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Impact JUCO players continue to boost Auburn

By JC Shurburtt | 247Sports

During the last five years, Auburn has established itself as a program that recruits instant impact junior college stars better than any in the country.?

Now, Auburn isn't Kansas State (also Kansas in the 2013 cycle) or a Mississippi State under Jackie Sherrill in the 1990s where the program has sold out to recruiting junior college talent as a means to build the program. The Tigers still sign the majority of their talent from the high school ranks. What Auburn has done, though, is get difference makers- players that can change the outlook or course of the season, through the junior college ranks.

In 2010, quarterback Cam Newton arrived on the plains from Blinn (Texas) Junior College after starting his career at Florida, took the starting job and proceeded to lead the Tigers to a perfect 14-0 record and win the Heisman Trophy. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley was in his second season with the program from Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Junior College when he emerged as one of the most dominant defensive tackles in college football that same year.

This season, quarterback Nick Marshall has had the same type of impact as the Tigers return to the BCS National Championship Game against Florida State at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif.

There is little doubt that Auburn, with recruiting classes ranked No. 8, 11 and 13 nationally in the 2011-13 cycles, had some pieces in place. That being said, there were question marks at the most important position on the field and Marshall, though not named the starter until late in preseason camp, was considered by the staff to be the odds-on favorite to run Gus Malzahn's offense, after inking with the Tigers out of Garden City (Kan.) Community College (like Newton, he started his college career at another SEC program- Georgia). Marshall has been steady all season and has proven to be the glue in a dominant run game that features record-setting Heisman candidate Tre Mason, Corey Grant, another impact JUCO in Cameron Artis-Payne and others. He also has been solid as a passer when needed.

In the current cycle, Auburn is proving to again be successful in combing the junior colleges for difference-makers. While home state LSU is making a push, five-star wide receiver D'haquille Williams from Gulf Coast Community College in Mississippi remains near the top of the Auburn commit list. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Williams, who is a more naturally talented version of former Tennessee receiver and first round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson, is the type of player that, like Newton, Fairley and Marshall before him, can step in and make a huge impact. The only question is if Auburn can hold off the Bayou Bengals push for the Reserve, La., native.

Williams' junior college teammate, Derrick Moncrief, is a 6-foot-3, 225-pound safety hybrid that could potentially contribute right away and the Tigers also added defensive line depth to what already is one of the most promising young units in the country in the form of Pearl River (Miss.) defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey, who ironically started his career at Florida State and Georgia Military College's Devaroe Lawrence.

On the offensive line, center Xavier Dampeer from Copiah-Lincoln is talented enough to provide an impact next season.

Auburn may not be finished, either. The Tigers are in the thick of things for potentially-elite offensive tackle Jordan Prestwood of Arizona Western College. Prestwood attended Notre Dame and like Stuckey, Florida State, before heading to junior college. Auburn also has not given up in its pursuit of four-star Tennessee defensive line commit Davonte Lambert of Georgia Military.

Expect Auburn to continue to work the junior college ranks and who knows? Be it Williams or another 2014 prospect, the next difference-maker could be on their way. Auburn current has the No. 9 class nationally for this cycle according to 247Sports.

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