FCS quarterbacks grabbing spotlight in September

Besides Central Arkansas junior QB Breylin Smith, Houston Baptist senior Bailey Zappe is also off to a hot start, throwing for 480 yards Saturday night.

Central Arkansas Bears quarterback Breylin Smith (3) looks to pass against Austin Peay Governors during the first half Aug. 29, 2020 at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alaa. Marvin Gentry / USA TODAY Sports

(Stats Perform) - September is the time for underrated FCS quarterbacks this season.

North Dakota State's Trey Lance and Jacksonville State's Zerrick Cooper -- generally regarded as the top FCS quarterback prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft -- are waiting in the wings in October. Preseason All-Americans Daniel Smith of Villanova and Eric Barriere of Eastern Washington as well as Albany's Jeff Undercuffler, the FCS freshman record-holder for touchdown passes, aren't playing in the fall.

But in a season with limited FCS teams in action -- 15 of 127 -- there's a solid base of signal callers at the controls.

Central Arkansas' Breylin Smith has played two games already, unlike any other quarterback in college football. The Southland preseason first-team selection has opened his junior season by passing for 476 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions, one season after setting the school's single-season record for passing yards (3,704) and tying the mark for TD passes (32).

The latest QB to grab the early season spotlight was another one from the Southland, Houston Baptist senior Bailey Zappe, in a 57-31 loss to North Texas Saturday night. The 6-foot-2 senior, often throwing quickly out of shot gun formations, completed 39 of 62 pass attempts for 480 yards and three touchdowns. It was the third-most passing yards of his career.


In four career games against FBS opponents, Zappe is a combined 114-for-182 (62.6%) for 1,205 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception.

Zappe said on the "That Sports Guys Podcast" earlier this week, "Over the COVID (shutdown), I spent a lot of time watching film, watching our last season, trying to get a better knowledge of the game, a better understanding. I've really tried to improve my pre-snap recognition of the coverages and understanding what the defense is in pre-snap. I think that goes a lot into our offense."

Like Smith last year, Austin Peay junior Jeremiah Oatsvall has returned from a season-ending injury, and the two squared off last Saturday night's in college football's opening game. Oatsvall, the 2017 Ohio Valley Conference freshman of the year, is a dual-threat who's totaled 4,258 yards of total offense and 44 total touchdowns in his career.

Next up this month are Campbell sophomore Hajj Malik-Williams, the Big South's preseason offensive player of the year, who is scheduled to face an FCS-high four FBS opponents this fall, and The Citadel's Brandon Rainey, who accounted for a school-record 30 touchdowns last season and engineered the FCS level's only win over a Power-Five opponent (Georgia Tech). Both QBs will be in action next Saturday.

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