Small School Standouts Through Four Weeks


The casual college football fan hates to see the small schools take on Power 5 teams early in the season, or at any point in the season for that matter. Draft analysts find the silver lining in the, what’s expected to be, lopsided matchups and target the smaller school prospects.

The knock on the prospects coming from inferior football programs is the caliber of competition. Depending on how one looks at it, the fate of the players’ draft prospectus could rely a majority on the performance put together in the opportunities given versus Power 5 schools.

Offseason research comes in handy in these type of matchups having an idea who to single out for the underdog squad. However, when watching from more of a broad perspective, other prospects come into view and begin to heighten your attention.

Even though the scoreboard may stick to its usual off-kilter expectation, the individual performances can stand out when looking through the lens of an evaluator. Cupcake matchups for big-time programs can be a snooze-fest from a scheduling perspective, but from the view of an evaluator’s eyes, the game creates opportunities to get a close look at small school prospects.

The players listed below took advantage of the exposure given and have performed well on the big stage.


Max Scharping, Northern Illinois, OT

Many small school prospects only get the opportunity to shine against one upper-level opponent per year. As for Scharping, Northern Illinois has faced Iowa, Utah and just recently Florida State in three of the first four weeks of the season. To no surprise, Scharping was rock solid in all three matchups.

The two-time all-conference performer dominates at the point of attack showing patience and poise versus the aggression and speed of the high-caliber opponents. With a stiff punch and above average extension, Scharping easily frustrates the defender by nearly stagnating him on first contact.

When watching the senior go to work, his strength immediately stands out. Scharping can play patient and watch the pass rusher develop because he trusts his strength will hold up when contact is made.

Though Scharping will win in a phone booth every time because of his brute strength throughout his body, he is also poised when it comes to quickness. The 6-foot-6, 320-pound left tackle has a smooth kick slide having the ability to keep the speed in front of him. His smooth strides and extension call for almost a clean pocket on the left side every snap.

With some injuries and a handful of inconsistency at the top of offensive tackle class, Scharping is making a case for late first round consideration four weeks into the season. With dominating performances against three Power 5 schools and the expected consistency throughout MAC play, Scharping will continue to climb draft boards as one of the best offensive tackles in the 2019 NFL Draft.

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Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech, DE

Coming into the season as the active FBS leader in sacks (27.5), Ferguson has now added two sacks to his career total so far in 2018. The defensive end prospect shined this past weekend versus LSU continually frustrating the quarterback from the right side of the line.

Ferguson displays attractive core strength showing the ability to bull rush and put together a string of power moves to collapse the pocket. Accompanied by power, Ferguson’s leg drive and hand placement give him the advantage in a physical battle.

The 6-foot-5, 260-pound senior defensive end doesn’t only win with power but also with active and violent hands. Ferguson has yet to show he is an overwhelmingly flexible and bendy edge presence, so he has to find ways to win without peeling off the corner. Ferguson has shown to frustrate tackles with a variety of upper body movements to keep his matchup guessing. At times, his hands can look too sporadic, but it’s become routine enough where it seems to be a strategy to gain an advantage.

Though not showing the bend that most first-round edge rushers have, Ferguson does display the light feet and the skills to smoothly transition from power to speed. Ferguson carries his 260-pound frame well having the ability to hunt down ball carriers from the backside of the play along with showing the ability to play coverage in the flats.

The senior edge rushing class has some promise at the top of the list and Ferguson is a big reason why it’s considered a strong group.


Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion, DE

Old Dominion was 0-3 before playing host to Virginia Tech on Saturday afternoon. After a 14-point win over the then-undefeated Hokies, Ximines was one of the top players in the game regardless of position. His two-sack performance pushed him into second among sack leaders in the nation and increased his career sack total to 26.

Ximines thrives with quickness and short area movements to collapse the pocket. He shows off a string of moves including a spin move among other upper body pass rush tools.

The Old Dominion senior plays with an attractive motor and tenacity to attack the pocket. He is a skilled pass rusher that shows some flexibility and quickness, but a multitude of his sacks directly come from increased effort.

Ximines (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) shows the ability to turn power into speed showing the skill to close on the ball quickly. With a blend of savvy and athleticism, Ximines has the skill set to produce as a standup edge rusher at the next level.

Small school prospects can sometimes be the focal point of college football all-star games with some wondering if they can answer the call. Before that time comes, be sure to brush up on these three players, and more so you will be able to say “I told you so” when they gain the much-needed buzz.

Christian Page is a scout and writer for His scouting experience dates back to 2015. Christian has a background of radio along with collegiate athletic department experience and corporate marketing.