In the FCS Huddle: FCS draft class primer

Unpublished

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Half the FCS conferences may not have one player selected in this week's NFL Draft, let alone two.

That makes a school with multiple selections few and far between.

So consider the University of Montana, which not only expects to have two players selected in the three-day draft but a pair who lined up next to each other the last two seasons.

Impressive.

Outside linebacker Jordan Tripp and inside linebacker Brock Coyle are a special combo from UM. Tripp is the prototype for a hardnosed 'backer - a two-time Buck Buchanan Award finalist with determination and range - and many will say Coyle is coming off an even better senior season than his teammate and fellow defensive captain.

Tripp is considered a third- or fourth-round possibility, while Coyle is more a late-round choice, though since the end of the season he is one of the biggest risers among FCS players.

"He had a fantastic senior year," Montana coach Mick Delaney said of Coyle. "Our three linebackers (Coyle, Tripp, and senior J.P. Kanongata'a), as I said during the season, was as good of a group as there was as any team at the FCS level. The success of our team on defense was related directly to the play of those three linebackers."

Tripp, a chiseled 6-foot-3, 237 pounds, was a hometown player who stayed in Missoula to play at Montana. It is believed he would become the first UM player out of Missoula to be selected in the draft.

The All-American played in the Senior Bowl and drew notice at the NFL Combine by posting the fastest 20-yard shuttle run (3.96 seconds) since A.J. Hawk in 2006

Teammates picked Coyle (6-1, 235) as Montana's defensive MVP after his senior season, when he was the Grizzlies' top tackler with 125 stops, and had a team- high five forced fumbles. He played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and had a strong pro day, including a 4.6-second clocking in the 40-yard dash.

Montana is generally accustomed to sending players to the NFL unlike any other FCS program now that Appalachian State is moving on to the FBS. There were nine from the Big Sky school on rosters last season, and the Grizzlies had a pair of draft choices in both 2010 and '12.

OVC UPTICK

After shattering its win drought in the FCS playoffs last season, the Ohio Valley Conference might be ready for an encore.

None of its teams had succeeded in the postseason since 2000 until Eastern Illinois, Jacksonville State and Tennessee State all won at least one playoff game.

This week, the OVC will challenge to have the most draft selections from the FCS, led by EIU quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the 2013 Walter Payton Award winner who is expected to go first from the division. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans appear to be among the more interested teams.

Other OVC possibilities are his Garoppolo's teammate at EIU, wide receiver Erik Lora, offensive guard Kadeem Edwards and tight end A.C. Leonard of Tennessee State and wide receiver Walter Powell of Murray State.

CAA Football has plenty of candidates as well with Towson running back Terrance West, Delaware nose tackle Zach Kerr, Maine cornerback Kendall James, James Madison offensive tackle Josh Wells, and defensive ends Kerry Wynn of Richmond and Rakim Cox of Villanova.

YEAR OF THE WIDESPREAD TALENT

NFL teams tend to look favorably on linebackers, cornerbacks and offensive linemen coming from the FCS level. In fact, the first FCS selections in 10 of the last 11 years have come from those positions.

Garoppolo (quarterback) could go first this year and West (running back) and offensive linemen Dakota Dozier of Furman and Billy Turner of North Dakota State also are among the top picks.

But this year the selections in the FCS draft class should be more spread around different positions.

STOCK UP, STOCK DOWN

Walt Aikens' terrific pro day has gotten the Liberty cornerback noticed among NFL teams and he might have moved up to the fifth or sixth round. The one-time University of Illinois player has good press ability with his outstanding size for the position (6-1, 205).

A year ago, North Dakota State's Marcus Williams would have been considered for the top cornerback spot now held down by Aikens. He had a terrific career with three straight years of first-team All-American honors and FCS national titles with the Bison, but he seems to foresake the routine plays for the spectacular ones. He has the skills of a safety, but not the NFL size at 5-11, 195.

JUNIOR PROSPECTS

An unusually high nine FCS players entered the draft with another year of eligibility: running backs West of Towson, Isaiah Crowell of Alabama State and John Spooney of Brown; tight ends A.C. Leonard of Tennessee State and Nic Jacobs of McNeese State; wide receiver Jamel Johnson of Alabama State; safeties Pierre Warren of Jacksonville State and Nick Addison of Bethune-Cookman; and offensive tackle Terrance Hackney of Bethune-Cookman.

West, graded as a third-round talent, is probably hoping to come off the board with his hometown Baltimore Ravens, who have two picks in the third round. The Tennessee Titans appear highly interested as well.

Crowell and Leonard might be late-round selections on Saturday. The other players may all have to sign as undrafted free agents.

FCS SELECTIONS

The FCS selections spiked with 24 in 2008, including the two most recent first- round selections - Arizona taking cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of Tennessee State with the 16th pick and Baltimore picking quarterback Joe Flacco with the 18th pick. The number of FCS selections in recent drafts:

2007 - 17; 2008 - 24; 2009 - 15; 2010 - 19; 2011 - 21; 2012 - 15; 2013 - 19

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