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FCS playoff watch list, game thread

The 2018 FCS playoff is underway! We’ve got a game thread for you along with some prospects to keep an eye on.

NCAA Football: DI Football Championship
Darrious Carter
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 college football regular season is rapidly coming to a close, with conference championship games this week and Army-Navy next week. Bowl season follows, and then before long we’ll be into the draft season!

This will serve as an open thread for today’s conference championship games, as well as the Big Game between Cal and Stanford. It was postponed to today due to the California fires. The schedule of notable FBS games today includes:

No. 14 Texas vs. No. 5 Oklahoma: 9 a.m. PT, ABC
Memphis at No. 8 UCF, 12:30 p.m. ABC
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Georgia, 1 p.m., CBS
No. 25 Fresno State vs. No. 22 Boise State, 4:45 p.m., ESPN
No. 2 Clemson vs. Pittsburgh, 5 p.m., ABC
No. 21 Northwestern vs. No. 6 Ohio State, 5 p.m., FOX

In addition to the conference championship games, Saturday’s schedule features the big names in the Football Championship Subdivision playoff. Formerly Division 1-AA, the FCS playoff features 24 teams playing a true playoff for the national title. Last week was the opening round, and this week, the seeded teams are in action. It gets started at 9 a.m. PT with Maine hosting Jacksonville State. For west coast football fans, U.C. Davis is hosting Northern Iowa at 4 p.m., and Eastern Washington is hosting Nicholls at 2 p.m.

Rather than provide prospects from the FBS teams in action today, I asked Josh, Alex, and Greg to put together some prospects they will be watching through the FCS playoff. Each offers up an offensive and defensive prospect to watch as the FCS playoff winds its way through the bracket to the national championship game on January 5th at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Josh Eccles

Iosua Opeta, G, No. 55 - Weber State
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 304 lbs.
Southeast Missouri State at Weber State | 1:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday, December 1 | ESPN3

Iosua Opeta has been a rock for the talented Wildcats, playing in 37 career games and helping push a balanced offense into the FCS playoffs for two consecutive seasons. He actually began his Weber State career as a defensive tackle as a freshman in 2015 -- registering 4 tackles a piece in his first college games at Oregon State and North Dakota State. He switched to the O-line as a sophomore in 2016 and immediately became a starter, showing his athleticism.

Opeta has what it takes to play on the offensive line in a Kyle Shanahan-led offense. He has the quickness and athleticism that allows him to stay in front pass rushers and open up lanes for running backs in a zone read offense. The Niners have both tackle positions solidified for at least another season or so but there is potential that one (or both) of the guard spots on the o-line may need some revamping. Opeta could potentially provide depth and eventually grow into a starter for years to come.

Darrious Carter, DE, No. 47 - James Madison
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 245 lbs.
James Madison at Colgate | 10:00 a.m. (PT) Saturday, December 1 | ESPN3

As a senior at Indiana (Pa.) High School, Carter was a 1,000-yard receiver who also had 15 sacks and 15 pass break-ups as a defensive end. He was a 960-point scorer in his basketball career, triple-jumped 45-6, and was a member of a school-record-setting 4 x 800 relay team. So to say that Carter is athletic would, at best, an understatement.

Quality pass-rushing specialists are priorities, and the Dukes appear to have a blooming one in rising senior Darrious Carter. In 2017, after transferring from Virginia, at JMU Carter had 7.5 sacks and showed just why he has what it takes to make it at the next level. His speed and high motor make it difficult for opponents to keep tabs on him and he’s still growing into his body, which is a good thing - right now he is at 245 lbs, which is 15 more than the season before. As long as he continues to develop his skillset and increase his strength then he should be just fine.

Alex Eisen

Jordan Brown, CB, No. 9 - South Dakota State
Height: 6’1 | Weight: 200 lbs.
Duquesne at South Dakota State | 12:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday, December 1 | ESPN3

The senior out of South Dakota State is continuing to turn heads and catch the attention of scouts and evaluators at the next level. The ballhawk, shutdown corner has been amongst the best in the nation in man to man and one to one coverage. Last season he recorded 3 interceptions with 72 tackles. Brown was efficient in taking his receiver out of the play, and cutting them off or disrupting their momentum on their route. Since last year Brown has been responsible for covering the opponent’s number option. Brown is a physical corner who brings fire and energy to the field, often pressing and challenging his receiver early and often.

There has not been a letdown this season, as Brown has only gotten stronger as a senior. So far, he has recorded 3 interceptions, with 13 passes broken up. Too add to his resume, Brown has impressive speed that allows him to stay with receivers on short, intermediate, and deep routes. He has great football instincts and anticipation, and puts himself more often than not in a position to make a play when the ball is thrown in his direction. Many draft boards have Brown amongst the top 20 draft-eligible corners. Brown is looking like a Day 2, Round 2-3 prospect with his arrow pointing up.

Keelan Doss, WR, No. 3 - UC Davis
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 209 lbs.
Northern Iowa at UC Davis | 4:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday December 1 | ESPN3

Keelan Doss has been a nightmare matchup this season at UC Davis. The senior offers great height and speed for the position. Davis is a burner who can take the top off of a defense, which is not as common with receivers as tall as he is. In addition, Doss uses his height and physicality to his advantage inside the twenty and the red-zone. Davis has great vertical and can out jump and physically dominate defensive backs in man to man coverage on the outside. His long, lengthy arms offer a big and friendly target window for quarterbacks to throw to. Doss can be looked at as a plug and play receiver who can play the X, Y, and Z option.

Has the frame and size that evaluators and scouts seek at the next level. Plays a physical brand of football and will fight for extra yardage when the pass is completed. His size and speed more often than not give him the ability to extend the play after the initial catch. When running routes, Doss has demonstrated his ability to change and shift his body on a dime, throwing defensive backs off balance and out of position. Has often required defenses to provide a safety over the top as extra coverage which in turn opens up opportunities for his teammates to contribute and has a positive impact in the offensive scheme. At the moment, Doss is looking like a Day 3 prospect towards the backend of the 5th Round. However, a successful postseason and draft process could see his draft stock continue to climb by next spring.

Greg Valerio

Alex Wesley, WR, No. 81 - Northern Colorado
Height: 6’0” | Weight: 184

Alex Wesley is a high production game-breaking wide receiver who is destined to be the second player drafted from Northern Colorado (WR Vincent Jackson being the first). The former collegiate track all-star (400m Big Sky Conference champion) is an amazing athlete with excellent speed, the kind of speed that makes him a home run threat any time he touches the ball. Averaging 18.4 yards per reception the past two seasons, along with back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons, Wesley is a true playmaker exploding off the line of scrimmage quickly getting behind defenders and shows reliability winning in a crowd (strong reliable hands to bring in contested balls).

Wesley is a fluid and sharp route runner with a clean technique and smoothness-glide to his game showing the ability to break in and out of his breaks with the necessary quick feet and suddenness separating from defenders and the speed to pull away quickly. He displays the ability to make plays taking the short pass and burst to daylight with great lateral quickness making decisive cuts without losing speed and easily takes the top of coverages. After being a dual sport athlete for most of his collegiate career, Wesley spent the 2018 season fully committed to football.

Rickey Neal, Edge, No. 7 - Northern Iowa
Height: 6’1” | Weight: 241
Northern Iowa vs. UC Davis | 4:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday, December 1 | ESPN3

Rickey Neal has been a “Jack of all trades” for a portion of his collegiate career at Northern Iowa playing 14 different positions (former high school quarterback), but he has finally found a home mastering the edge position flashing skills of dominance in the FCS. The former multi-sport (football, basketball, and track) athlete is an explosive pass rusher off the edge with excellent speed, athleticism, and flexibility. He shows fluidity and is smooth in his movements possessing great quickness, balance, and closing burst with the versatility to rush with aggression and being extremely effective dropping in coverage displaying sound awareness. Off the edge, Neal displays the ability to explode off the line turning the corner with impressive bend and quickness, and continuously keeps his feet moving hitting with authority. He will need to bulk up and improve functional strength for the next level, but he has the versatility, speed, and athleticism to work his way on to an NFL roster.