Under The Radar Prospects: MAC Edition
As we continue to look at some under the radar players this week, the MAC has some real gems that aren’t being talked about but could turn into Top 100 picks by the time April rolls around. Though the MAC is ignored as one of the stepchildren of the FBS, it has produced some solid pro prospects in the past and others who achieved more than their draft position would indicate. The most notable example is Ben Roethlisberger of Miami (OH) going 11th overall in the 2004 draft but players like Greg Jennings and Antonio Gates have had a ton of success coming from the conference.
Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami (OH)
6’0, 203 pounds
Antonio Gates is one of the most famous basketball to football transition players, ending his career at Kent State and making it to the NFL without being drafted, and Quinten Rollins might be next in line. Rollins played both basketball and football at Wilmington High School in Ohio. He was recruited to play football by some solid programs (West Virginia, UConn, and Cincinnati,) but ultimately went to Miami of Ohio to play basketball. After his basketball career was over, Rollins got a scholarship to use his last year of eligibility on the football team and immediately has become the Redhawks best cornerback. As he learns and progresses this season, Rollins is proving to have real NFL upside and has a shot at going in the Top 100 picks this April.
At 203 pounds, Rollins has the body to box out #1 wideouts while still having the athletic ability to create turnovers and fight with smaller athletic types. As more teams recognize his talent, they have been focusing on throwing away from Rollins and not challenging him anymore. He notched 4 interceptions in his first four games this season, including one against the Michigan Wolverines in the Big House. He continues to improve his hip motion and fluidity from game to game, showing the potential to be a rangy starter down the line. As the NFL is looking more and more for athletes with upside, Rollins stock continues to increase. Rollins will continue transitioning to football and has a bright future at the next level with massive upside with his size and fluiditity.
Thomas Rawls, RB, Central Michigan
5’10, 217 pounds
Thomas Rawls was a former 3-star recruit who attended the University of Michigan with a bright future ahead of him. Unfortunately, he ran into trouble both on and off the field. Rawls was surpassed by young 5-star stud recruit Derrick Green before getting the chance to be a primary runner himself. As a junior, Rawls only had 3 carries for 12 yards and that occurred in the opening game against Central Michigan. Off the field, Rawls was arrested this past April for stealing a woman’s purse at a casino and using her credit cards. He plead guilty and was sentenced to probation and community service. This incident ended his chances to finish his career at Michigan and he was granted his release by the Wolverines to start his career anew somewhere he could start. Rawls transferred to the same team he had rushed 3 times against in 2013, the Central Michigan Chippewas. Since he had graduated from Michigan in 3 years, Rawls transfer to CMU for Graduate School has allowed him to play immediately and have an instant impact for Central Michigan. He has taken the opportunity and showcased NFL ability.
Rawls is currently 6th in the FBS in yards per game with over 144, above top NFL prospects like Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Miami’s Duke Johnson. This includes a game against Buffalo where Rawls injured his league and only had 4 yards on 3 carries. He would miss the next week against Eastern Michigan due to injury, and was also suspended for two games due to the legal issues that were ongoing. In his 6 full games, Rawls is averaging 166 yards a game and almost 2 TDs in each game, which would actually put him 2nd in the country in rushing yard a game behind only Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon. He is putting up stats, but he also has NFL talent in his physical skills.
Rawls has an incredible combination of size and speed. At almost 220 pounds, he accelerates through the line like he is shot from a cannon. At this velocity, he becomes dangerous to take on head on as he can run you over or just run right past you. Rawls always seems to pick up extra yards on runs and is exceptional after and even during contact at continuing to churn his legs and stay balanced. He has flashed receiving ability, especially early this year in the flat. He caught 3 passes for 50 yards against Purdue early in the season including a long catch and run as a check down. He is a well-rounded RB with 3 down potential and could be a player whose development is worth monitoring.