Also, we’ll look at three fairly well known (among FCS followers) talents at Howard and Eastern Washington, including a junior receiver who should at least consider the 2013 NFL Draft. That, plus news and notes from around the FCS.
North Alabama vs. West Alabama
Ridge Wilson, DE, West Alabama
West Alabama’s 42-27 win over North Alabama gave UWA its first outright Gulf South Conference Championship in the school’s history, and assured them of a spot in the Division II NCAA playoffs. One of twenty-four finalists for the 2012 Harlon Hill Trophy, given to the D2 Player of the Year, Wilson flashed impressive quickness off the ball and a consistently effective speed rush, demonstrating the ability to dip the inside shoulder and get under the pads of the opposing tackle. He also saw multiple snaps as a stand-up end, where he displayed a solid swim move and good agility in space. Though only 256 pounds, Wilson showcased the ability to transition from speed to power, providing a serviceable bullrush, and was a menacing force all night, registering 10 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble.
Deon Lacey, OLB, West Alabama
Also shining on the defensive side of the ball, weakside linebacker Lacey has played mostly at outside linebacker this year after cutting his teeth as a defensive end. Despite relative inexperience, Lacey is surprisingly instinctive as a backer, exhibiting the ability to quickly locate the ball, pick his way through traffic, and stand strong at the point of attack, with the ability to stack and shed inside. He showed off plus athleticism on numerous tackles off his frame, and in situations where he chased the ballcarrier down from behind, working down the line of scrimmage. Lacey is a tremendously versatile defender, with honed pass rush talent, coupled with the ability to line up versus slot receivers, where he displayed sound cover skills and plus edge speed coming off the corner on blitzes.
Andy Nations, OG, West Alabama
At 6070 and 360 pounds, Nations is a mountain of a man, who displayed excellent anchor ability to solidly entrench versus the bullrush. He’s not a polished product, exhibiting limited movement skills and agility, struggling to line up blocks in space. However, Nations is a punishing down blocker, with excellent overall strength, who slides well laterally in pass protection, and does a solid job of keeping his opponent in front of him. He played mostly left tackle versus North Alabama, but projects more as a guard at the next level, where he’s best suited for a drive blocking man system.
Matt Willis, RB, West Alabama
Missing the game with injury, Willis, who projects as an UDFA, should get a few camp invites. Willis lacks ideal size, but is a strong inside runner, with good forward lean and excellent leg drive. He quickly gets his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage, and consistently runs downhill. He will bounce plays to the outside, where he displays good burst and better than average speed. Though not highly elusive in space, Willis can be very effective as a one-cut runner in a zone blocking scheme.
Tavarius Wilson, ILB, North Alabama (JR)
Junior middle linebacker Tavarius Wilson has stepped in as their defensive leader after UNA lost their two best prospects, defensive backs Nick Williams and Rod Woodson, to season ending injuries. Wilson flashed excellent range and closing speed, and, despite a nagging ankle injury, was used as a spy versus UWA’s quarterback for most of the evening, demonstrating first rate athleticism. Registering 11 tackles, including one for loss, Wilson made plays at all levels of the defense versus the run. In the pass game, he displayed underdeveloped zone instincts, but revealed good man cover skills against backs and tight ends. At times, he was swallowed up in the wash inside, and is a bit undersized for the middle. He projects more as a 4-3 outside linebacker, and should be one of the Gulf South’s top prospects next season.
Brian Allen, DT, North Alabama
Also playing a strong defensive game for defensive tackle Brian Allen. He relies more on quickness than power, but displayed the ability to ably anchor at the point of attack. Allen exhibited good range and a high motor, though his speed and bullrush moves were largely ineffective. Though he played mostly nose tackle (where he was often doubleteamed), Allen is a more natural 3-technique, where he was a much more disruptive force versus single blocking.
Keith Pough, OLB, Howard
After catching up on film and realizing I hadn’t talked about a 5th round graded linebacker on our big board, thought it was overdue that Keith Pough had some notes on the Small School Notebook. Playing almost a standing-Wide 7 position, Pough is primarily a standup, tight to the line edge rusher for this defense. While he could get stronger to hold the edge better and needs ot punch smoother and with more force to disengage, he’s got the athletic upside for the NFL game. He attacks very well with good positioning and body control off the edge, closes quickly on the ball carrier, tackles away from his body very well, and has some experience in curl/flat coverage. If he can add bulk, disengage smoother, and pinch inside better off the edge, he should live up to the mid-late round grade we’ve given him.
Nicholas Edwards, WR, Eastern Washington
The lesser (surprisingly) of the two top receivers for this Eastern Washington unit, Edwards has been a stiff disappointment this season. The long, athletic receiver can extend from his body well and has the balance, body control, and shiftiness as a runner, impressive for his size. But he doesn’t adjust to the ball quickly enough or on time, doesn’t snatch the ball in traffic as well as you’d like, and doesn’t get the final separation to attack the ball as needed in the NFL. His work in the slot in college is likely where he’s limited to at the NFL level.
Brandon Kaufman, WR, Eastern Washington (JR)
The better of the two future NFL receivers, Kaufman has been consistently impressive, almost to the point that he could consider the 2013 NFL Draft despite being just a junior. He gets vertically well from his X position, attacks the ball very well at the highest point and using his size to his advantage. He also shows solid adjustment and vision after the catch despite not having great open field ability. Still, his ability on the outside and vs. man coverage should make him an intriguing small school receiver, in 2014 or even 2013 if he chooses so.
General Notes from the Non-FBS
-Hate to mention them every week, but the two current career leaders in rushing yards at the FCS level are Eric Breitenstein of Wofford and Miguel Maysonet of Stony Brook. Both rushing talents have NFL upside, though Breitenstein will need to prove a lot as a fullback, while Maysonet is a near lock to be drafted. Breitienstein has 5,223 career rushing yards and 61 rushing touchdowns.
-Erik Lora of Eastern Illinois broke the single season OVC record for receiving yards in a season, and is 14th all time in FCS history for single season receiving yards. His 115 catches are also 10th all time single season in FCS history.
-Tim Flanders, a junior running back from Sam Houston State, rushed for 138 yards and 2 touchdowns on 17 carries against Northwestern State. He’s going to be a stud 2014 NFL Draft prospect. Learn the name now.
-Liberty upset Stony Brook this weekend, now in the mix for a Big South title. Good to see a once hot coaching name, Turner Gill, doing some impressive things at Liberty.
-In a 3 OT affair, Southern Utah’s quarterback Brad Sorensen threw a touchdown pass to upset the FCS’s 11th ranked Northern Arizona team. Sorensen, who has struggled this year but still flashes fantastic upside, really could use a win like this.
-Grant Enders, a quarterback from Towson who has really played well surprisingly this season, blew out a Rhode Island team with 231 yards and 4 TD passes. He’s one of the top FCS quarterbacks and could get some NFL looks if he keeps this up.
-Tuskeege won the SIAC conference this weekend on the back of former Missouri RB Derrick Washington, who ran for his second straight 200+ yard game. While he left Missouri on bad terms after a conviction in sexual assault, he’s ended his college career on a high and impressive note.