Author: Jason Tyrant

Kevin Byard will be a household name

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FS Kevin Byard was tabbed as our breakout candidate of the year prior to the season. (Photo Credit: titansonline.com)

What defensive coordinator has more success with safeties than the legend, Dick Lebeau? He has orchestrated some of the most fearsome defenses in the NFL throughout his coaching career. When a coach with his level of expertise handpicks a prospect, there is a good chance that he will pan out. Dick Lebeau was vocal about Middle Tennessee safety, Kevin Byard. Before the season, we chose him to be our Breakout Candidate of the year.

His rookie campaign was solid, yet unspectacular. With poor cornerback play last season, Byard was left cleaning up broken coverages and holding the last line of defense. The cornerback position has been rehauled since then and two games into this season, he has been very outstanding. He’s great in coverage and active in run support. The former Middle Tennessee standout has already racked up 14 tackles.

Extrapolate those numbers through a 16 game slate, and he would be looking at 112 tackles.  Are those tackle numbers sustainable? Maybe not. But, this week against the Jaguars, Byard played all 67 defensive snaps. He was the only player on the defense to do so. The coaching staff has faith in him, and so does the man who drafted him.

“He’s always had a swagger, but he’s more vocal. He’s kind of the field general back there.”  Titan’s GM Jon Robinson on Kevin Byard’s progression.

Pair his instincts and his high motor together, add in being on the field for the majority of defensive snaps, and you’re going to see Kevin Byard blow up this year. Anything less than top five safety numbers this season, would be an absolute surprise.

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The Titans throttle Jacksonville

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Derrick Henry will not be denied the touchdown, runs right over Jalen Ramsey.

In what was most certainly a tale of two halves, the Titans proved that they are the smashmouth kings of the AFC South. It seemed like coaches Mike Mularkey and Doug Marrone were using the same playbook in the first half, feeling each other out and trying to establish the run game.

It was tough sledding for the Titans early, and the Jacksonville defensive line kept Demarco Murray bottled up. Likewise, Jacksonville’s Fournette couldn’t get much going either. Marcus Mariota had a spotty first half, with a few questionable throws. Including an errant throw that was picked off by Telvin Smith. He settled down once the run game started to take off. He ended the day 15/27 with 215 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

The real story on the day was the emergence of Derrick Henry. He did most of his damage in the second half, and had a career high 92 yards on the day with a touchdown. He consistently broke tackles, and the Jaguars couldn’t slow him down.

 

Blake Bortles is always going to Bortles it seems, his three turnovers were nails in the coffin for Jaguars. Brian Orakpo hit him for a strip sack in the second quarter, which was recovered by Erik Walden. Then Bortles had two tipped balls in the second half that the opportunistic Titans defense intercepted.

The Titans dropped 31 points on Jacksonville in the second half, and validated some of the hype that media pundits were lavishing on them prior to the season. Next week’s matchup, against the Seattle Seahawks, will be another bar fight and will test the toughness of this Titans team. Fantasy owners, do what you can to move Demarco Murray, King Henry has ascended his throne.

 

 

 

Predicting Every Week 3 FCS Matchup

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South Dakota QB Chris Streveler will look to keep his hot streak rolling against a tough North Dakota squad.

Week 3 Matchups

Predicted winners denoted with (+)

Samford vs Georgia (+)

Mercer vs Auburn (+)

Delaware State vs West Virginia (+)

San Diego vs Princeton (+)

Furman vs NC State (+)

Bryant (+) vs Brown

Yale vs Lehigh (+)

Jacksonville (+) vs Walsh

Marist (+) vs Georgetown

Harvard (+) vs Rhode Island

Fordham vs Eastern Washington (+)

Ohio Dominican vs Penn (+)

Wagner (+) vs Columbia

Duquesne (+) vs Dayton

Citadel (+) vs ETSU

New Hampshire (+) vs Holycross

Central Conn. State vs Youngstown State (+)

Northern Colorado vs Colorado (+)

Howard vs Richmond (+)

Valparaiso (+) vs Trinity Int’l

John C. Smith vs South Carolina State (+)

Illinois State (+) vs Eastern Illinois

Murray State (+) vs Missouri State

VMI (+) vs Robert Morris

Tennessee Tech vs Ball State (+)

North Dakota vs South Dakota (+)

Savannah State vs Montana (+)

Morgan State vs Rutgers (+)

Cornell vs Delaware (+)

Norfolk State vs James Madison (+)

UC Davis vs Portland State (+)

Western Carolina (+) vs Gardner-Webb

Florida A&M vs Tennessee State (+)

Lafayette vs Villanova (+)

Colgate (+) vs Buffalo

Livingstone vs Hampton (+)

Bucknell vs William & Mary (+)

North Carolina A&T (+) vs Charlotte

Indiana State vs Liberty (+)

Sacred Heart vs Stony Brook (+)

UT-Martin (+) vs UT-Chattanooga

Dartmouth (+) vs Stetson

Charleston Southern (+) vs Elon

Bethune-Cookman vs Florida Atlantic (+)

Taylor University vs Butler (+)

Towson vs St. Francis (Pa) (+)

Idaho State vs Nevada (+)

Morehead State vs Austin Peay (+)

Alabama A&M vs South Alabama (+)

Drake vs South Dakota State (+)

Lamar (+) vs Northwestern State

Southeastern La. vs Central Arkansas (+)

Guilford vs Davidson (+)

Monmouth (+) vs Albany

Southern vs UTSA (+)

Southern Illinois (+) vs SEMO

Prairie View A&M vs Nicholls State (+)

Incarnate Word vs Stephen F. Austin (+)

Campbell vs Presbyterian (+)

Jackson State vs Grambling State (+)

McNeese vs Alcorn State (+)

Ark.-Pine Bluff vs Arkansas State (+)

Houston Baptist vs Abiliene Christian (+)

Northern Iowa (+) vs Southern Utah

Kennesaw State (+) vs Alabama State

Weber State (+) vs Sacramento State

2017 Small School Draft: Top 20 Results

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Bears TE Adam Shaheen

Summary

Taking a look at our top 20 players from last year’s pre-draft, small school big board. And our results are in.

 

11 players made the final 53 man rosters on their team

1 player retired with an opportunity to play, to pursue a coaching career

1 player is designated as a non football injury and eligible to return Week 8

2 players ended their season on IR

5 players waived by their team

 

 

The Prospects

1. Derek Rivers (Youngstown State EDGE) *drafted 3rd Rd 83rd overall to the New England Patriots–Season Ending IR (ACL)

2. Adam Shaheen (Division II Ashland TE) *drafted 2nd Rd 45th overall to the Chicago Bears–Made the 53 Man Roster

3. Julien Davenport (Bucknell OT) *drafted 4th Rd 130th overall to the Houston Texans–Made the 53 Man Roster

4. Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington WR) *drafted 3rd Rd 69th overall to the LA Rams–Made the 53 Man Roster

5. Tanoh Kpassagnon (Villanova DE) *drafted 2nd Rd 59th overall to the Kansas City Chiefs–Made the 53 Man Roster

6. Jordan Morgan (Division II Kutztown OG) *drafted 5th Rd 147th overall to the Chicago Bears–Season Ending IR (Shoulder)

7. Corey Levin (UT Chattanooga OG) *drafted 6th Rd 217th overall to the Tennessee Titans–Made the 53 Man Roster

8. Lorenzo Jerome (Saint Francis FS) *Signed as UDFA with San Francisco 49ers–Made the 53 Man Roster

9. Brendan Langley (Lamar CB) *drafted 3rd Rd 101st overall to the Denver Broncos–Made the 53 Man Roster

10. Jessamen Dunker (Tennessee State OG) *Signed as UDFA with the NY Giants–Waived by the Giants

11. Ezra Robinson (Tennessee State CB) *Signed as UDFA with the Jacksonville Jaguars–Waived by the Jaguars

12. Javancy Jones (Jackson State LB) *Signed as UDFA with the Arizona Cardinals–Retired to pursue a coaching career

13. Chad Williams (Grambling State WR) * drafted 3rd Rd 98th overall to the Arizona Cardinals–Made the 53 Man Roster

14. Keionta Davis (UT Chattanooga)*Signed as UDFA with the New England Patriots–Designated non football injury and eligible to return in 8 weeks

15. Roderick Henderson (Alabama State NT) *Signed as UDFA with the Tennessee Titans–Waived by the Titans

16. Javarious Leamon (South Carolina State OT) *Signed as UDFA with the NY Jets–Waived by the Jets

17. Kendrick Bourne (Eastern Washington WR) *Signed as UDFA with the San Francisco 49ers–Made the 53 Man Roster

18. Samson Ebukam (Eastern Washington EDGE) *drafted 4th Rd 125th overall to the LA Rams–Made the 53 Man Roster

19. Jylan Ware (Alabama State OT) *drafted 7th Rd 231st overall to the Oakland Raiders–Made the 53 Man Roster

20. Ethan Cooper (Division II IUP OG) *Signed as UDFA with the Pittsburgh Steelers–Waived by the Steelers

Senior Position Rankings: RB

1.) Chase Edmonds (Fordham)

2.) Roc Thomas (Jacksonville State)

3.) Martez Carter (Grambling State)

4.) Detrez Newsome (Western Carolina)

5.) Ja’Quan Gardner (Humboldt State)

6.) Corey Avery (Sam Houston State)

7.) Cardon Johnson (James Madison)

8.) Joe Protheroe (Cal Poly)

9.) Trenton Cannon (Virginia State)

10.) James Holland (Colgate)

Patriots lose a much needed pass rusher

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The New England Patriots used their top selection, a third round pick, on Derek Rivers from Youngstown State. Rivers spent his college career terrorizing quarterbacks, and was expected to do much of the same in Foxboro. Rivers, who was already a hot name in small school draft circles, really boosted his stock with an outstanding showing at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

Bill Belichick has never been afraid of throwing the dice on small school prospects, and generally comes out on the winning side. Though Rivers is an exceptional prospect athletically, the question was if his skill set was translatable. He was showing his ability in joint practices with the Houston Texans, dragging down Tom Savage for a sack at one point. In an unfortunate turn of events, the former Youngstown State defensive end went down with a knee injury while covering a kickoff. Though he walked off the field under his own power, it was later determined Rivers had torn his ACL and sprained his LCL. It looks like he may be lost for the season, whch depletes an already thin position for the Patriots. They will probably look to upgrade their depth, via trade or a signing.

Though its a tough pill to swallow for the young rookie, Derek Rivers is a hard worker and is devout in his faith. Expect this young man to battle back, and be better than he was prior to the injury. Speedy recovery Derek.

Follow me on Twitter for more small school football news!

Final Pre-Season Edition: Top 100 Small School Big Board (80-100)

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WR Julius Jones from North Alabama (photo credit to The News Courier)

 

80 Julius Jones WR North Alabama
81 Joe Protheroe RB Cal Poly
82 Erik Furmanek TE Missouri State
83 George Dawson LB Fordham
84 Damon Gibson WR MSU Morhead
85 Austin Kuhnert C North Dakota State
86 Joe Kupcikevicius OT Azusa Pacific
87 Marcus Bagley RB St. Francis
88 Cardell Best DE Central Arkansas
89 James King DT Shepherd
90 Taylor Nikithser C Cal (Pa)
91 Antonio Brown DE North Carolina Central
92 Chris Durant OG William & Mary
93 David Reese OT Montana
94 Kevin Anderson QB Fordham
95 Darious Crawley WR McNeese
96 Bakari Triggs CB Lindenwood
97 Jordan Hein QB Bemidji State
98 Connor Strahm LB Montana
99 Tremon Smith CB Central Arkansas
100 Ray Clark FS San Diego

Breakout Candidate of the Year: Tennessee Titans (Part 1)

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Former MTSU standout is looking to build on an excellent rookie campaign.

Dick Lebeau’s defensive scheme is always at it’s peak when it has a playmaking safety patrolling the secondary. His most iconic player ever, is likely former Pittsburgh Steelers’ great, Troy Polamalu. Coach Lebeau left the land of the Yinzers, and travelled south to Nashville to mastermind a defensive turnaround for the Tennessee Titans.

In the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Titans braintrust selected a safety from Middle Tennessee State, Kevin Byard. Dick Lebeau was very impressed with him and said, “He has an exceptional football mind and I think that is one of his strengths. He is going to grow and he is going to be a coach on the field, there is no question about that.” That’s glowing praise from a legendary coordinator.

Byard went on to validate much of it in his rookie season, playing in all 16 games and starting in 7. He had 63 tackles and four passes defended. DBkM3kvUQAE0w7S.jpgAccording to Pro Football Focus, in the 7 games he started, Byard gave up the second fewest receiving yards per snap (.22) in the NFL. Byard will start all 16 games next season, barring injury, and will have plenty of opportunities to build on a good rookie campaign.

The Tennessee Titans secondary has a new look this year, after several key additions. With the Titans signing Logan Ryan (former New England Patriot) and drafting Adoree Jackson (USC) in the first round, cornerback play should be much improved from the travesty that was fielded last season. When Byard learns to trust his cornerbacks, he’ll be able to attack the ball more frequently. Another season within Lebeau’s scheme will see him grow as a player. By the end of next season, expect Kevin Byard’s name to be in the conversation with some of the best safeties in the league.

Follow @Jason_Tyrant on Twitter for more Titans analysis.

Getting to know your team’s small school prospects: Tennessee Titan Corey Levin

With the 217th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans selected Corey Levin from Chattanooga. To the average fan, Corey Levin is an enigma. He comes from the Football Championship Subdivision, which is generally seen as a step down in competition. Though teams like North Dakota State and Eastern Washington scored wins against FBS opponents last season, hailing from the FCS can still be have a bit of a stigma.

Levin was a dominant player for UT Chattanooga, he was a three time All-American and was awarded the Jacob’s Blocking Award (Top offensive lineman in the Southern Conference) twice.

 Three-time All-American … two-time winner of the SoCon Jacobs Blocking Award … one of only 11 players in league history to win the honor twice … three-year starter on the offensive line … played both guard and tackle … started 51 games in his career, including the final 45 in a row … three of the top-5 rushing totals in school history came while he was a starter on the offensive line … one of only five three-time All-Americans in school history.

via gomocs.com

 

Levin is a versatile offensive lineman, that played both tackle and guard in college. So far for the Titans, he’s also put in time at Center. His movement skills are outstanding, and he can get to the second level in a hurry. He’s an athletic prospect, but could probably benefit from a “redshirt” season this year to add functional size and strength. Levin has a bright future, and stands a very good chance to end up as the successor to the Titans’ current center, Ben Jones. He was the number seven overall prospect on last year’s Tyrant Scouting’s Small School Big Board.

Will Eric Decker end up in Nashville?

The New York Jets recently released wide receiver Eric Decker, in what has been a roster purging. Now as a free agent, he can choose where he continues his career. His first stop was in Tennessee, where he spent the day and watched practice with Mike Mularkey and John Robinson. This move makes sense for both parties. He and his wife, country singer Jessie James, have a home in Nashville. The Titans recently used draft picks to bolster a weak wide receiving unit, and added Western Michigan’s Corey Davis and Western Kentucky’s Taywan Taylor. Both picks have been getting very good reviews so far.

Eric Decker would bring a veteran presence to the unit, that Harry Douglas and Tajae Sharpe really can’t provide. While last season was cut short by injury, 2015 was a very good campaign for him. Decker left without a deal, but could see one offered in the coming days. The meeting was basically the Titans just touching bases with the former Jet, to see if he was healthy. If signed, he could give the Titans another reliable option, and could serve as a one way ticket out for the under-performing Harry Douglas or the accused bar brawler Tajae Sharpe.