NFL scouts will be watching closely when Eastern Illinois senior Jimmy Garoppolo plays Friday night at 8 p.m. ET in a FCS playoff quarterfinal.
Garoppolo and second-seeded EIU (12-1) will play host to seventh-seeded Towson (11-2) with a berth in the FCS semifinals at stake.
Garoppolo (6-foot-3, 222 pounds) has thrown for 4,729 yards and 51 touchdowns -- 10 shy of the NCAA all-time record -- this season. Both figures lead all of NCAA football and are single-season Ohio Valley Conference records.
With potentially three games left to play, including Friday's, and an average of 3.9 TD passes per game, the NCAA record for single-season TD passes is well within reach for Garoppolo, who is looking to keep his draft stock on the rise.
"I know some teams have him as a mid-round guy, while others aren't as high on him," NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "He won over some personnel guys with his performance against San Diego State."
Garoppolo threw for 361 yards and three TDs when Eastern Illinois hammered the Aztecs 41-21 in the season-opener for both. As a point of comparison, Fresno State's Derek Carr threw for 298 yards and two TDs in a 35-28 victory over San Diego State, and San Jose State's David Fales threw for 301 yards, three TDs and two interceptions in a 34-30 loss to the Aztecs.
Garoppolo's performance against San Diego State led to this proclamation from Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who watched tape of the EIU-San Diego State game before his team faced the Aztecs early in the season: "Eastern has really one of the best quarterbacks I've ever seen. I didn't even know who he was until I watched him. He's a great player."
His production is unrivaled at EIU, which has a storied QB history. The school's single-season TD record had been 34, held by former EIU star Tony Romo. Garoppolo has 116 career TD passes, 31 more than Romo's previous school record. In addition, Garoppolo passed New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton to become the school's career leader in completions this season.
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EIU coach Dino Babers was Baylor's wide receiver coach when Robert Griffin III was the Bears' quarterback. EIU runs an offense similar to Baylor's, and Babers has said he never has seen a quarterback with a quicker release than Garoppolo.
Garoppolo's TD total marks the 15th time in NCAA history -- in all classes, from FBS to Division III -- that a quarterback has thrown 50 touchdown passes. The record is 61 by Brett Elliott of Division III Linfield (Ore.) in 2004; he did it in 13 games.
Garoppolo is five TD passes away from tying the FCS single-season record of 56 set by Mississippi Valley State's Willie "Satellite" Totten in 1984 and tied by Grambling's Bruce Eugene in 2005. Totten, whose No. 1 receiver with the Delta Devils that season was Jerry Rice, threw 56 in just 10 games; Eugene did it in 13 contests.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.