Juco LB makes most of second chance

Looking for the nation’s top junior college linebacker prospect?
Looking for the beast that can help your team out right away?
Looking for a guy that can move sideline to sideline and hit you like a load of bricks?
Then look no further because it’s time to meet Ryan Powdrell, a hard-hitting linebacker from Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif.
Back in 2002, Powdrell was a highly sought after linebacker from Mission Viejo, Calif. He ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash, had a vertical leap of 30 inches and also could bench-press 320 pounds and squat 580 pounds.
But things weren’t going so well on the academic front and Powdrell allowed that to become a problem both on and off the field. By the time he enrolled at Saddleback after not qualifying at Fresno State, he was pushing 270 pounds, according to his coach Mark McElroy
Then the light flicked on.
Powdrell realized he has the talent to be a major Division I linebacker, but he knew the way to do that was to work hard, drop some weight, get stronger and focus on the academics.
Now two years later, he’s one of the nation’s top junior college prospects and arguably the best linebacker in the land and his coach couldn’t be any prouder.
“He’s dropped about 20 pounds since high school and has replaced it with all muscle,” McElroy said about Powdrell. “It’s like he’s transformed from a kid into a man. He’s now all of 6-foot-1, 250 pounds and runs a 4.56-second 40-yard dash.
“He’s athletic and can run around like a deer out on the football field.”
The transformation has gone a long way toward improving Powdrell’s outlook on life, too, his coach said.
“He’s a high character kid,” McElroy said. “He’s done everything you can ask of a kid to become one of the best players out there and one of the best people, too. I’ve coached for a long time and a lot of great players, but he’s the best linebacker that I’ve ever coached.”
And it’s that type of attention that is brought out teams from all over the nation to recruit him.
“I know that Oklahoma and USC want him really bad,” McElroy said. “He’s also been getting calls from LSU and a bunch of other teams. He’s a guy that will graduate in spring and have three years to play two seasons. Some teams don’t want to wait until the spring to get him, but most of them say they’ll wait on a stud like Ryan.”
But Powdrell isn’t the only Division I prospect on his team. In fact, Saddleback is loaded with defensive prospects and as a collection the group has scored six touchdowns and created 23 turnovers in five games.
“It’s pretty awesome,” McElroy said.
Indeed it is.
Along with Powdrell, McElroy said teams are really excited about his defensive end B.Jay Parsons, who is all of 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds with a 4.6-second time in the 40-yard dash.
“He’s very, very good,” McElroy said. “Somebody is going to get themselves a heck of a pass rusher that is also adept at stopping the run. He gets out at mid-term and has three-to-play two.”
His defensive line running mate, Tom Barger, who is 6-foot-1 and 290 pounds, is a good two-gap technique defensive tackle and he should get plenty of attention from the coaches. At linebacker, Powdrell is joined by Jimmy Ellingson, who is 5-foot-10 and 225 pounds, but coach McElroy compares him to Kevin Mitchell from Oregon because of his play-making ability.
Then there is cornerback Jaray Austin, a 6-foot, 170-pound stick-like glue coverman. Austin has legitimate 4.4-second speed and is one of the best corners in California, according to his coach. But he does have some academic hurdles to leap before he can make it to the next level.
“But somebody is going to take a chance on him and end up landing an all-conference caliber corner,” McElroy said. “Jaray has all the tools to be a great cover corner on the Division I level.”
On the offensive side of the ball, McElroy calls offensive tackle Andrew Pritchard one of the best offensive tackles in the California junior college ranks.
“He’s got all sorts of nastiness,” McElroy said. “He’s 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds, and that jumps out when you look at offensive linemen. But he’s also got great feet. He’s getting heavy attention from Kentucky and San Diego State.”