COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- For the third consecutive year, the Pearl River Community College (Miss.) Wildcats are the pre-season favorite heading into the upcoming NJCAA Football season. They sit atop the 2007 NJCAA / JC Football.com Pre-Season Top 25 poll released today by the two parties.
Pearl River finished with a 10-2 record last year and appeared in the Pilgrim's Pride Bowl.
At No. 2, Snow College ( Utah ) finds itself in a familiar spot in the pre-season rankings. The Badgers ended the 2006 season ranked second after an 11-1 finish.
Defending NJCAA National Champion Blinn College enters '07 at No. 3 in the poll.
Overall, 13 of the 16 teams that played in NJCAA bowl games last year are featured in this year's pre-season Top 25.
Place College Location Record Points 1st Pl Votes Last Week
1 Pearl River Community College Poplarville, MS 10-2 0 0 0
2 Snow College Ephraim, UT 11-1 0 0 0
3 Blinn College Brenham, TX 12-0 0 0 0
4 Butler Community College - Kansas El Dorado, KS 11-1 0 0 0
5 Georgia Military College Milledgeville, GA 8-3 0 0 0
6 Grand Rapids Community College Grand Rapids, MI 8-3 0 0 0
7 Lackawanna College Scranton, PA 10-0 0 0 0
8 Coffeyville Community College Coffeyville, KS 7-4 0 0 0
9 Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Perkinston, MS 7-2 0 0 0
10 Glendale Community College Glendale, AZ 9-2 0 0 0
11 Vermilion Community College Ely, MN 10-2 0 0 0
12 Cisco Junior College Cisco, TX 6-4 0 0 0
13 Eastern Arizona College Thatcher, AZ 7-4 0 0 0
14 Joliet Junior College Joliet, IL 7-4 0 0 0
15 Erie Community College Buffalo, NY 7-2 0 0 0
16 Rochester Community & Technical College Rochester, MN 7-4 0 0 0
17 Navarro College Corsicana, TX 5-4 0 0 0
18 Iowa Central Community College Fort Dodge, IA 9-2 0 0 0
19 Nassau Community College Garden City, NY 6-4 0 0 0
20 Northwest Mississippi Community College Senatobia, MS 6-4 0 0 0
21 Garden City Community College Garden City, KS 6-4 0 0 0
22 Harper College Palatine, IL 6-4 0 0 0
23 Scottsdale Community College Scottsdale, AZ 6-4 0 0 0
24 Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wesson, MS 9-3 0 0 0
25 Tyler Junior College Tyler, TX 5-4 0 0 0
Other schools receiving votes
College Location Record Points 1st Pl Votes Last Week
Mesabi Range CTC Virginia, MN 5-4 0 0 0
Ellsworth Community College Iowa Falls, IA 4-5 0 0 0
Jones County Junior College Ellisville, MS 6-3 0 0 0
Kilgore College Kilgore, TX 6-6 0 0 0
Itawamba Community College Fulton, MS 7-3 0 0 0
Dean College Franklin, MA 6-4 0 0 0
Fort Scott Community College Fort Scott, KS 7-5 0 0 0
Northland Community & Technical College Thief River Falls, MN 7-3 0 0 0
Hutchinson Community College Hutchinson, KS 0-9 0 0 0
North Iowa Area Community College Mason City, IA 7-4 0 0 0
#1 Pearl River Community College (Miss.)
Head coach Tim Hatten begins his sixth season with the Wildcats, which has been an era of dominance in the highly competitive state of Mississippi . Under Hatten, the program is 47-7 and has won four consecutive Mississippi Association of Community & Junior Colleges (MACJC) titles along with a national championship in 2004. Most importantly, Hatten has been able to consistently replace departing players each year with high caliber talent.
PRCC is coming off a 2006 campaign that yielded a 10-2 record and a berth in the 2006 Pilgrim's Pride Bowl, which they entered ranked second in the country and lost 19-6 to No. 1 Blinn College of Texas. The Wildcats then dropped to No. 4 in the final rankings of `06.
The Wildcats will be very strong on defense in `07 with the return of several players. Safety Brandon Burns (6-4, 220) is a key veteran returning to the squad who recorded 30 tackles and five interceptions last year. Linebacker Kion Wilson (6-2, 240) will be in store for another big season as he was second on the team last year with 113 tackles and also picked up six tackles for loss. The defensive line will be led by Aaron Williams (6-0, 290), who will easily eclipse his 32 tackles and 1.5 sacks totals from last year. The Wildcats are also expecting big-time play from Auburn University transfer Hendrick Leverettte (6-0, 220) at linebacker.
Offensively, Pearl River ranked ninth in the NJCAA in total offense averaging 355 yards a contest. The Wildcats have two anchors on the offensive line returning in Nate Jenkins (6-4, 320) and T.J. Harper (6-2, 325) that will carve big running lanes for running back Jonathan Kirksey (5-10, 185), who gained 220 yards on the ground and 122 receiving yards and scored three touchdowns in limited action last fall.
The Wildcats have yet to determine a starting quarterback, but they do have the best place kicker in the country in Pre-Season All-American Brad Bingham (6-0, 180) returning to campus. Bingham was 34 of 38 in PAT's last year and made 12 field goal attempts with his longest being from 48 yards.
Pearl River opens the 2007 season on August 30 with a home contest versus Mississippi Delta Community College.
#2 Snow College ( Utah )
A Western States Football League title, a 26-21 victory over Coffeyville Community College (Kan.) 26-21 in the 2006 Zions Bank Top of the Mountain Bowl and a No. 2 national ranking.not bad for Steve Coburn's first year as head coach for Snow College.
The Badgers will look to ride the favoring winds of their 11-1 '06 campaign into this season with the return of seven starters (3 offense, 4 defense). Snow will have a tough task replacing quarterback Cade Cooper, who was NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year last season. However, the Badgers do return two talented receivers in Pre-Season First-Team All-American Adam Frandsen (6-1, 190) and Troy Cummings (6-0, 194). Frandsen finished eighth in the nation last season with 610 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Cummings caught 20 passes for 313 yards and four touchdowns.
Snow led the NJCAA in total offense last season, averaging 463 yards per game. Their dominance was due in part to a big offensive line that could both pass protect and open holes for running backs. Aaron Pou'ha (6-4, 320) will be the leader of this year's front line, which will look to match the team's 270 passing and 193 rushing yards per game output of last fall.
Often overshadowed by the offense, the Badger defense did a fine job last season allowing just 211 total yards per contest. Snow returns Fevita Hola (6-1, 300) and David TuFuga (6-0, 310) who saw action last year on the d-line, combining for 46 tackles and eight tackles for loss.
The Badgers will also have one of the best punters in the country returning to campus in Jeff Wright (6-2, 200). A Pre-Season First-Team All-American, Wright ranked second in the NJCAA last year with a 42-yard punt average.
Snow kicks off their 2007 season on Aug. 25 at Air Force.
#3 Blinn College (Texas)
After an incredible title run in 2006, the Blinn College Buccaneers now face the task of defending their crown. The old cliché has always been that defending your crown is more difficult than winning it.and that may be the case for Blinn as they have to replace 18 starters from last season. That will not be easy, but with head coach Brad Franchione leading the charge you can rest assured the Bucs have a great chance to repeat.
In just two seasons with Blinn, Franchione has posted a 19-3 record with a National Championship and NJCAA Football Coach of the Year Award. His rebuilding project will center around 19 returning lettermen, many of which saw significant playing time last year.
Blinn's offense was dominant on the ground last fall averaging 203 yards per contest. Either Lamont Roberts (5-10, 190) or Jason Barnes (5-9, 190) will emerge to replace the explosive Bernard Scott, who last season led the country with 1,699 rushing yards. Quinton Johnson (6-4, 337) and Herman Hall (6-2, 280) will help solidify the offensive line with the hopes of making a 1,000 yard rusher out of either Roberts or Barnes.or both.
The Buccaneer defense was just down right scary last season, allowing just 39 rushing yards and 90 passing yards a game. Opponents could muster just 1.8 yards per rush against Blinn and a dismal 40 percent pass completion rate. To put up similar numbers again, Franchione will need several players to step-up.
Linebacker Sterling Lewis (6-0, 230) is the lead returning tackler with 55 last season, along with two sacks. Terreance Flagg (6-2, 280) and Michael Rhines (6-1, 245) will be asked to anchor the front of the defensive line along with Emmanuel Stephens (6-2, 210), who sat out last season after seeing significant time in 2005.
Blinn opens the season against a very good Coffeyville Community College (Kan.) team on Aug. 25.
#4 Butler Community College (Kan.)
The Grizzlies of Butler Community College again over-powered the Kansas Jayhawk Conference last season taking the conference title for the sixth-straight season. They ended the 2006 season with an 11-1 record and a No. 3 national ranking after defeating then-No. 6 Vermilion Community College (Minn.) 57-0 in the 2006 Dalton Defenders Bowl.
Under the guidance of head coach Troy Morrell (7 seasons, 73-10), Butler has evolved into one of the best football programs in the two-year college ranks. Based on final NJCAA football polls since 2000, no other team has consistently finished higher in the poll than Butler. They have played for the NJCAA Football Championship five out of the last nine years and have won the title three times (1998, 99, and 2003).
The 2007 season looks great for the Grizzlies as they return their leading rusher from a year ago in Beau Johnson (5-11, 210). Johnson, a Pre-Season Second-Team All-American, rushed for 1,119 yards and scored eight touchdowns last fall. The running game will not miss a beat with Pre-Season First-Team All-American Mark Chesnutt (6-7, 310) leading the offensive line.
At quarterback, look for Press Taylor to put up good numbers his first season. His name should be familiar to two-year college football fans as his brother, Zac, led Butler to the 2003 NJCAA Championship and then later was a two-year starter for Bill Callahan at Nebraska.
Opponents will once again have to deal with a very tough Butler defense in '07, despite the fact the Grizzlies return just one starter. Yet, Butler does have several defensive players returning that played significant minutes in '06. Defensive back Maurice Gray (5-11, 185) returns as a Pre-Season Second-Team All-American. Last season he tallied 45 tackles and also led the team with six interceptions. Returning with Gray to the secondary is JD Douglas (6-4, 210) who also racked up 45 tackles with four interceptions at strong safety.
The Grizzlies will have a solid defensive front with Antonio Felder (6-3, 240) and Tyler Jessen (6-2, 290) coming back after combining for 69 tackles and 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. James Schneider (6-2, 225) will be the leader of the linebacking corps after seeing enough action last year to record 17 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack.
Butler will begin its season on Aug. 25 versus Kilgore College (Texas).
#5 Georgia Military College
With 11 returning starters, Georgia Military College is poised for yet another great season. GMC has appeared in three of the last six NJCAA title games and won the 2001 National Championship. The Bulldogs went 8-3 last season and suffered a 21-0 defeat in the Sea Island Company Golden Isles Bowl Classic to Copiah-Lincoln Community College (Miss.).
Head coach Bert Williams enters his seventh season (58-7 overall record) with Georgia Military with several great players returning. The Bulldogs have the best tight end in the country in Pat Wilkinson (6-6, 240) who was a Second-Team All-American last season and enters '07 as a Pre-Season First-Team All-American. Wilkinson caught 15 passes for 226 yards and four touchdowns while also being an above average run blocker.
Carlton Fears (6-2, 210) returns at quarterback and has plenty of weapons at his disposal including Wilkinson at tight end, Jarrell Crawford (5-9, 190) at running back and Rodell Carter (6-4, 195) at wide receiver. Fears threw for 993 yards and eight touchdowns in his first season while Crawford ranked second on the team last year with 593 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Carter caught 24 passes for 398 yards and five touchdowns.
One of the most highly recruited two-year college football players in the country going into the season has been Bulldog defensive lineman Jarrell King (6-7, 285) who is a Pre-Season First-Team All-American. King recorded 20 tackles and 2.5 sacks in eight games last season and has already committed to play for Steve Spurrier at South Carolina in 2008.
In the secondary, free safety Donsay Hardeman (6-1, 205) is likely to have a break-out year after recording 22 tackles and four interceptions in '06 and will help solidify a Bulldog defense that ranked third in the NJCAA last season in total defense allowing just 142 yards per game.
The Bulldogs begin their '07 campaign on Aug. 25 at Highland Community College (Kan.).
Rounding out the Top 10
Grand Rapids Community College (Mich.) enters the 2007 season with a No. 6 ranking and two Pre-Season All-Americans in offensive lineman Nick Toth (6-3, 295) and defensive lineman Jerrell Hering (6-2, 270). The Raiders finished 2006 with an 8-3 record and a 24-6 win over North Iowa Area Community College in the Graphics Edge Bowl.
At No. 7 is last season's Cinderella in Lackawanna College (Pa.) who went 10-0 last season and defeated Glendale Community College (Ariz.) 17-16 in the Valley of the Sun Bowl. Pre-Season Second-Team All-American defensive back Lewis Carver (5-10, 200) is the top returnee for Lackawanna.
No. 8 Coffeyville Community College (Kan.) will again be tough this season as they have arguably one of the best running backs in Pre-Season First-Team All-American Nate Guillory (5-10, 195). However, the Red Ravens will have to find a way get past their rival Butler in order to make a run towards a championship.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is at No. 9 after a 7-2 mark in '06. They have been predicted to finish second in the MACJC by league coaches.
Glendale Community College (Ariz.) rounds out the Top 10 after a 9-2 record last season and a second place finish in the WSFL.
Regular Season Poll Information
The NJCAA / JC Football.com Poll will rank the top 20 football teams in the NJCAA each week. NJCAA Football Panel Directors select their top 15 teams each week, which are then formulated into the weekly poll. Panel Directors are not allowed to vote a team No. 1 from their own district until they have played at least five contests. Then a team from their district may only be voted No. 1 if they are undefeated. A panel director may vote a team from their district No. 2 at any time during the season.
The weekly regular season poll will be released nationally on the NJCAA website, www.njcaa.org , and via email on each poll day at 1 p.m. (MST). This year's poll dates are as follows: Sept. 4, Sept. 11, Sept. 18, Sept. 25, Oct. 2, Oct. 9, Oct. 16, Oct. 23, Oct. 30, Nov. 6, Nov. 13* and Dec. 10*.
*Please note that the Nov. 13 poll will be the final regular season poll and the Dec. 10 poll will be the Championship Poll and announcement of 2007 All-America Team.