Gary Pinkel: Shane Ray among top five competitors I've coached

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Draft buzz around Missouri junior defensive end Shane Ray has intensified, from the preseason to date, as much as any college prospect in the SEC. One of the things that can kill momentum like that is the degree to which a player's head coach vouches for him in conversations with NFL personnel executives.

But based on Tigers coach Gary Pinkel's comments Monday, Ray will get at least one rave review in that regard. Pinkel called Ray one of the five most competitive players he has ever coached, according to Gabe DeArmond of powermizzou.com. For a guy who has been a college assistant or head coach since 1976, that's a mouthful for Pinkel.

To give you an idea of the types of competitive stars Pinkel has coached, here's a peek at which four players might join Ray on Pinkel's list:

» OL Kevin Gogan: Pinkel was the offensive coordinator at Washington over Gogan, who had a 14-year NFL career and started on a Dallas CowboysSuper Bowl championship team.

» QB Chris Chandler: Also a UW product from Pinkel's Huskies offense, Chandler lasted 18 seasons in the NFL and reached a Super Bowl with the Atlanta Falcons.

» DE Justin Smith: Pinkel was Smith's head coach at Missouri. The former Bengals and current 49ers defensive end has 85 career sacks.

» DL Sheldon Richardson: The New York Jets defensive tackle is one of the NFL's most promising young defenders. Though his time with Pinkel was short because of a stop in junior college, Pinkel coached him for two years.

Ray, an undersized pass rusher (6-3, 245), has 12 sacks on the season, which is a school record and ranks fourth in the NCAA.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter *@ChaseGoodbread*.

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