff) has a lot connections coming from San Jose in the California junior college ranks,” said MacIntyre, who came to CU from San Jose State in 2013. “Being so close to Kansas helps, we’ve been recruiting Texas hard and we have some roots in Mississippi.”
The other reason for the increase in JUCO players at CU is that in 2013, the NCAA changed the qualifying standards for junior college transfers.
Instead of a 2.0 grade point average in transferrable credits, players are now required to have at least a 2.5 GPA at their junior college. The new rules also stated that only two physical education credits could be applied.
In essence, junior college players are required to show more success in the classroom before they can move on to a four-year school.
Those new rules have helped CU, which has high academic standards and doesn’t take any PE credits. The Buffs had been unable to sign many JUCO players in the past simply because they couldn’t get them admitted into school.
“Your curriculum of the young men you’re looking at, there’s a higher level of guys that are able to be successful and do well here,” MacIntyre said.
Under MacIntyre, the Buffs have been hit-and-miss on success with junior college transfers, but have found some foundational players through that route.
In 2014, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (now a rookie with the San Francisco 49ers) was one of four JUCO players to join the team.
In 2015, the Buffs had four more JUCO players, including defensive linemen Jordan Carrell and Leo Jackson III and safety Afolabi Laguda, who were all multi-year starters.
The 2016 class saw the Buffs add receivers Kabion Ento and Juwann Winfree — both expected to be top weapons next year — linebacker Drew Lewis, who led the team in tackles this year, and reserve safety Kyle Trego.
Three of the five JUCO transfers added in the 2017 class — defensive linemen Javier Edwards and Chris Mulumba and cornerback Dante Wigley — were regular starters this year.
Next year’s roster is projected to feature 14 JUCO transfers, helping MacIntyre achieve his goal of loading up with experienced players in his junior and senior classes each year.
“I like to do that, because you don’t ever want to have attrition, but face it, you’re going to have attrition naturally,” he said. “So, if you can sign a few junior college kids, you’re able to have bigger senior classes. We’ve had good-sized senior classes.”
Adding talented JUCO transfers hasn’t just increased experience; it’s raised the level of competition.
The group signed this week includes cornerback Delrick Abrams, safety Aaron Maddox, linebacker Davion Taylor and tight end Darrion Jones, who are all rated among the top JUCO prospects at their position. Defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson, who was all-conference player this year, is also in the group.
“It does a great deal for competition,” MacIntyre said. “It keeps everybody motivated and keeps everybody pushing. That gives you more competition, so you’re able to practice better and harder. Hopefully it’ll make big dividends this fall.”
Next season, three of the Buffs’ top weapons on offense and as many as eight of their starters on defense could be JUCO transfers.
With that level of production from the JUCO route, the Buffs are sure to continue that trend in the future.