Today we unveil our junior college rankings, and after months of analysis it became very clear that Torrance (Calif.) El Camino Community College defensive end Simi Kuli is the nation's top junior college prospect.
Kuli is a menacing 6-foot-4, 270-pounder who has the ability to be a quarterback's worst nightmare. Kuli - who will graduate next May with three years left to play two years of football - recorded 56 tackles, 15 tackles for losses and 4.5 sacks in helping the Warriors win the California state title as a freshman in 2006.
Kuli is a physical specimen who has been timed in the 4.7-second range in the 40-yard dash. He is explosive off the ball when rushing the quarterback, and he is physical going one-on-one with bigger offensive linemen.
"To be honest with you, I am not sure what is my strongest point," Kuli said. "All I know how to do is play hard. That's all I know. Go hard on every play."
What's even more impressive about Kuli is that he has played football for a very short time.
"The kid is still learning," El Camino defensive line coach Tim Hyde told Rivals.com. "He just played high school football in 2004 and in 2005. All he did was work in construction. All of a sudden, he shows up in 2006 wanting to play football. Last year, he led the team in tackles for losses. He was … No. 5 in total tackles and No. 2 quarterback hurries. He tied for first in sacks, and that is all after taking off of football for a year and a half.
"Simi was already voted team captain by the players. Simi is fun-loving, very outgoing and he likes to talk a lot. He has a lot of fun with his teammates. He is very close to everyone. Simi was the No. 1 vote-getter for captain this year."
To further cement his case, Kuli also has tremendous bloodlines. He's the cousin of former five-star Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who was selected No. 12 overall by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2006 NFL Draft. Kuli, who is of Tongan descent and of the Mormon faith, said he has learned a lot from his cousin.
"He's not only taught me things about being a success in football, but also in life," Kuli said. "He told me that nothing is going to be handed to me, and that I'm going to have to earn everything I get. He said all these people recruiting you is great, but you also have to go out there and prove to people that you are as good as you are. He said that you need to play with a chip on your shoulder on every play."
Where Kuli ends up in college is still in doubt.
There have been several twists and turns in his recruitment. At one point, Kuli said he was down to two schools – Texas A&M and Nebraska. However, Oklahoma and Oregon State have made strong pushes. He's scheduled to take an official visit to Oklahoma on Sept. 22, followed by visits to Texas A&M on Oct. 5 and Nebraska on Oct. 19.
Oregon State is also likely to get a visit. Hyde said Kuli has several cousins that have ties to the Beaver program, and Oregon State has a real need at defensive end. Kuli also has offers from Oregon, Tennessee, BYU, Kansas State and several other programs.
While it's clear that Kuli is the nation's No. 1 player, there is definitely some strong competition for spots in the top five. It's a very good year for junior college talent, especially in the California. Five-star receiver Carl Moore from Roseville (Calif.) Sierra C.C. is No. 2 in our rankings.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver is a physical force. He has a rare combination of size, speed and athleticism. He has the ability to beat defenders with his 4.45-second speed, but he also can go up and get the ball against more physical defensive backs. After finishing the 2006 season with 61 receptions for 960 yards and seven touchdowns, he's in demand.
"I think of myself as an SEC-style receiver because I'm really physical and bigger like a lot of their receivers," Moore said. "There is a good chance I'll end up somewhere in that conference, but it's not a sure-thing."
With a statement like that, it's no surprise to see LSU and Florida have official visits lined up with him. He also has scholarship offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, Cal, Nebraska, Oregon State, Tennessee, Washington and several others.
When he was coming out of high school in Alabama, defensive end Raven Gray was one of the nation's top 250 players. He signed with Auburn out of Enterprise, Ala., turning down offers from Georgia, Louisville, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Now that he's at Wesson (Miss.) Copiah-Lincoln C.C., he's the nation's No. 3 junior college prospect and a five-star recruit.
Gray, who is now 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, earned all-state, all-region and All-American honors after his freshman season. He said he's still planning on attending Auburn, but other schools like Ole Miss, Alabama and Mississippi State have also offered him scholarships and remain in hot pursuit.
San Francisco (Calif.) City College of San Francisco inside linebacker and Tennessee soft commitment Gerald Williams is No. 4 in our rankings. El Camino defensive tackle Justin Thompson checks in at No. 5. Thompson is a soft commitment to Miami, but Hyde said there's a strong chance that he'll now end up at either Cal, LSU or Nebraska.
The top player from the always strong Jayhawk Conference in Kansas is Coffeyville (Kan.) C.C. defensive end Larry Ford. The No. 9 junior college player overall and a four-star prospect, Ford is an explosive 6-3, 255-pound pass rush specialist that will have three years to play three seasons in college.
"Man, he's so fast," Coffeyville assistant Rico Cherico said. "He's probably receiving the most attention out of any of our guys here. He's got such a high motor. He runs all over the place and makes a ton of big plays for us."
Ford knows he has a bright future in college football, but he also knows he has to work harder to get better.
"My strengths are pass rushing and my speed," Ford said.
"I run a 4.6, so my pass rushing is pretty good. Something I could work on probably is the tendency of standing up a lot and not using my hands as much as I should. But other than that, I'm pretty good."
Ford, who has racked up 15 tackles, four tackles for losses and two sacks in Coffeyville's first three games, has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Texas A&M, Iowa State, Purdue, Clemson, Mississippi State, Kansas State and Kansas. He's also very interested in both Oklahoma and South Carolina.
El Dorado (Kan.) Butler County C.C. cornerback Maurice Gray and Independence (Kan.) C.C. defensive end David Bedford also rank in the top 25 from the Kansas junior college ranks.
Former Texas Tech signee McKinner Dixon at Cisco (Texas) C.C. is the top prospect from the Texas junior college ranks. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound four-star strongside defensive end is the nation's No. 14 player overall. He is expected to return to Tech, where he should have an immediate impact for the Red Raiders.