Juco spotlight: Blinn College

BRENHAM, Texas -- In the heart of what forms practically a triangle of major metropolitan cities in Texas is the town of Brenham.

In the Lone Star State, the town is often associated with two things: ice cream, because it's the home of Blue Bell Creameries, makers of ice cream that any Texan will swear by, and baseball, because of Brenham High School's seven state championships.

Football coaches around the country know the town for another reason: the fact that it's home to one of the more historically successful junior college programs, the Blinn College Buccaneers.

In the last two years alone, Blinn has sent 31 players to Division I programs. The Buccaneers' history includes four national championships. The most recent title, which came in 2009, boasted a player whose name is plenty familiar to the players who have come to Blinn since: Cam Newton.

In fact, ask several Buccaneers what they knew about Blinn before they arrived at the school and many of them will name Newton, the quarterback who went on to win a Heisman Trophy and a BCS National Championship at Auburn and is now a starter for the NFL's Carolina Panthers.

Add that with Blinn's traditional success and reputation for producing Division I players, and it assists coach Ronny Feldman in attracting talent for his program.

"It's tremendous," Feldman said. "Especially out of this area."

Brenham is fewer than 80 miles from downtown Houston, 90 miles from Austin, roughly 150 miles from San Antonio and roughly 200 miles from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. But the school's proximity to Houston makes it a solid base from which Feldman can pull.

"We get a ton of calls from all over the country," Feldman said. "This is a Mecca football area. Everybody in the country comes to Houston, Texas. Why would we want to leave Houston? We're the closest JC here, we've got a winning tradition, they're about an hour from home so we have a lot of good things that we can provide.

Two of the Buccaneers' three returning all-conference selections from last season are from or from near Greater Houston: Tevin Broussard (Beaumont, Texas/Central) and Brandon Thornton (Conroe, Texas/Conroe). Broussard, a 6-foot-1, 192-pound sophomore safety, holds three offers so far: Kansas State, Texas State and UTSA. He also has received interest from Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.

"I like Kansas State because they're in the Big 12 and I'd like to play in a big conference," Broussard said. "I like Texas State because they're on the rise and they're coming up."

Thornton, a 6-3, 210-pound redshirt sophomore linebacker in the Buccaneers' 4-2-5 alignment, has received interest from Memphis.

Feldman isn't averse to taking in talent from elsewhere, though. One of the more sought-after prospects in his program currently is a 6-5, 288-pound center Tyler Edwards of Malvern (Ark.) High School.

Edwards is a redshirt sophomore who is currently playing right tackle for the Bucs but is being recruited as a center after playing the position last season. Edwards possesses offers from West Virginia, Kansas State and Louisiana Tech and also is getting interest from Arkansas.

"Right now West Virginia is my No. 1 school so far," said Edwards, who will be visiting Morgantown this weekend. "They're pretty much telling me that they want me to come in and play."

One Division I program that has shown considerable interest in the Buccaneers that should come as no surprise is Texas State. The Bobcats' special-teams coordinator and linebackers coach is Brad Franchione, who served as Blinn's head coach from 2005-10 and led the team to two national championships.

In addition to Broussard, Blinn strong safety Mitch Villemez, a 6-1, 220-pound redshirt sophomore, currently holds a Texas State offer. The Bobcats are looking at Villemez as an outside linebacker, as are the other schools recruiting Villemez: Iowa State and Louisiana Tech.

Among the other players Texas State has shown some interest in are tight end Chris Loving (6-4, 262, So.); kicker Kurt Walker (6-0, 190, So.) and safety Demetrius Woodard (6-2, 205, So.).

All three also have received interest from Kansas State. Woodard has also received a look from Houston.

Another prospect of notable interest to schools is 6-3, 234-pound redshirt sophomore defensive end Darren Leaks. Leaks is getting looks from Memphis, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Texas Tech. Ronald Fuller, a 6-5, 258-pound redshirt sophomore defensive end, has Texas Tech and UAB interest after transferring to the program from Abilene Christian.

Blinn has also established a reputation in recent years of producing quarterbacks, and not just Newton. Since 2006, the Buccaneers have produced quarterbacks who went on to Utah (Terrence Cain), Kansas State (Justin Tuggle), Houston (Cotton Turner), Memphis (Eric Mathews) and Texas State (Shaun Rutherford).

The latest in that quarterback line looks to be Garry Kimble, a true freshman from Pearland (Texas) Dawson who is already off to a good start for the Bucs this season, throwing for 930 yards and 10 touchdowns with just one interception for Blinn (2-2).

"The talent level is here," Feldman said. "You just have to go find it and showcase what you've got."