The Pioneer Football League is often overlooked, yet some of the talent showcased by their athletes is undeniable. This FCS league has some real stars, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Whether it is the Butler Bulldogs’ Swiss army knife, Jyran Mitchell, or Davidson’s gunslinger quarterback, Coulter Cleland, there have been some true standouts on Saturdays in the PFL. Here’s a look at some of the league’s offensive superstars.
Jyran Mitchell, Grad RB/WR, Butler
The Butler offense poses a threat week in and week out largely due to their absolutely dynamic offensive weapon, Jyran Mitchell. The Bulldogs use him in the backfield, but he possesses a unique ability to also work out of the slot receiver position.
Mitchell’s vision and patience make him the star gadget player that he is. Butler gets him the football as often as they can, and for good reason. Six weeks into the season, Mitchell has already won PFL Offensive Player of the Week two times and is averaging seven yards per touch. His athleticism is a delight to watch on Saturdays; fans should look out for some more Player of the Week accolades for this Bulldog.
Ja’Seem Reed, Junior WR, San Diego
This speedster might be the most explosive player in the PFL. Sharp route running and breakaway speed make Reed the dynamic playmaker that he is. Facing single coverage and no safety, Reed is often seen tapping his helmet signaling a go-route to the quarterback, and he frequently comes through.
He gives his quarterback a large window to throw him the ball because of how consistently open he is. When number 89 is lined up in the slot, watch out for the short drag route because once the ball is in his hands, a touchdown is always possible. He truly changes games, evidenced by his 11-catch, 109-yard performance against Princeton. He single-handedly kept the Toreros in that game and is consistently the leading receiver on this team.
Coulter Cleland, Sophomore QB, Davidson
Cleland has many skills in his arsenal, but the most prominent one is his ability to extend plays. The Davidson quarterback has a natural ability to stay calm in the pocket and when it collapses, he knows exactly what to do. This offense is neither pass nor run-heavy, so it always keeps the defense guessing, and Cleland’s confidence and accuracy allow him to carve up opposing secondaries.
He likes to check it down to his sure-handed running back, Mari Adams, but he’s also not afraid to let it fly. In a game against Marist, Cleland threw for over 300 yards. In that game, he also averaged more than 14 yards per completion. Cleland has taken home the PFL Offensive Player of the Week once and has been nominated two times as well. He is a frequent joy to watch in this high-scoring, fast-paced Wildcat offense.
Amin Woods, Junior RB, Marist
This tough runner from Poughkeepsie appeared on ESPN’s Fantastic Finishes for his 25-yard game-clinching run at Valpo. Then, the very next week, he won the FedEx Ground National FCS Player of the Week for his 232-yard performance in an impressive win against Stetson.
Woods is a running back who loves contact and he is not afraid to lower his shoulder, as he displayed on the first play of the game against Stetson, where he took the first snap of the game for a 67-yard touchdown. The Red Fox offense goes through Woods. The junior is averaging almost 19 touches a game, and his ability to run through defenders is something that sticks out.
The skill repertoire these athletes possess is truly noteworthy and a delight to watch every Saturday. The Pioneer Football League viewing experience would not be the same without these players.
So, the next time they’re on the field, make sure you are paying close attention because you could miss a big play at any moment.
Edited by Luke Sassa
Photo Credit: Jaylen Rizzo