While most of the fanfare and conversation about NFL Draft prospects traditionally surrounds high-profile FBS programs, schools at the FCS generate high-end talent every year, and prospects from those schools should not be overlooked. Each week, The 33rd Team highlights a handful of FCS standouts from small schools around the country. Here are 5 players who caught our eye in Week 3.
(Jr.) Ulonzo Gilliam Jr., RB, UC Davis
The leading rusher amongst all FCS RBs last weekend was University of California at Davis Junior, Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. He rushed for 191 yards on 26 carries and added 4 catches through the air. He also chipped in a weekend-high 3 touchdowns, had the most carries of 10-plus yards with 6, and forced 5 missed tackles.
Most notably, Gilliam was the highest-graded running back in the country with an 88.4 overall grade, 10 points better than second place. Heading into Week 4, Gilliam has the second-most rushing yards in the FCS, the most runs of 10-plus yards, and is tied for fourth in missed tackles. Next weekend, he’ll face a stingy Weber State team whose run defense is ranked in the top 20 by PFF.
(Sr.) Harrison Beemiller, LB, Northern Arizona
Preseason All-Big Sky standout Harrison Beemiller had one of the top linebacking performances in the FCS this weekend. In a huge matchup against Arizona, Beemiller recorded a game-high 11 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, had one forced fumble, and earned an 80.9 overall grade from PFF (7th amongst LBs). His most crucial efforts were in run defense where he had an incredible 97.0 overall grade and held Arizona to 106 yards with an average of just 3.9 yards per carry.
For the season, Harrison Beemiller grades just outside the top 10 at linebacker. He’ll look to follow up this performance next week against Northern Colorado.
(Sr.) Bryce Rodgers, DL, UC Davis
UC Davis senior Bryce Rodgers finished the weekend as the second-highest graded FCS defender at 93.3. In a 60-27 rout last weekend of Dixie State, Rodgers compiled 4 hurries, 6 tackles, 1 sack, and 4 defensive stops. He also had the highest pass-rushing grade of the weekend at 91.6. Rodgers’ disruptiveness was a big reason why they were able to force Dixie State QB Kenyon Oblad into 5 interceptions and a completion percentage of 55%.
Entering his sixth season at Davis, Rodgers is putting together one of his best stretches of football. He currently has career highs in overall grade, pass-rushing grade, and run defense grade. He’s also on pace to break his previous career-high in sacks, which was four.
(R-Sr.) Xavier Smith, WR, Florida A&M
After getting off to a slow start to the season, Florida A&M standout Xavier Smith came up big in their game Saturday against South Florida. He led all FCS wideouts in catches and receiving yards this weekend with 14 receptions for 132 yards. Even more impressive, Smith was able to do this against a Division One opponent. The shifty receiver did most of his damage in the short area and also behind the line of scrimmage. On throws from 0-9 yards, Smith caught 5 passes on 6 targets for 60 yards. Behind the line of scrimmage, Smith hauled in 6 of his 14 catches for 25 yards.
With his performance in Week 3, Smith is now back to looking like the player who had 1,159 yards and 11 touchdowns last time he suited up. After a bye this upcoming week, Smith will take on an Alabama A&M secondary that ranks in the bottom half of the FCS in coverage.