In the Making the Jump series, I take a look at players and coaches who are transitioning from the FCS to the FBS ahead of the 2022 season: outlining previous production and describing how they might fit within the program.
For each player, there will be a provided Impact Rating, which is the predicted likelihood of immediate impact coupled with CFF relevancy. For example, a 5/5 would be a presumed immediate impact player with high-volume production. A 2/5 might be someone who is poised to make an immediate impact but isn’t necessarily in a position to garner much production value.
In Part 1, we took a look at three Tight Ends. In Part 2, let’s look at one running back and one quarterback you should know. While there were several FCS to FBS running backs and quarterbacks, these two players, specifically, stood out amongst their peers.
Ramon Jefferson, RB
- Class: Senior
- Transferred from: Sam Houston
- Transferred to: Kentucky
- Offers out of H.S.: –
- FBS offers upon entering transfer portal: Colorado, Kentucky; unknown if there were more
Running back Ramon Jefferson was with Maine in 2018, Garden City CC in 2019, and Sam Houston in 2020 and 2021. Throughout his playing career, Jefferson has accumulated 639 carries, 3,938 yards as well as two 1,000+ yard seasons, 6.2 yards per carry, and 41 touchdowns. In 2021, Jefferson had 173 carries for 1,155 yards, 6.7 yards per carry, 13 touchdowns, and six 100+ yard games. Over the course of the past two seasons, Jefferson has averaged a rush market share of 38.0% and rush yards market share of 42.5%.
After competing at the FCS and JUCO level, Jefferson not only made the jump to the FBS but made his way into the SEC. Although initially committed to Colorado, he ultimately signed with Kentucky and joined a loaded running back room with five scholarship players, including the likes of Chris Rodriguez Jr. and Kavosiey Smoke.
With the departure of Liam Coen to the Los Angeles Rams, the Wildcats hired San Francisco 49ers Quarterbacks Coach Rich Scangarello as offensive coordinator. Kentucky hasn’t had consistent success in the passing game, but Head Coach Mark Stoops and the Wildcats have found reliability in the ground and pound. In 2021, Kentucky rushed at a 57.5% clip and maintained a success rate of 53.0%.
While there, Coen installed a wide-zone/west-coast offense that has been popularized by teams like the Rams and 49ers. Coen’s single season with Kentucky got the ball rolling as the passing game certainly made strides. The Scangarello hire is an indication that Stoops would like to see it through. The wide-zone is generally based on horizontal movement, deception, and gaps. In short, the offensive line moves in unison and blocks laterally to stretch the field in a given direction, thusly, creating multiple opportunities and gaps for the running back.
Jefferson – now well traveled and successful at multiple programs – has, likely, played in an array of schemes. He’s shifty, has some break-away speed and good vision, runs well in traffic, and doesn’t seem to shy away from contact. What’s yet to be seen is his ability to catch out the backfield or block.
“…he’s like a little bowling ball. He’s like kind of a smaller version of Chris. Maybe a little shiftier and he’s got good feel, too. He’s a smart football player. He’s doing a really good job in protection and he’s getting into his spots in the passing game and he’s been able to catch balls out of the backfield…he’s going to get reps for us and make an impact for sure.”Will Levis, Kentucky QB
Given Rodriguez’s DUI and imminent multi-game suspension, Jefferson definitely has a path to early playing time. Without Rodriguez, that means Kentucky will be without a playmaker who maintained a high market share in terms of carries, yards, and touchdowns. They’ll need someone to fill that role in the interim. Wherever he goes, Jefferson produces and there is no doubt he will be a part of the rotation in some capacity.
Impact Rating: 4/5
Austin Reed, QB
- Class: Graduate Student
- Transferred from: University of West Florida
- Transferred to: Western Kentucky University
- Offers out of H.S.: Southern Illinois, Columbia
- FBS offers upon entering the transfer portal: Western Michigan and WKU; according to The Athletic, he had “spoken to Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr.” and “had scheduled a time to talk to coaches from Northwestern and Arizona State.” He had heard from about 35 schools between the FBS and FCS.
In terms of FCS to FBS quarterbacks, there’s Cameron Ward and then there’s everyone else.
…but what about Division II to FBS quarterbacks?
This is my article and I make the rules. So let’s talk about WKU’s Austin Reed.
Throughout the spring game and fall camp, there was an ongoing quarterback battle between West Virginia transfer Jarret Doege and Reed. On Sunday, August 14, Doege put his name into the transfer portal. A few hours before Doege entered the portal, social media comments from teammates alluded to Reed having received the starting nod before camp concluded. As of August 18, Reed was officially named WKU’s starting quarterback.
Reed – a Harlon Hill Award Finalist – began his collegiate career at Southern Illinois University, where he redshirted his freshman season. He transferred to the University of West Florida and played for the Argonauts in 2019 and 2021 (UWF did not play in 2020 due to COVID). Through his two playing seasons with UWF, Reed went 486-of-868 (56.0%) for 7,502 yards, 8.6 yards per pass attempt, 78 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions. He added 101 carries for 323 net yards and ten rushing touchdowns. Those stats heading into WKU’s “Air Raid principle” system are enough to pique interest. Additionally, Reed led the Argonauts to the 2019 NCAA Division II Football Championship where they defeated No. 4 Minnesota State by a score of 48-40. In that game, Reed went 33-of-54 (61.1%) for 523 yards, 9.7 yards per pass attempt, and had an interception and six touchdowns.
He certainly elicits some tangible and intangible parallels to the record-breaking Bailey Zappe, who transferred from Houston Baptist (FCS) to WKU (and inspired this entire series). Just as skeptics questioned if Zappe’s FCS success could translate to the FBS, the same has been in question concerning Reed’s DII to DI-FBS jump. However, if Reed was in a tight race with Doege and won the starting role, then he was, in fact, able to competitively make that transition.
On paper, and given what film is available, Reed checks all of the boxes and is primed for success in WKU’s offense. He’s a high-level passer, poised within the pocket, mobile, an “NFL arm” as described by Phil Steele. With Ben Arbuckle as the play-caller and co-OC and Reed at QB1, Helton and the Hilltoppers seem to be committed to the Air Raid-esque/high-octane offense which, of course, yields big numbers both on the field and in your leagues.
Even prior to the likelihood of Reed at QB1, WKU’s quarterback was going to maintain a high level of CFF relevancy in 2022. Zappe’s numbers? Likely not. But they don’t have to chase his record to have a successful, productive season.
Impact Rating: 5/5