By Rebecca Rennie

Among the fantastic opening full week of college football games, a number of FCS prospects stood out. We’ve picked out a few to profile for this FCS Friday article. The action continues into Week 2, and we also highlight a couple of small school talents who will take on MAC and ACC opposition.

The non-conference contests against FBS competition provide key film for evaluation for these under-the-radar players for the 2023 NFL Draft class. Check out the names to know below that are the subject of our latest FCS Friday spotlight!


Photo Credit: Eastern Kentucky University Athletics

The 2022 draft class was deep with small school offensive linemen. This next group from outside the FBS appears set to be very talented at the tight end position. South Dakota State’s Tucker Kraft is rightly receiving much of the initial hype but there are many others vying to be selected in 2023. Eastern Kentucky’s Dakota Allen, a former quarterback, is making an early case for his own inclusion in the mix, following a big performance last week against MAC opposition Eastern Michigan.

The pass catching skills were on display from the opening drives. Allen was hit with a 31-yard reception running deep middle, securing the ball while facing contact between two defenders in tight coverage. Quickly following was a demonstration of his route running with a sharp out to the sideline for a further 16 yards. Taking another hit, he secured the ball cleanly while ensuring the feet were down in bounds.

After the Colonels got away from utilizing their best receiving weapon during the middle stretch of the contest, he reappears with intent in the latter stages of the game. Targeted in the end zone, Allen adjusted well to the back shoulder throw while going to the ground. His second score saw the tight end sneak behind the secondary to emerge free in the end zone for a simple touchdown catch. The EKU standout finished with 9 receptions for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Allen is a well-rounded contributor at the position, as a blocker and pass catcher. Moving smoothly with sufficient quickness and change of direction, he is a clean route runner with hands to rival most wide receivers. There is excellent feel for working through the middle-of-the-field traffic, finding open space. The physicality at the catch point makes him difficult to disrupt under aggressive coverage.

While stoutly built for his frame, Allen might not offer any dominant physical traits, in terms of elite length or burst. That said, he’s well built for his frame, impressing with his blocking from inline. Allen attacks his assignments as a blocker, providing a credible factor that aids him when releasing late into his routes. The Colonels draft prospect has another opportunity against MAC competition this weekend. Eastern Kentucky will visit Bowling Green as they continue their non-conference schedule.


Photo Credit: Angela Wang

Sam Houston is set to become an FBS school, but for this cycle, they remain a part of the Western Athletic Conference in the FCS, and eligible for inclusion in our small school series. The Bearkats took on one of the top ranked teams in the country in Texas A&M to open their season. The offense struggled in the 31-0 loss, but the defense contributed to keeping the score close throughout most of the first half. Helping in those efforts by SHSU was Texas transfer BJ Foster, likely to be particularly motivated to do well against a rival of his former team.

Foster looked the part of a former Power Five starter, with physical traits in keeping with that of those in the maroon and white jerseys. The safety features a stout, muscular frame and moves efficiently with solid range on the back end. Foster plays with a controlled demeanor, showing good positional discipline playing from deep. Decisive with his reads, he closes quickly to provide support against the pass. His lateral work came close to a couple of potential pass breakups through the contest.

During the middle of the second quarter, Foster did get his hands on the football. On a deep ball attempt from Aggies QB Haynes King, the Bearkats defensive back adjusted to the ball well after tracking it through the air for an impressive interception. It was not all clean in coverage though. Just prior to the half, a mix-up in the secondary led to Aggies receiver Ainias Smith getting behind the last line of defense for a long TD catch and run. Foster was left trailing and unable to recover and close to prevent the score.

Overall, there were more positives in the performance than not though. As a run defender, Foster broke down well in space on several occasional when moving downhill to confront ball carriers. The Longhorns transfer has size and physicality to hold up in the pros. Speaking of his transfer, there likely will be some questions asked. Reporting suggests some disagreements that occurred in September 2020 under Tom Herman. He did continue to play and start last season though, and well enough to earn Big 12 honorable mention in 2021.


Photo Credit: Campbell University

Another transfer from the Power Five level could prove to be a fascinating prospect come draft time in 2023. Former Wake Forest O-lineman Mike Edwards required to sit out his first two seasons with the Demon Deacons. The undisclosed injuries saw him not being cleared to play. After seeking a second opinion, he transferred to rising FCS program Campbell. He started all four games in the shortened 2020/21 spring season, before only three appearances in the 2021 fall.

The Camels left tackle is available and playing in his final season as he attempts to prove his pro potential. On the field, it’s clearly evident that he has desirable traits for the next level. A huge frame provides length, width, bulk and power to be a forceful presence in the trenches. For a bigger lineman, what stands out is his consistent form, footwork, leverage and overall control. Edwards extends well into contact with a strong punch.

While he impresses in the initial phase of engagement in pass protection, his post-contact work and grip retention can improve. Edwards absorbs and holds position well, but it was noted that he can be more reliable in sustaining blocks in the latter phases as pass rushers attempt to disengage. Encouragingly, that appeared to be minimized in his opening appearance of the 2022 season. Edwards was dominant through Campbell’s 29-10 win over The Citadel. The offensive tackle was impressive in manhandling the D-line, creating backward movement and forcing open running lanes.

Edwards stands out as a different physical presence to the majority he shares the field with, and importantly plays up to that stature. His reactions off the snap, kick slide execution and overall footwork are positives, but his general explosiveness and quickness may not feature among his most notable traits offered. Against The Citadel’s defensive line, there were a handful of times when Edwards appeared somewhat stretched in attempting to keep in contact with outside speed rushes. Difficult to work around with his good use of extension and wide frame, he can certainly still compensate. There is potential to offer versatile coverage at tackle or guard, should his medicals check out.



Photo Credit: Mark Seliger Photography

Crusaders edge defender Benton Whitley was an under-rated small school prospect for 2022 who has found a home on the practice squad of the LA Rams to start the new season. Remaining on the roster, Dobbs was the more notably productive playmaker on the Crusaders playoff team from a year ago. The intelligent and instinctive defensive leader piled up the production in his junior season. Dobbs contributed 137 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and 3 pass breakups.

The Patriot League star has an excellent early-season opportunity to showcase his talents against the MAC’s Buffalo Bulls this Saturday. Continuing to compile stats alongside his overall tangible impact is crucial for Dobbs as an NFL hopeful and Senior Bowl Watchlist prospect. The all-action linebacker and edge defender does not provide prototypical physical traits as part of his profile. The 5’11, 232 lb defender is smaller with less length than ideal. The fantastic motor and hustle are obvious positives. While the effort is high, the explosiveness as an athlete may prove more modest.

The referenced production attests to Dobbs’ reading of the game. However, there are still examples of some struggles in shedding blocks. Such instances can see him caught up in traffic. That said, his quick responses and positioning allows him an early jump toward the action. He moves around the defensive formation constantly, working as a pass rusher, blitzer, off-ball linebacker, in space. Rarely failing to wrap up a tackle, his finishing is impressive. Buffalo will be Dobbs’ sole opportunity against FBS competition this season, making it a key film for his evaluation.


Photo Credit: Furman Athletics

Returning full circle to the beginning of the article, the number of small school tight end prospects will be reflected across this season’s coverage. Another will be in action against one of the better defenses in the country this weekend. If Furman’s Ryan Miller can flash well against the Tigers’ stacked unit, the benefits for his draft projection will be significant. That certainly proved to be the case for a 2022 prospect last season. South Carolina State cornerback Cobie Durant had his best performance of the season against Clemson, including a pair of interceptions. That contributed toward his fourth-round draft selection to the LA Rams.

Miller’s 2021 junior season saw him lead the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches. That included a score against NC State in an early season matchup last season. Against an overmatched North Greenville to open this season, Miller warmed up for the Tigers with 4 catches, 85 yards (21.3 average) and a touchdown. Miller’s on-field execution is encouraging, if incomplete. His burst and quickness are readily apparent. He releases effectively and is able to earn a step working downfield. The precision of his routes and footwork can improve to more consistently get open from coverage and earn more targets.

In terms of the physical makeup, Miller is an intriguing trait combination. At a listed 6’2, 221 lbs, the Paladins prospect is closer to a wide receiver frame. There are similarities to his potential usage and projection to a personal favorite small school prospect from last year. Idaho State’s Tanner Conner could be used in TE, WR, FB and HB deployments. His physicality and athleticism composition saw Conner excel in camp and preseason to make the Miami Dolphins initial 53-man roster. Conner stood out against BYU in his final season; Miller will look to do similar against Clemson this Saturday.

Feature Image Credit: Eastern Kentucky University Athletics.

Rebecca Rennie

rebecca rennie


Rebecca is an NFL Draft analyst focusing primarily on the FCS and Group of Five conferences, and a fan of both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Stanford Cardinal. You can find her other articles here and follow on Twitter @bex_r86.