Every year it seems there is at least one small school prospect who really impresses me — sometimes a couple. There are guys who don’t hail from the SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten, or even the FCS levels. We’re talking the D-2, D-3 and NAIA guys.
And there are plenty of them in the NFL. Often times they’re guys you’ve heard of but assumed they went to a program like Alabama or Notre Dame. Danieal Manning (S, Abilene Christian), Jahri Evans (G, Bloomsburg), Pierre Garçon (WR, Mt. Union), Danny Woodhead (RB, Chadron State), London Fletcher (MLB, John Carroll), Jacoby Jones (WR, Lane), Fred Jackson (RB, Coe), Vincent Jackson (WR, Northern Colorado), Brent Grimes (CB, Shippensburg) and Todd Herremans (G, Saginaw Valley) are all well known stars in the NFL who’ve made tremendous impacts. And all of these guys played outside of D-1.
So who is the top small school prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft class? CB Pierre Desir (Lindenwood) probably has that nailed down, as he could be drafted as early as round three or TE Joe Don Duncan (Dixie State) who could go as early as round four.
But someone who hasn’t been getting much attention (and probably should) is RB Franklyn Quiteh (Bloomsburg), arguably the best running back in D-2 history.
Quiteh just capped off his senior season by winning the Harlon Hill Trophy (the Heisman Trophy of D-2), of which he’d been a finalist for three times. Before the season ended for the Huskies, Quiteh had racked up 2,195 yards rushing to go along with 29 touchdowns. As a career, Quiteh put together three 2,000 yard seasons (a D-2 record), and forty-two 100-yard games (out of a possible 47, another D-2 record).
Ultimately, Quiteh finished his unbelievable collegiate career with 7,523 rushing yards (2nd only to Woodhead, mentioned earlier) and 87 touchdowns — just staggering numbers.
However, just because a player dominated D-2 competition doesn’t mean he’d do the same at D-1 or the NFL. Succeeding in the NFL is much, much harder than succeeding at college, whether it’s D-1 or D-3.
But Quiteh does have a skill set worthy of an NFL back.
He’s got very impressive vision, always finding the seam and displaying great patience letting the blocks get set up before exploding through the hole. He’s got good power compacted on his short frame (5-foot-9,210-pounds) and can carry it up the middle as easy as he can cut outside. He’s a decent blocker, though he never had to do much of it in the Huskies’ offense (566 rushing attempts versus 260 passing attempts in 2013 alone) and has shown good hands when called upon in the receiving game.
The two things that concern me about Quiteh are speed and carries. What I mean is he’s not very fast, and he’s logged a ton of carries over the last few years (1,039 carries in college alone). He’s been durable throughout his career for the most part, but how long will that continue?
Speed is not Quiteh’s modus operandi. This deficiency is oft times masked on film because of the speed of his competition, but it won’t be like that in ‘The League.’ In terms of NFL speed at the running back position, Quiteh is average at best. He won’t be a home run hitter like Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson — guys who can literally outrun 11 guys at a time.
But that’s not to say he can’t play the position in the NFL. Playing in the right scheme, preferably a zone blocking, one-cut scheme, Quiteh could succeed. It’s not like you have to run a 4.4 to be a good running back because obviously that’s not the only thing a running back needs to be successful at this level.
Quiteh may or may not be drafted next May. But he will sign as a free agent, and he’ll get his shot to prove what kind of player he is. Maybe he’ll be the latest non-D-1 guy to make it big.