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November 24, 2009Twelve points were all that separated Butler County (Kan.) Community College from getting a chance to play for another national championship.
And it's those 12 points that have caused the Grizzlies' top prospects, such as defensive end Scott Smith, to get a head start on the recruiting process.
Normally, at this time of year, Butler County would be preparing for a bowl game. But after two losses to No. 1-ranked Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College by a total of 12 points, the Grizzlies are not going to play in a postseason game this season.
With Butler knocked out of the national championship race, the other junior college bowls available told the Grizzlies they were too good to play in their games. That left Butler County at home this season, and now Smith and other top prospects on the team have pushed the fast-forward button on the recruiting process.
There is no more wanted man on the Butler County roster than Smith, a 6-foot-7, 275-pound four-star defensive end. Smith was a three-star recruit out of high school who signed with Cal over numerous other offers. He transferred to Butler County and this season was named the Jayhawk Conference's defensive player of the year.
"He was unbelievable for us this year," Butler County assistant Aaron Flores said. "We've had an amazing tradition of great defensive ends at Butler County, and he carries on that tradition. He was our most consistent player week in and week out."
That consistency has sparked quite a bit of recruiting attention for Smith.
He just returned from an official visit to Texas Tech. Flores said Smith enjoyed his time in Lubbock, but Smith is also slated to take a visit to Arkansas on Dec. 11. USF is also expecting to welcome him on a visit. Whatever decision Smith makes has to be soon. He is a December graduate and can sign on Dec. 16, when mid-term junior college players can ink their national letters of intent.
Smith isn't the only Butler County prospect who is wanted by FBS recruiters.
Linebacker Toquavius Gilchrist became one of the league's best defensive players, and his attention has increased day by day. Originally from South Carolina, Gilchrist was a running back in high school but redshirted last year to learn the linebacker position. The year paid off, helping Gilchrist earn first-team all-league honors and making him even more valuable as a prospect who has three years to play three seasons.
"Whoever gets him is going to get a complete steal," Flores said. "He just took a visit to North Texas last weekend and has Houston lined up for this weekend. He's also going to visit Kansas State on Dec. 4. He's a December grad that will be three for three, and that's something that coaches love. He's also a high-character kid. We can't find one negative thing to say about him. We think he's really special."
Linebacker Forlando Johnson started out as a four-star prospect, but a knee injury and inconsistent play this season lowered his rating to the three-star level. But Flores said somebody is still going to get a good player out of the 5-11, 205-pounder. Johnson also visited North Texas last weekend and is going to visit Houston this weekend. The Cougars have yet to offer him a scholarship.
Defensive tackle Dion Armstrong has played his way into a solid postseason ranking. The Maryland transfer is now rated as a three-star prospect by Rivals.com, and UAB looks to be the front-runner. He's slated to visit UAB on Dec. 4. Flores said he thinks Armstrong is one of the best the school has had at the defensive tackle position.
Defensive backs Darron Edwards and Ryan Downing are also getting solid attention. Edwards will likely visit USF soon, and Downing has already visited North Texas and is possibly visiting Houston this weekend. He'll also visit Northern Illinois on Dec. 11 and maybe also squeeze in a visit to Toledo.
KANSAS RECRUITS WAIT FOR NEWS
Rivals.com caught up with four-star receiver and Kansas commitment Keeston Terry following Blue Springs' 35-5 victory over previously undefeated St. Louis Desmet in the Missouri Class 6A state semifinals on Friday night.
Terry played another terrific game, making big plays at receiver, running back and even a little bit of quarterback while lined up in the "Wildcat" formation. Terry had 41 rushing yards and 13 receiving for Blue Springs, which was led by junior running back Darrian Miller's 200-plus yards.
The biggest thing going through Terry's mind was the victory over the Spartans, but he talked with reporters following the game about his commitment to Kansas. Jayhawks fans have been wondering what's on Terry's mind since news surfaced last week that KU officials were investigating coach Mark Mangino.
"I'm definitely following what's going on," Terry said. "I'm not going to make a decision too fast right now. I'm going to go down to St. Louis, see how we do and figure out things from there. I'm going to have to re-examine things."
Terry said so far he's not heard from any other schools since the Mangino news has emerged.
"No, they've stayed pretty far back," Terry said. "Coach D [Kelly Donohoe] is pretty good about those things. He doesn't let that disrupt the high school season. It wasn't a distraction for me this week. I stayed focused."
Three-star defensive lineman Jaqwaylin Arps of Denison, Texas, is another recruit waiting for more news on the Mangino investigation before he decides if he will stick with his commitment to Kansas. Arps said he hasn't talked with any Kansas coaches this week and no opposing coaches have contacted him.
"I haven't heard too much about it," Arps told JayhawkSlant.com. "If he gets fired then the whole staff might get fired. I don't know too much about it. My coaches just told me to keep my eyes open on other schools just in case. That is pretty much what I have been doing."
OWA ENJOYS NEBRASKA
Five-star defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa made an official visit to Nebraska this past weekend and called the visit to Lincoln a "nine" on a scale of one to 10.
"The fans were the most impressive thing to me," Odighizuwa told HuskersIllustrated.com. "The fans, they really support their football team. And I felt like that was just incredible. How they treat their guys and how respectful they were. They never really dogged the other team like a few of the other schools I've been to, so that's one thing I noticed."
Odighizuwa has visited Cal, UCLA and Nebraska. His final two trips will be to Florida this weekend and USC on Dec. 11. Both Oregon and Oregon State are also under consideration.
MIDDLEBROOKS HEATING UP
Fountain Valley, Calif., running back Kyle Middlebrooks is a solid three-star prospect who has been waiting for his offer list to expand after a solid senior season. Despite a loss in the first round of the CIF playoffs, Middlebrooks has seen his recruiting status soar.
"Arizona and Arizona State just offered me in the last two weeks," the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Middlebrooks said. "They both like me for running back, and I'm very interested. In the next week, I plan to set up my visits with both schools. I want to trip to Washington State as well. I was hearing a lot early on from Washington, but I've not heard a lot from them lately. I'm not sure if they're still interested or not.
"The two Arizona schools are recruiting me the hardest. I'd like to take my visits in December and then commit in January. That's my plan at least."
Broomfield (Colo.) Legacy kicker Kip Smith took an official visit to UCLA this past weekend and has decided Westwood is his future home. Smith, who ranks as the nation's No. 3 kicker, was originally committed to Minnesota, but a recent offer from UCLA sparked his interest in the Bruins. Smith recently set a state record as a senior with a 67-yard field goal on a free kick.
Sean Parker of Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne has been one of the most hard-to-gauge prospects in the 2010 class. But he told reporters last week that he wants to take official visits to Michigan and Oregon soon. He has already visited Notre Dame and Cal and would like to take two more trips before he makes up his mind.