October 5, 2007

JUCO powers to square off

There will be more than one Sunflower Showdown this weekend.

While most Kansans will have their attention focused on Saturday's big in-state rivalry game between Kansas and Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., there will be another monster matchup later that evening in El Dorado, Kan. That's when No. 2 ranked Butler County C.C. plays host to No. 20 Coffeyville C.C. in a game that will feature around 20 legitimate Division I prospects.

It'll also feature eight of the nation's top 50 ranked prospects with the top headliners being Butler's lockdown corner Maurice Gray and Coffeyville's stud defensive end Larry Ford. Gray is the nation's No. 16 player, and he already has scholarship offers from Iowa State, Kansas, Middle Tennessee State and others. Ford is the No. 21 ranked player in the nation, and he's got offers from Arkansas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Texas A&M.

Gray has had a great sophomore season, showing why he's one of the nation's elite players. He's got 24 tackles from his cornerback spot. He's also got three tackles for a loss and one interception despite nobody throwing his direction. Gray said he's pumped up about the Coffeyville game.

"When of the first things you hear about when you get to Butler is how you have to beat Coffeyville," he said. "It's one of those big rivalry games that everybody gears up for. You want to come out and play your best against your rival, and that's our plan."

When it comes to recruiting, Gray said he hopes to take visits to Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa State and Louisville.

While Butler beat up on Air Force Prep 37-7 last week, Coffeyville had the week off to prepare for the big game. Ford said the extra week of preparation was very important.

Maurice Gray CB 5-10/180/4.4

One of the nation's top lockdown corners. A four-star prospect has plenty of national attention. His stats don't jump out to you because nobody throws the ball his way.

Beau Johnson RB 5-11/210

Three-star running back averages 5.6 yards a rush and 106 yards a game. Has 545 yards and seven scores on the season and is one of the top 50 prospects in the nation.

Swanson Miller DT 6-4/330

The three-star defensive tackle is impossible to block inside with his huge 300-pound plus frame. Has 27 tackles and one sacks, plus one fumble recovery that he brought back 43 yards. The focus of countless double-teams.

Markus White DE 6-4/245/4.55

White, a three-star defensive end, has been one of the biggest surprises in the nation this season. When teammate Antonio Felder went down with an injury, White stepped forward to become one of the Jayhawk Conference's best defensive players. He's got 41 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and 11 sacks in just five games.

Wade Weibert OL 6-5/300/5.12

Weibert, a three-star center, is one of the top interior linemen in the Jayhawk Conference. The Butler coaches think he's a real team leader and he'll have plenty of opportunities to play on the next level.

Larry Ford DE 6-3/245/4.75

Ford is a four-star defensive end that would have bigger stats if people ran his way. Teams scheme around him and roll the opposite way from him, keeping him from putting up monster numbers. But he's got all the potential to be a monster prospect on the next level. With long arms and a great motor, Ford is still one of the top juco recruits in the nation.

Melvin Williams S 6-0/205/4.55

Williams, a four-star prospect, is a ball-hawking safety that is always near the ball. Has plenty of SEC, Big 12 and ACC looks, and he's the intelligent type player that should excel easily in college.

Nate Guillory RB 5-10/180/4.4

Guillory, a three-star prospect, started slow, but is back to form that made him an All-American last season. He's got 712 yards rushing and eight scores on the season. He averages a whopping 138.8 yards a game and has plenty of Big 12, SEC and ACC schools coming after him.

Troy Epps DT 6-1/280

Epps, a three-star defensive tackle, was named national defensive player of the week two weeks ago, and he's now got 41 tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks on the season. Epps said his top teams are Ole Miss, Arkansas, UAB, Tennessee, Louisville and Arizona.

Blair Irvin CB/ATH 5-11/185/4.4

Irvin, a three-star player that's heading to Auburn, has been a real threat on defense and special teams. He's already racked up 334 yards on kickoff returns and he's become a real lock down defensive player.

"We went full pads every day last week when we were off," Ford said. "At first people kind of complained, but in the end we all realized that we were just getting ready for Butler. I think it showed us how important this game is. I think now that we've been able to work on some things, we'll be much better.

"Our running backs are running like they're supposed to now. We made a change at quarterback, and if we get rolling on offense and score a few points, I know we'll be able to shut them down. I think the game will be won with the guys on both the offensive line and defensive line. If we can get some points from our offense, then that'll allow us to go out there on defense and make something happen."

And with every good rivalry game, what would it be without a little smack talk.

"We watched the film, and basically I don't see how they're the No. 2 team in the nation," Ford said. "I don't see it. The teams they've beaten and we've not even played yet, I know they wouldn't even score against us. Every team they've played hasn't had a good season. They've not played a tough schedule like us.

"They have a good running back (three-star running Beau Johnson), but I don't know if he's that good. That OL they have is really big, but they just get in the way. They've not seen speed like we have on defense. We need to come in and have a group tackling mentality. We have to shut them down. If we can get some touchdowns on offense, then we'll get it taken care of on defense."

When it comes to recruiting, Ford, who has 19 tackles and two sacks on the season despite teams running away from him, said he's got one official visit lined up. He has a trip lined up to Ole Miss for Nov. 17 when the Rebels play host to LSU. He's also working on dates with Iowa State and Kansas State, too.

"Those are the only two I have set up right now," he said. "I'm not sure what other schools I'm going to visit yet, but I'm really excited about those two. I watched the K-State-Texas game last week since we were off. I was glad K-State beat them since they're one of the teams that have offered me. I see they're starting ends are seniors, and they play a pretty good scheme. To hold Texas to 21 points is really impressive.

"I've also got nothing but good things to say about Ole Miss, too. I'm originally from South Carolina, so I've always watched the teams in the SEC. Iowa State also had a big win over Iowa, so that's something I liked seeing."

From talking to some other Coffeyville players, they are confident about this week's game against Butler, even if they're not as quotable as Ford.

"This is the biggest game of the year for us," Coffeyville's four star safety Melvin Williams said. "If we come up with the win, it'll put us back up higher in the rankings. The biggest thing that we must have go right is special teams. Whoever comes up with the best special teams, will win the game. They had a blocked punt on us last year when it was close and that totally switched the momentum.

"It's going to be a defensive battle all night long. They have some good offensive playmakers on offense, but I really think it's going to be our defense against their defense. Whoever has the best defense and play the best on special teams is going to win the game. I know everybody is talking about the KU-K-State game, but this is just as big for all of us. It's going to be a great weekend."

Things are also going great for Williams on the recruiting front. He said Clemson, Ole Miss and Arkansas are in contact with him on a weekly basis. He'll be at Ole Miss for a visit on Nov. 17 and he's working with Clemson for a date. He also believes Arkansas will get a trip out of him for the South Carolina game on Nov. 3.

"All of the schools I've been talking to have great coaches," Williams, who has 34 tackles, two interceptions, two pass breakups and one blocked kick on the season, said. "I don't have any of those schools offers in writing, but the schools are all telling me that I'm their top safety target and they need a juco safety to come in and make a big impact."


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