Independence (Kan.) Community College coach David Ward isn't ashamed to admit he's a little biased when it comes to blue-chip receiver Andre Simmons.
The 6-foot-3, 201-pound sophomore receiver was one of the best receivers in the Jayhawk Conference last season when he grabbed 57 receptions for 890 yards and seven touchdowns. Now that he's a year older, Ward has no reservations in calling him the best receiver not only in the conference, but possibly the entire nation.
"The kid has not seen single coverage in the last eight games," Ward said. "Everybody plays two over top on him. They put a corner on him and then put a safety over him. Tyler did the same thing in the first game and he still had seven catches and a touchdown."
He also played a key in Indy's 16-7 victory over Dodge City this past Saturday.
"He's special," Ward said. "That's a defense's game plan – stop Andre."
Simmons is already drawing a host of schools showing interest. He has a written offer from Kansas State and is also hearing from Arkansas, Missouri, Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma State, South Florida and Kansas. Simmons is originally from South Carolina and also will draw plenty of interest from South Carolina and Clemson, but he said recently that returning home isn't a huge deal to him.
"We brought in two more out of state receivers," Ward said. "The plan is to try and get some guys to stop double-teaming him, but they won't. They don't care how many TDs we throw to the other guys, but they want to stop Andre."
His coach said more than Kansas State has offered him, but things will start to clarify itself on the recruiting trail as the schools move forward with the recruiting process.
"I just think as far as the receivers in the league, he's better than anybody I've seen," he said. "I saw Larry Brakcens when he was recruited, and he's on the same level. If he's in single coverage, he's going to score a touchdown on you. There is nothing anybody can do about it.
"He's got everybody interested. I just talked to Georgia about him this morning. He's got a lot of offers and it'll all be there for him to look at."
Even though Simmons is the headliner, Ward said his team does have plenty of other prospects worthy of mentioning.
Ward is extremely high on linebacker Dillon Cox, a 6-foot-3, 240-pounder that played last season for Butler County. He also thinks his other linebacker, Mycheal McJunkins, is one of the best in the league.
"Dillon can really, really run," Ward said. "But Mycheal is a 6-0, 238-pound kid that can run a 4.5. He's a D-I signee for sure. We all know he's going somewhere big time. He's one of the best in the conference. We're all excited about him."
On the defensive line, Ward is excited about Shavod Atkinsin, a 6-foot-1, 316-pound defensive tackle originally from Hobart, Okla. Ward said he is a "physically dominating player," and has played well despite being a little banged up this fall.
Emmanual Lamur, a 6-foot-5, 218-pound defensive back/linebacker from West Palm Beach, Fla., is another player worthy of mentioning. Ward loves his range and ability to come up and support the run.
"He's going to be very special," Ward said. "He's long, rangy and very physical. He's a big hitter, too. He's got a 360-pound bench press, which is a rare for a guy with such long arms. He can definitely play on that next level."
On the offensive side of the ball, Ward thinks his quarterback Jeff Schibi, who is originally from Parsons, Kan., has a shot at playing Division I football. He also mentioned tight end Luke Baker (6-4, 225) and offensive center Eric Brown (6-4, 285) as players that should get good attention.
Ward also gushes about his freshman class.
He thinks cornerback Dave Clark, a 6-foot-2, 181-pounder from Baton Rouge, La., will be one of the most heavily recruited prospects in the conference next season.
"He's the only person I've seen that's been able to cover Andre one-on-one," Ward said. "They push each other hard in practice. He's going to be very, very heavily recruited. He's an upper-level BCS type kid."
Auburn fans will be excited to know 2008 signee Freddie Smooth landed on his feet at Indy and is 100 percent committed to return to the Tigers when he graduates in two years. Ward said he was placed by the Tigers at Indy and will stay committed to Auburn.
He also mentioned receiver freshman Jarius Williams as a player that is likely Division I bound.
He was a late, late qualifier out of Parrish, Ala., and was sent to Indy by Louisville. Ward said Louisville plans on taking Williams when he is done this season and the 6-foot, 178-pounder will have four years to play three seasons since he was a full qualifier.