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And if that’s not enough firepower, consider this: David Johnson, Crockett and Zenner played in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“It’s probably the toughest conference in the FCS,” Johnson said on Thursday. “There’s three running backs along with the other guys who have a good chance of making it to the pros. Playing there, I felt like I was in a D-1 program. Every team we played in our conference was good. I feel like all the teams in our conference probably could have made it to the playoffs. It was definitely a challenge.”
Scoff at the competition if you will, and it’s a legit question mark, obviously, because they’re running around and through defenders not good enough for the Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC.
“I think there’s a little bit of that, yeah, and that’s natural just because it is FCS. There’s a reason it’s FCS,” Zenner said. “We’re not in the same division. Is it closer than it has been? I think so, as far as talent difference, but there’s a difference for a reason.”
“At the core you are still scouting and evaluating his quickness, his feet, his balance, his athleticism, his hands and his ability to block,” Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said. “I mean, certain things don’t change. It’s not his fault he’s playing against whatever small school it is. At the core, you still scout him as an athlete and as a football player.”
David Johnson was deemed good enough for the Senior Bowl. In scouting circles, the 6-foot, 224-pounder has been compared to Chicago’s Matt Forte. Johnson had three 1,000-yard rushing seasons and topped 1,700 career receiving yards to finish 13th in FCS history with 6,859 all-purpose yards. His combination of size and receiving ability make him an ideal fit as teams search for three-down backs.
“In high school, I actually was a running back and wide receiver,” Johnson said. “Coming out of high school, because of my height and I was only about 180-190, a lot of colleges were talking to me about playing receiver. Going into college, all I was working on was receiving. My college actually recruited me as an athlete to play receiver. I played receiver for the first week of camp. That’s where it came from, training for that.”
Only three players in FCS history have more than 8,000 all-purpose yards: Former Eagles star Brian Westbrook, former NFL defensive back Jerry Azumah and Zenner. He’s the only college player to ever turn in back-to-back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons. He was also an Academic All-American and part of the Allstate Good Works Team.
Crockett was a second-team All-American. He rushed for 1,994 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior, including 139 yards and three scores in a blowout win at Iowa State. In his three seasons with North Dakota State, it won three national championships. Varga played three seasons for Yale, having started his college career in his native Canada. As a senior, he rushed for 1,423 yards and 22 scores, then scored twice in the Senior Bowl. Stephen F. Austin’s Johnson was the FCS first-team All-American as a senior with 1,683 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground.
“It’s special,” Zenner said of so much FCS backfield power at the Combine. “It’s cool to have that opportunity.”
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