Ben Simonds picks Fresno State

Ben Simonds picks Fresno State

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Ben Simonds picks Fresno State

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Despite a 25-point loss to USC last week in the Las Vegas Bowl, Fresno State is still considered by many to be an up-and-coming college football program to watch.

Ben Simonds is one of them. Being sold on that was a primary reason the standout La Quinta lineman recently gave the Bulldogs a verbal commitment, spurning offers from San Diego State and New Mexico State, among others.

A nationally-ranked power lifter, Simonds played on both sides of the ball for the Blackhawks this season, earning All-CIF SS Central Division honors. He also received the most votes from Desert Valley League coaches for the All-DVL team.

Fresno State, in the second year under head coach Tim DeRuyter, finished the season with an 11-2 record. Under DeRuyter, the Bulldogs are 21-6.

Until about a month ago, Fresno State was not even on Simonds’ radar. Playing center and defensive end, he had a handful of offers, yet had only heard from the Bulldogs briefly in the spring.

“I had heard from them,” Simonds said, “but it wasn’t until this fall, when they looked over my (game) film that they started showing a lot of interest.”

At the end of the season, Bulldogs offensive line coach Cameron Norcross came down to La Quinta and officially offered a scholarship. Though Simonds has yet to take his official campus visit, the school seemed an ideal landing spot for him.

“It’s an up-and-coming program, for sure,” Simonds said. “Coach DeRuyter definitely has the program on the right path. Plus, I have some family in Northern California, and I think there’s an opportunity for me to play early there.”

For that to happen, Simonds said he needs to increase his weight from around 265 pounds to the 285-290 range. He played around 275 as a junior, but cut weight this season to play on both sides of the ball.

Considering his immense strength — he power cleans 380 pounds — and famed work ethic, La Quinta head coach Dan Armstrong believes he’ll be a force at the collegiate level.

“Ben could be 275 or 280,” Armstrong said, “but he would already be stronger than most defensive linemen in Division I. He’s that strong.”

Added Armstrong: “And he can play some guard for them because of his athleticism and his ability to get out and block linebackers.”

Simonds plans to take his official visit to Fresno State once the dead period for recruiting ends in January. He’ll then move up there in June to begin training in preparation for the possibility he could play as a true freshman.

The Bulldogs will lose three starters on the offensive line and two key second-string interior lineman.

Simonds is already in the weight room with an eye toward next season.

And who knows, maybe he could be a part of next year’s team, with expectations for the Bulldogs as high as they’ve been in more than a decade.

“Regardless, it’s a top-25 team,” Simonds said. “I truly believe this is a program on the rise and that they’ll get even better. So I’m excited to get up there and be a part of that.”

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