Jacksonville Jaguars: Small School Talent Makes Big Impact

David NelsonCorrespondent IIIJuly 13, 2009

DENVER - OCTOBER 12:  Cornerback Rashean Mathis #27 of the Jacksonville Jaguars defends against the Denver Broncos during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on October 12, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Jaguars defeated the Broncos 24-17.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

In a professional sports league like the NFL, many of the prospects out of college come from large name universities. 

Such universities that continuously pop up on NFL rosters include USC, Florida, Florida State, Auburn, Georgia, Penn State, and so on.

While there are plenty of talented players on the Jacksonville Jaguars' roster from these large and highly recruited schools, there are also plenty of small school players that have made large impacts in the past few seasons, and will make large impacts on seasons to come.

The best, and obvious most talented small school player on the Jaguars is Rashean Mathis.

Out of Bethune-Cookman, Mathis has been the leader of the defensive backfield ever since he became an every-game starter for the Jaguars in 2004.

Mathis was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2006 and recorded eight interceptions that year.

The next small school standout on the Jaguars would be linebacker, Justin Durant out of Hampton University.

Selected in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Durant is slowly becoming a very talented linebacker in the NFL.

Starting his career in the NFL at outside linebacker, Durant is making a push to become the team’s starting middle linebacker, and has currently pushed Daryl Smith back to outside linebacker.

The 2009 NFL season could become a breakout year for Durant, who is still yet to show that he is capable of being a very solid year-long starting linebacker.

Montell Owens, out of Maine, has established himself on the Jaguars as a very solid special teams player and back-up fullback.

Owens was signed as an unsigned free agent in 2006. The Jaguars then signed Owens to a four-year extension last season worth $4.2 million to show how impressed they are with the young fullback.

The last real stand-out on the team from a small school would be cornerback Brian Witherspoon out of Stillman.

Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008, Witherspoon ran a remarkable 4.16 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.

The Jaguars gave Witherspoon a chance to showcase his talents at both cornerback and kick returner.

So far, the Jaguars seem to like this very impressive talent out of Stillman.

The Jaguars went into this year’s draft and collected a few more very talented players from small schools that may end up being very valuable to this team’s future.

In the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft, the team selected two small school players that may end up contributing to this team right away.

The team selected defensive tackle Terrance Knighton out of Temple with the eighth pick in the round, and then selected cornerback Derek Cox out of William and Mary with the ninth pick in the round (after trading away their second round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft to the New England Patriots).

Cox has shown flashes of brilliance so far in the offseason and may be in the competition to play opposite of Rashean Mathis.

Knighton is also looking very good so far in training camp and may be able to see some playing time throughout the season.

The Jaguars also drafted Liberty running back Rashad Jennings in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

Jennings, at 6′1″ 230 lbs, may compliment Maurice Jones-Drew very nicely and see plenty of action in the upcoming season.

Aside from all the players listed, there are many other players currently listed in the Jaguars roster from small schools.

Others include this year’s fifth round pick, WR Jarret Dillard out of Rice, sixth round pick TE Zach Miller out of Nebraska-Omaha, and backup quarterback Todd Bouman out of St. Cloud State.