The U. in FCS college football
By CRAIG HALEY
(Stats Perform) - Sports Illustrated recently published a story that analyzed data from the 2010s to identify which FBS programs can brand themselves as the modern "U" at different positions.
We've crunched a decade's worth of numbers with FCS programs and found similar results.
FCS dynasty North Dakota State is the U. at three of eight positions with five other schools earning one distinction each. That's what SI found with FBS power Alabama being the U. at three positions and five other schools claiming one position title each.
"U" want it, "U" got it:
Quarterback U.: North Dakota State
Don't even try to look elsewhere. Four different Bison signal callers have directed eight FCS titles in the last nine seasons: Brock Jensen, who set the subdivision record for career wins, later topped by Easton Stick's 49; Carson Wentz, the highest NFL Draft choice from an FCS school (No. 2 in 2016); and Trey Lance, the first freshman to receive the Stats Perform Walter Payton Award as the national offensive player of the year.
Running Back U.: North Dakota State
This is the most competitive Position U. race, but volume wins out with the way the Bison unveil a stable of running backs across deep playoff seasons. John Crockett, Sam Ojuri, Bruce Anderson III, King Frazier and D.J. McNorton combined for 10 1,000-yard seasons during the 2010s, and Lance Dunn and Ty Brooks joined them as seven of the FCS' top 126 rushers in the decade. Honorable mention to James Madison, North Carolina A&T, Stony Brook and Youngstown State.
Wide Receiver U.: Eastern Washington
Cooper Kupp rewrote record books as basically everybody's FCS player of the decade, and he has gone on to additional fame with the Los Angeles Rams. Brandon Kaufman, Kendrick Bourne, Shaq Hill, Nicholas Edwards and Nsimba Webster are some of the other wideouts who have gone from the red turf to the next level. The Eagles had 10 wide receivers reach 100 receptions in the 2010s, and rising junior Andrew Boston will be next in 2020.
Tight End U.: Drake
No, don't be surprised by Drake. There were 24 FCS tight ends with 100 or more receptions in the 2010s and four starred at the Pioneer Football League school - twice as many as any other FCS program. Consistent production has been the staple with Drake tight ends. Eric Saubert was the Bulldogs' first NFL Draft pick in 24 years in 2017 and leads the group that also boasts Devin Cates, Kevin Marshall and Michael Hudson.
Offensive Line U.: North Dakota State
Bison O-linemen steamroll defenders to allow Quarterback U. and Running Back U. to go to work. In the last eight seasons, the Missouri Valley Conference kingpin has had a first-team Stats Perform All-American with NFL draft picks Billy Turner and Joe Haeg (two times each) and Austin Kuhnert, Dillon Radunz, Tanner Volson and the first of two Zack Johnsons. Joe Lund, like Volson, was named the top FCS center, while an incredible 11 different Bison were named first-team all-conference in the 2010s.
Defensive Line U.: Northern Iowa
UNI has had a first-team All-Missouri Valley defensive lineman in 12 of the last 13 seasons, and that usually translates to All-Americans. Karter Schult received the 2016 Stats Perform Buck Buchanan Award as the national defensive player of the year. The fearsome pass rushers also have included Ricky Neal Jr. and Elerson Smith, while Ben Boothby, Adam Reth and Xavier Williams have plugged the interior at a top level.
Linebacker U.: Montana
Caleb McSurdy and Jordan Tripp were NFL Draft choices, but their former teammate Brock Coyle had an even longer career at the next level. Dante Olson emerged from teammate Josh Buss' shadow to set the school record for tackles and claim the 2019 Buck Buchanan Award just one year after finishing third. Also noteworthy: Tyrone Holmes won top defensive honors as a defensive end at Montana, but the Grizzlies' most recent draft choice (2016) has played outside linebacker for five different NFL teams.
Defensive Back U.: James Madison
It's take a thief, and, oh, do the Dukes have defensive backs with sticky fingers. The second half of the decade was especially strong: NFL Draft pick Jimmy Moreland had 18 interceptions, including six returned for touchdowns, and Raven Greene, Jordan Brown, Rashad Robinson, Dean Marlowe and Taylor Reynolds joined him with double-figure picks. Adam Smith and D'Angelo Amos were 2019 standouts. North Dakota State isn't far behind in the D-back conversation. No surprise, of course.
Updated April 2, 2020