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September 9, 2011
JUCO ranking loaded with linemen
With most of the teams' rosters pretty well set for the season, the 2012 Rivals.com Preseason Junior College Top 50 has been released. It is a very strong year in the trenches as 24 prospects on the list play along the offensive or defensive lines. However, it is almost all skill position players that debut at the very top of the list.
Hutchinson (Kan.) C.C. wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson had a huge freshman season, tallying 52 receptions for 908 yards and nine scores while adding another two touchdowns on kickoff returns and he has started off this season strong as well. It was enough to earn the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Patterson the top spot.
Hutchinson head coach Rion Rhoades knows he has something special in the former Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern product.
"For us he's a very dynamic player," Rhoades said. "He's capable of making a big play any time he touches the football. He's really matured as player a lot in his time here. It's hard to say exactly what his best traits are. He's got a lot of upside. He's extremely fast. He's got a lot of quickness; he has a lot of shake. He can run somebody over too. He's got a lot of strength and a lot of pop."
Rhoades is at a loss to compare Patterson to another player but he does have some loft expectations for his star receiver.
"He's just a dynamic player. I've had some good players in my time - first-round draft pick-type guys - and he's definitely the best one I've had."
Following right behind Patterson in the rankings as the No. 2 overall prospect is Woodland Hills (Calif.) Pierce C.C. safety Gerald Bowman. Originally from Philadelphia (Pa.) Imhotep, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound defender has made his name in the California junior college ranks. He has made an even stronger impression on head coach Efrain Martinez.
"He's the best safety we've ever had," Martinez said. "He's the whole package. He's got speed, he can hit - he's just that good."
In fact, Martinez compares Bowman to perhaps the best prospect at the position in the NFL.
"He reminds me of Troy Polamalu. He's a run-stopper like Troy Polamalu. He's a hard-hitting guy. He's the hardest hitter in the country."
Scooba (Miss.) East Mississippi C.C. defensive end Denico Autry is the lone lineman in the top five of the list and the 6-foot-6, 245-pound defender is very deserving. Defensive coordinator Williams Jones knows he has a special player on his hands.
"We think he's the best player in the country," Jones said. "He's got size and speed. He's a great pass-rusher. He's got long arms and some great quickness. His best football is going to continue to be ahead of him. He's got offers from everybody in the country. He's one of those unique players you really like to have a chance to coach every 10 or 20 years."
The most impressive aspect about Autry is his versatility. It is something that has caused college coaches from all over to make the trek to Scooba according to Jones.
"We stood him up last game. He played a middle linebacker, kind of hybrid rush position and made our defensive calls. He made two or three big hits on the quarterback and receiver. He's really just a natural player. He really compares to some of the great ones in the league like DeMarcus Ware or (Shawne) Merriman. He's really like Willie McGinest because he's just so versatile. He can play with his hand in the dirt, he can play middle linebacker or rush end in the 3-4 or 4-3. It doesn't matter. Everybody is looking for that Jack backer, that guy that can stand up or play with his hand in the ground. He's that guy."
Thatcher (Ariz.) Eastern Arizona C.C. cornerback Travell Dixon has very good size at 6-2, 200 pounds but he can play the pass as well and still, head coach John O'Mera says the former Miami (Fla.) Norland standout has his best days ahead of him.
"He's a shutdown corner," O'Mera said. "He's big and he's physical. He's the total package. He's still a little green so he has a huge upside. He hasn't played a whole lot of football. This is just his fourth year of football or so. He's just got so much more to go and he just gets better and better as he practices. We definitely look for big things for him at the next level and potentially on after that.
"The last guy that I had that was like him was Zack Bowman and he's playing for the Bears. He's got those kinds of skills. They're both big corners - Bowman is a safety now but he was a corner for us - and super, super fast. He's competitive and just a special player right now."
Rounding out the top five is Brenham (Texas) Blinn College running back Marion Grice. Originally from Houston (Texas) Nimitz where he shared the backfield with current Oregon receiver Josh Huff, Grice is a power back that can also break the long run. Blinn assistant coach Keith Browning continually comes away impressed with the 6-foot, 210-pound runner.
"He's a big back and he's still growing," Browning said. "By the time it's all said and done he's going to be a 220-pound running back. He can easily fit in an I set or in a spread set. He's good at keeping his pads down and he's a very physical runner. He's got deceptive speed. You get him in the 40 and he'll run a high 4.5 or 4.6 but on the football field nobody is going to catch him. On the football field he has elite speed.
"He's got great hands out of the backfield. He probably needs to improve on his pass protection a little bit but he's strong enough and physical enough to do that just by keeping working at it. He's a big-time prospect. We've had Michael Hayes, who will have a chance to go pro. Bernard Scott went to the NFL and James Johnson went to the NFL. He's easily on the same level with those guys."
Rounding out the top 10 in order are Milledgeville (Ga.) Georgia Military College defensive tackle Daniel McCullers, Santa Clarita (Calif.) College of the Canyons offensive guard and Auburn commit Will Latu, Fullerton (Calif.) C.C. running back and USC commit Kelvin York, Walnut (Calif.) Mt. San Antonio C.C. defensive tackle Visesio Salt and East Mississippi defensive tackle and Tennessee commit Damien Jacobs.
Defensive ends (9) and offensive tackles (8) were the most-represented positions in the top 50. On the other end of the spectrum only quarterbacks and one tight end made the cut.
Blinn, Georgia Military and City College of San Francisco had the most players on the list with four each while Corsicana (Texas) Navarro and Mt. San Antonio both had three. Georgia, Purdue and Texas A&M lead all four-year colleges as each have two of the top 50 prospects committed to their respective programs.