FCS Standouts Set to Shine at Major College All-Star Games
FCS

FCS Standouts Set to Shine at Major College All-Star Games

College football all-star games are back in force this year, and they should help increase the number of FCS players selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.

The number of players drafted from below the FBS have been down dramatically in the last two years. Due to the pandemic, most college pro days were canceled in 2020 and most all-star games weren’t played a year ago, which limited the opportunities for FCS players as well as small-schoolers below the Division I level to showcase themselves.

A small handful of all-star games have been played since December. Upcoming are the three biggest – the NFLPA, East-West Shrine and Senior bowls, which will feature a strong mix of FCS players and former standouts who finished their college careers elsewhere.

nfl-draft-fcs-last-10-years

10th NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

Jan. 29 at Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California (6 p.m. EST, NFL Network)

FCS Players

American Roster

(81) Josh Babicz, TE, North Dakota State

(25) Daron Bland, CB, Fresno State (Sacramento State)

(59) Jack Cochrane, ILB, South Dakota

(6) Zerrick Cooper, QB, Jacksonville State

(85) Dai’Jean Dixon, WR, Nicholls

(52) Isaiah Edwards, OL, Indiana State

(86) Jequez Ezzard, WR/PR, Sam Houston

(8) Aqeel Glass, QB, Alabama State

(51) Daniel Hardy, DE/OLB, Montana State

(23) C.J. Holmes, CB, Jackson State

(91) James Houston IV, LB, Jackson State

(71) Arron Johnson, OG, South Dakota State

(93) Eric Johnson, DT, Missouri State

(37) Cory Rahman, S, Tennessee State

(80) Isaiah Weston, WR, Northern Iowa

National Roster

(34) Markquese Bell, S, Florida A&M

(83) Trae Berry, TE/LS, Boston College (Jacksonville State)

(N/A) Davis Cheek, QB, Elon

(32) Julius Chestnut, RB, Sacred Heart

(7) Cole Kelley, QB, Southeastern Louisiana

(66) Tyrone “Lewis” Kidd, OT, Montana State

(89) Lance McCutcheon, WR, Montana State

(6) Chris Oladokun, QB, South Dakota State

(98) Roderick Perry II, DT, Illinois (South Carolina State)

(85) Montrell Washington, WR/KR, Samford

(91) Benton Whitley, DE, Holy Cross

Notable

A deep group of FCS wide receivers stand out. Samford’s Montrell Washington (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) was the FCS leader in all-purpose yards per game (176.2) this past season. In the last 25 years, UNI’s Isaiah Weston (22.6) and Sam Houston’s Jequez Ezzard (22.4) posted the fourth- and fifth-highest yards-per-catch averages, respectively, for FCS players with at least 80 career receptions. … Over his final two seasons, 2020 Walter Payton Award-winning quarterback Cole Kelley averaged 416.2 yards of total offense and accounted for 87 touchdowns in 20 games. Kelley (6-6½, 248) as well as Sacred Heart’s Julius Chestnut (5-11, 224) played in the Hula Bowl all-star game on Jan. 15. … Alabama A&M’s Aqeel Glass (6-4, 215) had 109 TD passes in his career, tying for the 15th-most in FCS history. … Playing 15 games for FCS runner-up Montana State, Daniel Hardy (6-3, 240) tied for the second-most tackles for loss (24.5) and sacks (16.5) in the FCS. … Two of the last four NFLPA game MVPs were from FCS schools: Saint Francis free safety Lorenzo Jerome in 2017 and Chattanooga quarterback Nick Tiano in 2020.

97th East-West Shrine Bowl

Feb. 3 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas (8 p.m. EST, NFL Network)

East Roster

(80) Tanner Connor, WR, Idaho State

(18) De’Shaan Dixon, LB, Norfolk State

(7) Decobie Durant, CB, South Carolina State

(97) Noah Elliss, DT, Idaho

(41) James Houston IV, LB, Jackson State

(4) E.J. Perry, QB, Brown

(20) Pierre Strong Jr., RB, South Dakota State

(83) Samori Toure, WR, Nebraska (Montana)

(17) Calvin Turner Jr., RB/WR, Hawaii (Jacksonville)

(8) Tre Walker, ILB, Idaho

West Roster

(N/A) Isaiah Chambers, DE, McNeese

(12) Qwynnterrio Cole, S, Louisville (Alcorn State)

(25) Clint Ratkovich, FB, Northern Illinois (Western Illinois)

(8) Jerreth Sterns, WR, Western Kentucky (Houston Baptist)

(92) Brayden Thomas, DE, North Dakota State

(67) Cordell Volson, OT, North Dakota State

Notable

South Dakota State game-breaker Pierre Strong Jr.’s 7.2 career yards per carry marked the highest average in the last 25 years for FCS players over 400 attempts. Also, the 5-11, 205-pound Strong completed all nine of his career pass attempts with six going for TDs. … In two seasons at Brown following a transfer from Boston College, E.J. Perry produced two of the top three highest Ivy League seasons for total offensive yards – posting a record-setting 3,678 in 2019 and the third-highest, 3,435, in 2021. Ivy teams play 10-game seasons. … In an oddity, South Carolina State cornerback Decobie Durant (5-11, 180) had 12 career interceptions, but zero return yards. … In 13 games as a senior, Jackson State’s James Houston IV (6-1, 225) tied for the second-most tackles for loss (24.5) and sacks (16.5) in the FCS. … Idaho’s Noah Elliss (6-4, 367) has NFL genes. His father Luther was an NFL Pro Bowl defensive tackle and older brother Kaden, a former Vandals linebacker, was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 2019.

73rd Reese’s Senior Bowl

Feb. 5 at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama (2:30 p.m. EST, NFL Network)

American Roster

(5) Jequez Ezzard, WR/PR, Sam Houston

(99) Eric Johnson, DT, Missouri State

(77) Braxton Jones, OT, Southern Utah

(32) Zyon McCollum, CB, Sam Houston

(98) John Ridgeway III, DT, Arkansas (Illinois State)

(17) Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky (Houston Baptist)

National Roster

(45) Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State

(81) Trae Berry, TE/LS, Boston College (Jacksonville State)

(65) Ja’Tyre Carter, OT, Southern

(70) Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

(69) Cole Strange, OG, Chattanooga

(73) Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota

(1) Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State

(75) Nick Zakelj, OT, Fordham

Notable

The Senior Bowl has gone big (literally) in FCS offensive linemen with six overall, including a projected first-round draft pick in UNI’s physical tackle Trevor Penning (6-7, 321). … North Dakota State’s nine draft selections since 2014 are the FCS high. Christian Watson (6-5, 208), who’s considered a third-round target, is expected to become the first Bison wide receiver to be drafted since Stacy Robinson went to the New York Giants in the second round in 1985. Watson averaged 55.2 yards on 18 career TDs (14 receiving, two rushing and two kickoff return). … Montana State’s versatile Troy Andersen (6-4, 235), the 2021 Buck Buchanan Award runner-up, played inside linebacker, outside linebacker, quarterback and running back during his career. … Sam Houston’s Zyon McCollum (6-3, 200) picked off 13 passes and had 54 pass breakups – the high among FCS draft prospects – in a 56-game career. … As a grad transfer, former Houston Baptist QB Bailey Zappe (6-1, 220) set Division I single-season records for passing yards (5,967) and TD passes (62) at Western Kentucky. … The premier all-star game has added an HBCU combine, with on-field workouts set for Jan. 29.


Graphic by Matt Sisneros.