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Breakout Linemen Across FCS College Football

Khalen Saunders-1.jpg

Western Illinois DT Khalen Saunders

It’s easy for FCS college football fans to know the exploits of, say, North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick or UC Davis wide receiver Keelan Doss.


Win a most outstanding player award in the national championship game or be one of the leading NFL draft prospects coming out the FCS and the acclaim flows.

Recognition isn’t as easy for the big uglies down in the trenches, but they’re players worth watching.

Following are a half dozen FCS linemen who could advance from an all-conference level to All-America status in 2018:

Drew Forbes, Southeast Missouri State

OT, Sr., 6-5, 305

With Forbes anchoring the O-line at left tackle, the Redhawks did well to protect its quarterbacks and help Marquis Terry lead the Ohio Valley Conference in rushing. A second-team all-conference selection, Forbes should find himself in an NFL camp next year.

Ethan Greenidge, Villanova

OT, Sr., 6-4, 335

His size, instincts and quick feet have helped Greenidge earn second-team All-CAA Football recognition. A healthier Villanova offense is expecting a big season, and success begins up front with its veteran leader (33 career starts) -- one of the better O-linemen in the nation -- paving the way.

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Darryl Johnson Jr., North Carolina A&T

DE, R-Sr., 6-5, 226

An impressive 103-inch wingspan allows Johnson to knock down passes at the line of scrimmage and reach in to strip the ball away from ball carriers. During the Aggies' 12-0 season last year, Johnson racked up 15.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks, and made the All-MEAC first team.

Noah Johnson, Idaho

OG, Jr., 6-4, 300

Idaho is returning to the FCS level in the Big Sky, giving Johnson the chance to be the best O-lineman in the conference. A starter inside in each of his first two seasons, he was named second team All-Sun Belt last year.

Isaiah Mack, Chattanooga

DT, R-Sr., 6-2, 280

Starting with a 54-tackle season as a freshman in 2016, Mack has been highly productive for three years. He has 30 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks in 37 career games. In a Southern Conference that’s always deep in D-linemen, the coaches named Mack to the second team last season.

Khalen Saunders, Western Illinois

DT, R-Sr., 6-2, 310

The big man in the middle is surprisingly agile for his size. He followed up a breakout sophomore season with 12 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks last year, making the All-Missouri Valley Football Conference first team.

-- Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.

(Photo courtesy of Western Illinois Athletics)