Lauletta, Leonard are FCS standouts at Senior Bowl

(STATS) – FCS players usually feel they have to do more than their FBS counterparts to impress NFL teams and answer any questions about their level of competition in college.

Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta is pretty good at shaking off that concern. He’s even better at slinging a football.

Lauletta was the offensive standout and South Carolina State outside linebacker Darius Leonard the defensive standout as their South team routed the North 45-16 at the Reese’s Senior Bowl on Saturday in Mobile, Alabama.

Lauletta passed for three touchdowns and 198 yards in the second half to earn Most Valuable Player honors, while Leonard racked up a game-high 14 tackles at college football’s premier All-Star game.

“This is just a great platform,” Lauletta said. “I’m just kind of playing my game and doing what I’ve done my whole life. I really don’t feel like I had anything to prove out here. Just outside here having more fun, and I couldn’t be more happy.”

All of the players used Senior Bowl week as a way to try to improve their NFL Draft status. They included 13 from the FCS.

Lauletta, the CAA offensive player of the year, showed mobility and downfield touch. He completed 8 of 12 passes, highlighted by a 75-yard touchdown to D.J. Chark of LSU in the third quarter.

Eric Galko of Optimum calls the 6-foot-2, 217-pound Lauletta a “Jimmy G-lite prospect,” comparing him to Jimmy Garoppolo – the 2013 Walter Payton Award winner from Eastern Illinois who is now starting for the San Francisco 49ers.

The 6-2, 229-pound Leonard, a two-time MEAC defensive player of the year and a first-team selection on the 2017 STATS FCS All-America Team, totaled a school-record 394 tackles in his career on the “small-school” level. His sideline-to-sideline range made its mark in a big way Saturday, including five solo stops.

“Going against the bigger talent and showing the scouts and everybody that I can play with any competition,” Leonard said of the Senior Bowl opportunity, “and actually show that I’m a great player like any other big name or any other big-school guy.”

Other FCS players on the South were offensive linemen Brandon Parker of North Carolina A&T and Skyler Phillips of Idaho State and cornerbacks Danny Johnson of Southern, Siran Neal of Jacksonville State and D’Montre Wade of Murray State. Neal was in on three tackles, including two solos.

The FCS contingent on the North included Penn wide receiver Justin Watson, Maine offensive lineman Jamil Demby, North Dakota State linebacker Nick DeLuca, defensive linemen Richard “Dewey” Jarvis of Brown and Bilal Nichols of Delaware, and Weber State cornerback Taron Johnson. Watson had a 34-yard reception and DeLuca collected six tackles.

South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert, Stony Brook offensive tackle Timon Parris and The Citadel linebacker Myles Pierce were selected for the game, but unable to play because of injuries.

Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans staff coached the South, while Vance Joseph and the Denver Broncos staff guided the North.

The NFL Draft will be held April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

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