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 8.
(Sr.) Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
Montana State middle linebacker Troy Andersen showed once again why he’s one of the top FCS prospects in the country. He finished the day with a season-high 16 tackles and added 3 stops, 1 tackle for loss, and 2 pass breakups. Moreover, Andersen only missed one tackle and finished with a top 10 PFF grade amongst FCS linebackers.
Andersen has had an interesting career. Despite currently being an All-American at linebacker, Andersen has set multiple rushing records while at Montana State. As a freshman, he started games at both linebacker and running back on his way to Big Sky freshman of the year. He was the first Montana State true freshman to start at RB in his first game since 1990. His sophomore year, playing quarterback, he ran for 21 touchdowns and had a school record nine 100-yard rushing games (six consecutively at one point).
His junior year, he moved to OLB and recorded 11.5 TFL and was also an FCS All-American. This past offseason, Andersen made the switch to MLB, where through 8 weeks he’s earned a stellar PFF grade of 83.6. After a bye this week, Andersen and Montana State will face off with Eastern Washington’s Eric Barriere in a highly anticipated matchup between two top 10 teams.
(Fr.) Darius Hale, RB, Central Arkansas
True freshman running back Darius Hale helped his team move past Lamar with 253 yards rushing and 4 TDs. His 253 rushing yards on Saturday was the second-highest total in program history behind Blake Veasley. On 22 carries, Hale had 4 runs of 10 yards, including touchdowns of 67 and 69 yards. He ran for a first down or touchdown on 40.9 percent of his carries, which was a top 10 mark in week 8. Hale was able to put up gaudy rushing numbers despite his blocking grading out relatively poorly. Not a single one of his offensive linemen graded out with a PFF grade above 70. His highest graded blocker Saturday had a grade of 66.3.
With 13 touchdowns on the season, Hale is now tied for the FCS lead. The former three-star recruit has clearly started to find his footing as he’s rushed for 92, 99, and 253 yards in his past three games. His outstanding freshman season continues next week against Jacksonville State.
(So.) Ty French, EDGE, Gardner-Webb
The top pass rushing performance in the FCS this weekend belongs to Gardner-Webb sophomore Ty French. He made his presence felt with 3 sacks, 9 tackles (5 solo), 4 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, and 4 QB hits. His most impactful play of the game came late in the first when he beat the OT around the edge and forced a strip sack in the end zone to further the lead to 14-0. On that play he made the offensive tackle completely turn around and got in the backfield so quickly that the quarterback didn’t see him at all. The very next drive, French recovered a fumble that led to the offense punching it in for a 21-0 lead at the start of the 2nd quarter.
After a spring season in which he recorded 35 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 10 hurries in 4 games, French has followed it up very nicely. So far he has 7.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 12 hurries, and 40 tackles. French and his Gardner-Webb team have a tough task next week against No. 10 Kennesaw State.
(R-So.) Carlos Davis, QB, Western Carolina
JUCO transfer Carlos Davis had his best performance of the season going 31 of 42 for 427 yards and 3 touchdowns. At halftime Davis already had 320 yards and 3 touchdowns and was the main reason why they were able to jump out to a commanding 31-10 lead. His biggest play in the first half came on the first play of the game, when he hit a 43-yard bomb to wide receiver TJ Jones. A few plays after that, he finished off the drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass. His 401 yards on Saturday was a career-high.
Davis’ arrival at Western Carolina was highly anticipated. In his previous JUCO season he put up 1,250 yards and 14 passing touchdowns while rushing for nearly 500 yards and 5 touchdowns.