On a day when most of the college football world was focused on four players dressed in suits in New York City, there was some exciting on-field action and legitimate pro prospects also on display.
Reviewing all of the quarterfinal FCS games this weekend, there were several standout performances.
The most impressive, not surprisingly, came from Villanova wide receiver and Wildcat quarterback Matt Szczur. Szczur, my reigning Diamond in the Rough as the best small school prospect of the week, scored five touchdowns -- rushing for three, passing for one and catching -- in the Wildcats' 42-24 victory over No. 1 ranked Appalachian State.
Szczur, who battled a high ankle sprain for much of this season, clearly has regained his explosiveness, impressing not only with his agility and speed, but with improved route-running from just last week (when he accounted for 196 yards as a runner and receiver and scored a touchdown against Stephen F. Austin.
Draft Slant fans know precisely how high I am on Nova's "other" draft prospect, left tackle Ben Ijalana. His quick feet and good balance again stood out against the Mountaineers.
Szczur and Ijalana have already been invited to the Senior Bowl, the most prestigious all-star game in college football and one usually reserved for FBS prospects.
Friday night, scouts got their first nationally televised opportunity to see Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin, who also led his team to a victory.
Devlin wasn't flashy, but the 6-3, 220 pound Penn State transfer shook off a slow start to complete 27 of 38 passes for 261 yards and the Blue Hens' two touchdowns in their 16-3 victory over New Hampshire. Scouts like Devlin's mobility, short to intermediate accuracy and poise in the pocket. Delaware's spread offense is quarterback-friendly and rarely asks Devlin to make deep throws, but he showed better zip than he's often been given credit for. He, too, could wind up with an invitation to the Senior Bowl.
The most impressive player on the field in Eastern Washington's thrilling overtime victory over North Dakota State was the Eagles' junior running back Taiwan Jones.
Generously listed by Eastern at 6-1, 200 pounds, Jones looks a bit smaller, but scouts won't quibble about his size after this contest. The junior star rushed for a career-high 230 yards demonstrating a degree of explosiveness that simply is rarely seen at the FCS level. Perhaps most impressive is that Jones enjoyed his strong game in snowy conditions, which limited his effectiveness late in this contest. His lean build is similar to that of NFL star Chris Johnson and Oregon's Heisman finalist LaMichael James.
There has been some talk in the scouting community that Jones will consider leaving the Eagles early for the NFL. Considering the weak senior class of running backs, he could surprise as a middle round pick based on his big play ability.
Without an all-star game, however, to test his game against the FBS' bigger, stronger athletes level of competition questions will dog him, likely resulting in low enough grade from the NFL Advisory Committee to send him back to Eastern for another season.