After four years of collegiate football, with questions upon questions and doubts mixed with anticipation, small school defensive talents across the nation have been longing for the moment to catch the attention of NFL scouts.
Through the NFL Regional Combine platform, Division II talents received more exposure. Since the NFL Football Operations is scaling back workout sessions for a select few, the once grand exposure stage reduced countless opportunities. Last season, 90 Division II players were in the NFL. This season, 82 are currently in the league.
Among the 82 Division-II players, 34 are on rosters. Defensive backs lead the way with 15, including Dallas Cowboys hard hitting safety Jeff Heath (Saginaw Valley State), Tampa Bay Buccaneers veteran cornerback Brent Grimes (Shippensburg) and two-time Super Bowl winning cornerback, Tennessee Titan Malcolm Butler (West Alabama).
Baltimore Ravens stud defensive end Matthew Judon (Grand Valley State) and defensive tackle Brandon Williams (Missouri Southern) highlight the front seven with 13 players, while six linebackers rolled out the rest.
Clearly, Division-I talents will get the first shot at professional scouts because their competition level is better. However, there are several gems that slip through the cracks. While some mid-level players just missed out on a major program, a few Division-II athletes missed out on performing on the next level.
With the lack of NFL Regional Combine sessions, NFL scouts have to get back to the grind and certified NFL agents are needed. The talent pool has not increased; it got better. These unknown defensive standouts deserve the opportunity to get in front of decision makers to exercise their skill set to eliminate questions and prove their value.
And this group of defensive talents can fit the bill as their journey to play on Sundays afternoons continues.
-ZURIL HENDRICK (EDINBORO) – 5-11, 190-pounds – Great hands, instinctive, polished. Had the most interceptions out the senior class with seven, 57 tackles and 17 passes defensed.
-GARRETT JACKSON (ADAMS ST.) – 6-1, 180-pounds – Decent hands, good leaping ability, physical, not afraid of contact. Led the nation for defensive backs in tackles with 127.
-KYWAN OWENS (MINOT ST.) – Aggressive, good feet, strong. Had 108 tackles as he averaged 9.8 stops per game.
-RODERICK CHAPMAN (MISSOURI S&T) – 5-9, 175-pounds. Pretty much a complete athlete with speed, good instincts and playmaking abilities. Amasses 37 tackles, 17 passes defensed, six interceptions. As a return specialist, produced 414 kickoff return yards and a touchdown off 16 attempts and 149 punt return yards and another touchdown off 14 tries.
-ELEMS UKWU, JR (LAKE ERIE) – 5-10, 175-pounds. Very strong, strong hands, decent speed. Finished with 104 tackles.
-DARREN GARDENHIRE (DELTA STATE) – 6-1, 195-pounds – Physical, versatile, tough, can play bump and run, aggressive, decent hands, confident. Totaled 34 tackles, three forced fumbles, four interceptions, six passes defensed. Offensively, amassed 221 return yards on kickoffs in nine attempts. recorded 103 yards on six punt returns and a touchdown.
-ANTONIO DAWKINS (BLUEFIELD COLLEGE) – 5-10, 190-pounds. Gritty, fast and versatile, 25 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and 11 pass defensed.
-YAWN COLEMAN JR. (INDIANA, PA) – 6-1, 205-pounds. Tough, smart, use body well, aggressive, discipline, can play man-to-man, good hands and feet, does not give up inside. Had 91 tackles, six interceptions and 25 passes defensed in the three years at Florida Tech.
-MALIK BROWN (HENDERSON STATE) – 6-1, 185-pounds. – Playmaker, eyes always on the ball, perimeter minded, solid speed, great hands and feet, finished, ball hawks, plays field well. Earned All-Conference honors for GAC. Finished with 60 tackles, four interceptions, a forced fumble.
-DARIUS WILLIAMS (CSU-PUEBLO) – 6-0, 200-pounds – NFL body, quick feet, good hands, explosive, physical. Amassed 51 tackles, including nine stops for losses and three sacks. Three interceptions and 11 passes defensed.
-BILLY INGE III (EAST STROUDSBURG) – 5-10, 180-pounds – Great instincts, good hands, patience, quick, strong. Finished with 76 tackles, three forced fumbles, five passes defensed and five interceptions.
-ANTONIO CLARK (COLORADO MESA) – 5-10, 180-pounds. Can play nickel, good zone defender, solid closing speed, instinctive, good hands. 49 Tackles (29 Solo, 20 Assisted), four Interceptions, 20 passes defensed. 1st Team All-Conference (Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference).
-ALDEN MCCLELLON (WEST FLORIDA) – 5-11, 195-pounds. Physical, love to blitz, solid hitter, aggressive, good speed and hands, fiery, good fundamentals and technique. Finished with 54 tackles, including a sack and force fumble.
-DANTE REDWOOD (MERCYHURST) – 5-10, 185-pounds. Decent speed, solid point of contact, good feet. Finished with 44 tackles, three interceptions and 17 passes defensed.
-MARQUIS SEAMON (BLOOMSBURG) – 5-10, 180-pounds. Discipline, hitter, closing and tracking speed, decent hands. Finished with 42 tackles, including a sack, four interceptions and 14 passes defensed.
-CUA’ ROSE (ARKANSAS TECH) – 5-10, 185-pounds – Ball hawking playmaker, decent hands, track the ball well. Finished last season with 55 tackles and three passes defensed. Was not targeted as much during senior season.
-KYLE HALL (SLIPPERY ROCK) – 6-2, 196-pounds – Explosive on impact, good feet and hands, instinctive, smart, baller. Registered 46 tackles, 18 passes defensed and six interceptions.
-DEXTER JORDAN (BLOOMSBURG) – 5-10, 185-pounds – good leaping ability, decent hands, quick, lean. Amassed 43 tackles (including a sack), five interceptions and five passes defensed.
-GEORGE PARKER (CHOWAN) – 6-2, 195-pounds – Big, strong, fast, aggressive, discipline for his size, use hands well, good foot work. Registered 34 tackles, 10 passes defensed, four interceptions.
-JUSTIN WYATT (LIMESTONE COLLEGE) – 6-2, 208-pounds. – A ‘weener’ from linebacker to safety, athletic, great hands, closing speed and anticipation, good feet, balance, instinctive, fundamental sound, quick burst. A project in the making. Finished with 50 tackles, including three sacks, and an interception (returned for a 55-yard touchdown).
-KURRON RAMSEY (ALABAMA STATE) – 6-3, 200-pounds – Big, decent speed, discipline defender. Finished with 74 tackles.
-CODY LEONARD (QUINCY) – 6-1, 225-pounds. – Smart, fundamentally sound, strong hands, good speed, solid at point of contact. Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) Defensive Player of the Year, first Quincy University football player to receive award and was a unanimous First Team All-GLVC selection. Lead NCAA Division II with 168 tackles, including 88 solo stops, which also led NCAA Division II, averaging 15.3 per game.
-K.J. REID (ARKANSAS TECH) – 6-1, 219-pounds. – Aggressive, solid technique, strong, fast, athletic, instinctive. Amassed 121 tackles, four sacks, a forced fumble and two passes defensed.
-MICHAEL ALEXANDER (SAGINAW VALLEY) – 6-0, 235-pounds – Savvy, finisher, great hands and feet, athletic, deceptively strong. All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) First-Team, tallied 117 tackles, two interceptions and two passes defensed.
-ZACH MALONE (CONCORD) – 6-1, 215-pounds. – Compact, strong, smart, agile, instinctive. Finished with 94 tackles, two passes defensed and an interception.
-JOE BLUE (NEWBERRY) – 5-10, 225-pounds. – Extremely athletic, strong, high motor, relentless, good feet, agile, great pad level, finisher. First team All-SAC for three consecutive seasons. D2CCA Second Team All-Super Region 2. First Team All-SAC. Finished with 104 tackles (led SAC), including 1.5 sacks, three passes defensed and an interception.
-J.T. HASSELL (FLORIDA TECH) – 6-0, 200-pounds. – Explosive, quick, good hands and feet, athletic, savvy, leader. A 2018 Harlon Hill nominee. 2018 Gulf South Conference Defensive Player of the Year. A two-time All-GSC selection. Helped the Panthers get to their second NCAA Division II postseason berth in school’s history. Finished with 124 tackles, including 4.5 sacks, four passes defensed. Transferred from South Dakota State.
-TYLER CURTS (SOUTHWEST BAPTIST) – 6-2, 235-pounds. – Decent speed, finisher, instinctive, good hands, good closing speed. Amassed 102 tackles, including a sack, a forced fumble and an interception.
-TERRY SAMUEL (WEST ALABAMA) – 6-2, 193-pounds. – Light on feet, good hands and pad level, quick, lateral movement. Registered 89 tackles.
-ANTHONY PATRICK (BETHEL) – 6-1, 230-pounds. – Explosive, strong hands, discipline, savvy, calculated, great against the run, solid pad level, finisher. All conference. 190 career tackles, including 4.5 sacks and 16.5 stops for losses, three forced fumbles, an interception.
-BRANDON PAYER (CSU-PUEBLO) – 6-4, 230-pounds. – Deceptively fast, athletic, strong, fundamentally sound, discipline, strong. Finished with 102 tackles, including 20 stops for a loss and two sacks, three forced fumbles.
-BO BROOKS (MISSOURI S&T) – 6-4, 205-pounds. – Good burst, athletic, quick, strong, relentless, versatile, good hands, good technique, disruptive. Finished with 86 tackles, including 10 sacks and 21.5 stops for losses, three forced fumbles, two passes defensed.
-BO HIGHBURGER (WESTERN OREGON) – 6-1, 220-pounds. – Smart, crafty, shed blocks well, disciplined, not fooled easily, instinctive. A 2018 Harlon Hill nominee. Finished with 103 tackles.
-JUSTIN WYATT (LIMESTONE COLLEGE) – 6-2, 208-pounds. – A ‘weener’ from linebacker to safety, athletic, great hands, closing speed and anticipation, good feet, balance, instinctive, fundamental sound, quick burst. A project in the making.
-DE MARKUS JONES (ANGELO STATE) – 6-3, 255-pounds. – Filthy, energetic, agile, intense, explosive, strong, savvy. The 2018 Gene Upshaw award winner, the Division II’s Lineman of the Year. A 2018 Harlon Hill nominee. Finished with 88 tackles, including 17.5 sacks (third best in the country) and 34 stops for losses, three forced fumbles. Solid special teams player and blocked a pair of kicks.
-DE CARDELL RAWLINGS (WINGATE) – 6-1, 240-pounds – Solid, quick first step, patience, discipline, good hands. 2018 South Atlantic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. A 2018 Harlon Hill nominee. Recorded 75 tackles, including 20 tackles for loss, and led the conference in sacks with 17.5. Three force fumbles and two passes defensed.
-DE JAMARCUS HENDERSON (NEWBERRY) – 6-0, 230-pounds. – Classic bull rusher, explosive off the edge, solid closing speed, powerful, quick, shifty, athletic. A 2018 Harlon Hill nominee. D2CCA First Team All-Super Region 2. First Team All-SAC. Finished with 79 tackles, including 10.5 sacks and 20.5 stops for losses.
-DL DIQUAN GILBERT (WEST CHESTER) – 6-3, 240-pounds. Solid off the edge, quick, disruptive, difficult to grab, can play the run, bull rusher, can get to the quarterback. Finished with 29 tackles, including 12.5 sacks, and an interception.
-DL KEVIN PETIT-FRERE (LIU POST) – 6-2, 250-pounds. Explode on impact, great hands and feet, strong, clever, quick on the snap, closing speed, athletic. A 2018 Gene Upshaw Award nominee. LIU Post’s first AP All-American (second team). D2CCA All-Super Region I member. Compiled 53 tackles, including 11.5 sacks and 15.5 stops for losses, three pass breakups.
-DL DAKOTA THOMPSON (SHIPPENSBURG) – 6-2, 260-pounds. High motor, can play off the edge, shed blocks well, good closing speed, love to laugh, but hits. Registered 39 tackles, including 11.5 sacks and 17 stops for losses, a forced fumble, two pass breakups.
James Prater Jr./Google Images
-DE JAMES PRATER JR. (ASHLAND) – 6-0, 244-pounds. Elusive, quick, strong hands, has good leverage, intense, finisher. The 2018 GLIAC Defensive Lineman of the Year. Recorded 65 tackles, including 9.5 sacks and 15 stops for losses.
-ADONIS DAVIS (FLORIDA TECH) – 6-3, 255-pounds. Extremely athletic, quick, fires off the snap, solid instincts, crafty, smart, versatile. A 2018 Gene Upshaw Award nominee. Finished with 73 tackles, including eight sacks and 18 stops for losses, three forced fumbles.
-DL MICHAEL WRISTEN (COLORADO ST. PUEBLO) – A legit athlete, great hands and feet, raw talent, good speed, balance, decent leverage, solid project. Amassed 46 tackles, including 10 sacks, a pass defensed.
-DE T.J. WINSLOW (HARDING) – 6-3, 250-pounds. Strong, good hands and feet, agile, patience, aggressive, balance and control. 2018 Great American Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Finished with 24 tackles, including 10.5 sacks and 12 stops for losses, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles.
-KAHZIN DANIELS (CHARLESTON, WV) – 6-4, 225-pounds. – Plays biggest than his weight, agile, intense, quick, solid speed, good hand usage, smart, athletic. Registered 48 tackles, including 9.5 sacks, a pass defense.
-JUSTICE BISHOP (UNION COLLEGE) – 6-2, 230-pounds. High motor, great hands, leverage, good technique. Finished with 60 tackles, including a sack and 7.5 stops for losses.