NCF Nation: Toby Johnson

Earlier this week, we took a look at five true freshman to keep two eyes on in the SEC this fall.

But there are some other first-year players who could make immediate splashes with their respective teams. Of course, I'm talking about junior college transfers. You don't bring veterans in just to stand around and watch. Coaches sign juco players because they need immediate help at certain positions.

This year is no different for league coaches, as a handful of juco players are expected to help out this fall. Will another Nick Fairley or, dare I say, Cam Newton emerge from this year's crop of juco transfers? We'll find out soon enough.

Here are five juco transfers (in alphabetical order) to keep an eye on in 2013:
  • Justin Cox, CB, Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have to replace three starters in their secondary, including Thorpe Award winner Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay. That won't be easy, but Cox could ease some of the coaches' worries with his speed and athleticism. He was one of the fastest players on the team this spring and had a superb juco career, intercepting 11 passes and breaking up 19 during his two years at East Mississippi Community College.
  • Lavon Hooks, DT, Ole Miss: Depth in the interior of the Rebels' defensive line is crucial going forward. That means Hooks has a great chance to see the field early. He did a great job of securing a spot in Ole Miss' rotation with a very solid spring. He's extremely strong and athletic and should help the Rebels against both the run and pass this fall.
  • Toby Johnson, DT, Georgia: The Bulldogs need help in the interior of their defensive line and Johnson could be the answer. Johnson was one of the top juco players last year, but he's rehabbing from an anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered last November. He should be able to go through fall -- and if he's in the right shape he'll have a shot a starting spot.
  • Za'Darius Smith, DE, Kentucky: New coach Mark Stoops has a very good foundation to work with along his defensive line, and adding Smith to the rotation makes that unit even stronger. He was a monster in the weight room before spring practice and was just as good once he got out on the field. He should help enhance what looks to already be a pretty solid pass rush for the Wildcats this fall.
  • Brandon Vandenburg, TE, Vanderbilt: The Commodores might have some solid skill players coming back on offense, but coach James Franklin has made it clear that there is some concern at tight end. Help is needed and Vandenburg could certainly provide it with his speed and solid blocking ability. He could be a deceptive weapon for the Commodores this fall and will have every opportunity to take the starting job.

3-point stance: NCAA's botched probe

February, 20, 2013
2/20/13
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1. How damaging was the NCAA's admission that its investigators circumvented its own rules to obtain damaging information in its investigation of Miami's men's basketball and football programs? On Tuesday, the NCAA finally sent a notice of allegations to Miami officials after investigating the claims of wrongdoing for more than two years. Much of the damaging information comes from Nevin Shapiro, a convicted ponzi schemer, who allegedly showered Miami players with cash, jewelry, dinners and other improper benefits. I typically have little sympathy for NCAA rules breakers, but it's hard to imagine how the NCAA can keep a straight face while charging three former Miami assistants with violating "principles of ethical conduct" and the UM athletics department with the dreaded "lack of institutional control." The NCAA doesn't even have its own house in order.

2. Georgia's coaches were criticized for striking out on a handful of high-profile recruits on national signing day, including ESPN 150 defensive tackle Montravius Adams, who chose Auburn over the Bulldogs. But UGA softened the blow a bit on Tuesday when it signed junior college defensive tackle Toby Johnson of Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. Johnson, a native of Atlanta, was ranked the country's No. 1 juco prospect before tearing an ACL in his knee this past season. If Johnson recovers in time for preseason camp, he might end up being the most important player in Georgia's recruiting class. The Bulldogs lost starting nose tackle John Jenkins, a projected first-round pick in April's NFL draft, and top backup Kwame Geathers, who entered the draft as a junior. At 310 pounds, Johnson is the kind of noseguard the Bulldogs need to run defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme.

3. There's a reason former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin is the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner. Underclassmen who have won the award go into the next season with a bull's eye on their back, and the demands that come with being the country's most celebrated player are often overwhelming. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has to live the life -- and endure the accompanying fame -- of being a Heisman Trophy winner for at least the next two seasons. Over the past several weeks, Manziel has been spotted at the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras and NBA All-Star Game. And we wonder why he's enrolled in online courses, instead of actually physically attending a class.
National signing day might have come and gone, but that didn't stop Georgia from adding to its already stout 2013 recruiting class.

Almost two weeks after the most important recruiting day of the year, the Bulldogs signed Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College defensive tackle Toby Johnson, who is the nation's No. 4 prospect in the ESPN Junior College 100. He gives Georgia 33 signees in its 2013 class.

The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Johnson picked Georgia over Auburn and Mississippi State.

"I called Mark Richt last night and told him I was coming," Johnson said. "He was fired up. They want me to play defensive end, but I will move inside in the nickel package."

The addition of Johnson, who finished the year with 37 tackles, three sacks and four pass breakups in nine games, is big for the Bulldogs, who lost starting nose guard John Jenkins, along with Kwame Geathers, Abry Jones and Cornelius Washington up front. Georgia was in desperate need of some depth up front, and Johnson gives the Dawgs someone who can immediately help out.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham wanted to play more defensive linemen last season, and he might get his way in 2013 after Georgia signed seven defensive line prospects in this year's recruiting class. But Johnson might be the best of the bunch with his versatility. It also doesn't hurt that he has some post-high school playing experience.

With all the struggles Georgia's defense had against the run last season, the addition of Johnson will give Grantham a chance to rotate more players up front, keeping guys much fresher this fall.

Johnson is rehabbing a torn ACL in his right knee, suffered in November, but he said that his injury shouldn't limit him when he reports this summer.

“I plan to enroll June 6, and I do not plan to redshirt,” Johnson said. “It feels great to be a Dawg.”

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