By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The dry erase board hanging in Tysson Poots' apartment lists his receptions, receiving yards and touchdown receptions during his first three seasons as a wide receiver at Southern Utah:
- Freshman: 29, 433, 3 - Sophomore 83, 1,236, 14 - Junior: 85, 1,081, 15
As a senior this fall, Poots will create a new row of statistics that he will update game-by-game. They will serve as inspiration while he tries to rise to an even higher level of play.
"You can always get better regardless of what your stats look like," said the two-time All-Great West Football Conference first-team selection.
"I look at them almost every day. I don't know why I do that. I kind of tell myself that's what I can do and I can always get better. I like to increase my numbers a little bit every year."
Teammate Fesi Sitake added 79 receptions for the pass-happy Thunderbirds and both return this season to ease the transition of their new quarterback, likely Brad Sorensen. In Poots, the new QB will be able to pass to the holder of most of Southern Utah's single-season and career receiving records.
"I know where I can get open and how I can get open. Regardless of how they play me, I think through the play before it happens," said Poots, who has excellent size at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds.
"I play inside a lot, but I can play outside if I want to. My favorite thing to do as a receiver is to jump. I'm more of a jump-ball receiver, but I'm not that fast (a personal-best 4.52 seconds in 40-yard dash) so I don't really stretch defenses. I'm more a possession guy. Whenever the ball's around me, I tell myself I need to catch it regardless of if I'm going to get him or not. In my eyes I try to get big enough where I can take contact against the guys I play. I'll be as big as them, if not bigger. And as a receiver, I just need the balls in my hands and play off of instincts."
Having graduated this spring as a three-time academic all-conference honoree, he will build on his exercise science major and business minor by pursuing a marketing degree. His on-field goal is to lead Southern Utah to the Great West title. The Thunderbirds, who went 5-6 overall and 2-2 in the tightly bunched conference last season, have not had a winning season since 2004, but pose a big threat to defending champion UC Davis.
Receivers across the FCS will be hard-pressed to match the excellence of last year's senior class, which included Hudgins, the Walter Payton Award runner-up who is now with the Dallas Cowboys; The Citadel's Andre Roberts (Arizona Cardinals); Montana's Marc Mariani (Tennessee Titans); Weber State's Tim Toone (Detroit Lions); and Stephen F. Austin's Duane Brooks. But our FCS Top 10 features a versatile group. Here are the other nine:
Jason Caldwell, Fordham, Senior - The speedy, 5-11, 180-pound wideout hauled in 79 receptions and 1,252 receiving yards last season. He caught nine touchdowns, including four against Cornell, when he hauled in nine passes for 254 yards. He also ranked third in the FCS in receiving yards per game (113.8). Outstanding on flanker screens, he picks up a lot of yards after the catch. He made the Patriot League first team and The Sports Network All-America second team.
Da'Marcus Griggs, Texas State, Senior - The 6-1, 185-pound Griggs is a possession receiver who totaled a school-record 80 receptions for 969 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior. He caught 11 passes in three different games, including against Sam Houston State, when he went for 178 yards and two touchdowns. His route-running ability punishes defensive backs and he catches any ball in his vicinity.
Mark Layton, Lafayette, Senior - Only 5-9, 175 pounds, Layton came on strong as a junior last fall, catching 65 passes for 838 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Patriot League first-team selection is smooth with his routes and has soft hands. He specialized in spectacular catches while becoming the Leopards' go- to receiver.
Josh Philpart, Jacksonville, Junior - All Philpart does is catch touchdowns. Nearly one-quarter of his 54 receptions last season went for TDs, as he caught 13 of them. He totaled 912 yards while earning unanimous Pioneer League first- team honors. The 6-foot, 170-pounder is made into a tougher matchup by the fact that the Dolphins throw screens to him, let him go deep and utilize him on crossing routes. He has excellent hands.
Brian Quick, Appalachian State, Junior - The steadily improving Quick's physical tools - he stands 6-5 and 220 pounds - and raw ability are attracting NFL scouts. Along with fellow receiver Matt Cline, Quick poses big problems for opposing defensive backs. As a sophomore, Quick caught 61 passes for 982 yards and four touchdowns. In the FCS semifinals at Montana, he caught 10 passes for 135 yards.
Stephen Skelton, Fordham, Senior - The lone pure tight end on this list, Skelton is big (6-5, 244) and physical, and after catching passes over the middle of the field, he looks to make contact with defenders. Last season, he caught 63 passes - the most among tight ends in the FCS - for 634 yards and six touchdowns. He will miss having his brother, John, throw him passes this season. John Skelton was a fifth-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals this year.
Matt Szczur, Villanova, Senior - Everybody's holding their breath around the Villanova football program in the hopes that the FCS Championship Game MVP will play this fall for the national champion Wildcats - and not sign with a major-league baseball organization. He is the top playmaker on a team with many. Last season, the shifty, quick Szczur caught 51 passes for 610 yards and four touchdowns, but you have to factor in everything else that he does, like rushing for 813 yards (mostly out of the Wildcat) and gaining 816 yards on kickoff returns. He scored 15 touchdowns overall.
Zach Watkins, Butler, Junior - Head coach Jeff Voris says Watkins' desire to win stands out from others, and that his confidence makes the Bulldogs play at a higher level. Last season, the 6-2, 205-pounder caught 78 passes as a sophomore, which ranks second in Pioneer Football League single-season history. The first-team selection totaled 918 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
Simmie Yarborough, Southeastern Louisiana, Junior - Yarborough, who is 6-1, 205 pounds, is a hybrid wide receiver/tight end who lines up a lot in the slot. He has good hands and deceptive speed. He was supposed to redshirt as a freshman in 2008 until the projected starter suffered an injury. He enjoyed a strong first season, then built on it last year with 57 receptions for 803 yards and 12 touchdowns.