Photo courtesy of Norfolk State Athletics
By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
(Sports Network) - The prototypical receiver has changed in the last decade with wide receivers taking on tight end height and tight ends taking on wide receiver speed.
The ones who have both traits are especially lethal.
The Football Championship Subdivision will feature such receivers this season.
Elon senior Aaron Mellette headlines a contingent of 10 FCS receivers to watch (OK, we've thrown in a tight end to make it 11) and only one of them stands below 6-foot-2.
Yes, it's a group that sizes up well.
Following are FCS receivers to watch this season:
Xavier Boyce, Norfolk State, Sr., 6-4, 220 - The Virginia Beach, Va., product took the MEAC by storm last season after transferring home to Norfolk State from Virginia Tech, catching 68 passes for 750 yards and four touchdowns. He has an ability to break tackles and make yardage after the catch, especially on screen passes. His size doesn't just come up big in the passing game, he uses it well in run blocking.
Nicholas Edwards, Eastern Washington, Sr., 6-3, 200 - A former walk-on, Edwards no longer sneaks up on the competition. He entered last season as the Eagles' No. 2 receiver, but then blistered the competition, hauling in an FCS- high 19 touchdowns (only one other receiver had more than 12) among his 95 receptions for 1,250 yards. Known for his conditioning and outstanding preparation, Edwards is third among active FCS players with 178 career receptions and first with 29 career touchdown receptions.
Lanny Funsten, Davidson, Sr., 6-2, 185 - It can be easy to overlook a Pioneer Football League receiver, but not Funsten after he hauled in 100 receptions last season. He's a possession receiver with excellent hands. He included a 99-yard touchdown reception among his 1,107 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. He's sneaky fast.
Brandon Kaufman, Eastern Washington, Sr., 6-5, 215 - Kaufman was the Eagles' No. 1 receiver ahead of Edwards until a broken hand ended his season prematurely. He caught two touchdowns in EWU's second-half rally past Delaware in the 2010 FCS championship game. That season, he caught 76 passes for 1,214 yards and 15 touchdowns. Kaufman uses his big body to be physical in traffic and long legs to get behind the secondary.
Aaron Mellette, Elon, Sr., 6-4, 212 - Every defense knows where the ball is going, they just can't stop Mellette. Last season, he caught 113 passes for a school-record 1,639 yards - both FCS highs - as well as 12 touchdowns. He's a fast-rising mid-round NFL Draft pick next year, with the possibility of moving up to the early rounds. Mellette, fifth in the 2011 Walter Payton Award voting, enters his final season with 207 receptions for 2,856 yards and 26 touchdowns in 33 career games.
Cordell Roberson, Stephen F. Austin, Sr., 6-3, 200 - You could substitute SFA's Gralyn Crawford in here as both dominate in the Southland Conference. The lanky, fast Roberson is more the touchdown-maker with 29 in 34 career games. He caught 61 passes in 2010 and 63 last season by outworking defenders for the ball.
Rodrick Rumble, Idaho State, Sr., 6-2, 201 - There's nothing unlucky about the Bengals' No. 13. Rumble caught at least 10 passes in eight of his 11 games last season, finishing with 112 receptions - a school record - for 1,348 yards and nine touchdowns. He's a quick, athletic receiver blessed with a good vertical leap (he high-jumped 6 feet, 8 inches at the Washington state high school track & field championships in 2009).
Ryan Spadola, Lehigh, Sr., 6-3, 205 - Over the last two seasons, Spadola has caught 174 passes for 2,754 yards and 20 touchdowns - Mellette-type numbers - to dominate the FCS ranks. This season, Spadola won't be catching passes from standout Chris Lum and will be the focal point of opposing defenses, so it will be interesting to chart his production. It will remain high in the Patriot League, where he is unstoppable. He has moved on from his suspension from the FCS quarterfinals at North Dakota State last season because of an offensive tweet.
Tyrone Walker, Illinois State, Sr., 5-11, 200 - Walker has a way of putting his stamp on a game. His size or speed won't wow anybody, but his excellent hands have made him both highly reliable and productive throughout his career - 160 catches for 2,246 yards and 23 touchdowns. His passes come from one of the FCS' best quarterbacks - Matt Brown - so Walker should end his career with a flourish. He's in line to set some ISU career receiving marks.
Norman White, Villanova, Sr., 6-4, 210 - Some of the Wildcats' demise last season was due to White suffering a season-ending lisfranc fracture of his left foot in the team's season opener. He hopes to regain his form of 2010, when he caught 69 passes for 886 yards and 11 touchdowns while making the All- CAA Football first team. He's a downfield receiver who uses his size to outleap defensive backs and get the ball. He used his lost season to chart defenses and learn to take advantage of them even more.
Sam Houston State standout Richard Sincere, the 2011 Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year, is as much an all-purpose player as he is a wide receiver, deadly at running the Bearkats' version of the Wildcat offense.
So make the list 11 receivers because the top tight end to watch is Furman senior Colin Anderson. A big target at 6-4, 231 pounds, Anderson led the Paladins in receptions (40), receiving yards (696) and touchdown receptions (seven) last season while making The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS All- America first team.