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FAMU’s Isaiah Land, college football’s 2021 sack leader, enters the NCAA transfer portal

After a breakout redshirt junior season, Land should be in high demand at the FBS level.

FAMU football

The 2021 FCS Defensive Player of the Year, FAMU Rattlers linebacker/defensive end Isaiah Land, entered the NCAA transfer portal on Sunday after a redshirt junior season that saw him emerge from an unknown to the national leader with 19 sacks.

A Buffalo, New York native who attended national powerhouse Grayson High School in Georgia, Land landed at FAMU as a member of the 2018 class and didn’t start to emerge until producing two sacks and five tackles for loss in nine games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

In 2021, Land was unstoppable off the edge, notching 25.5 tackles for loss in addition to his 19 sacks, as well as six quarterback hurries, three pass breakups, three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

“There are a lot of moving parts with the portal,” FAMU head coach Willie Simmons told Tallahassee.com. “We as coaches don’t have a hand in it. Right now we are in a fact-finding stage ourselves. Obviously, I would love for him to stay.”

Land had previously announced in January his intent to return to the Rattlers program for his final season of eligibility.

With Sunday’s deadline to enter the portal and maintain eligibility for this season, Land decided to explore his options and should have plenty of them, especially since most coveted players having already chosen their destinations, including Texas target Ochaun Mathis, who committed to Nebraska on Saturday.

A 6’4, 215-pounder, Land is undersized for playing a 4-3 defensive end role, although he often lined up with his hand on the ground in 2021. Land’s explosive first step often allowed him to beat opposing offensive tackles with his speed rush and he’s also extremely rangy crashing down from the backside of plays when unblocked in zone running schemes. Despite Land’s lack of mass, there are also times when he shows some impressive punch with his hands when engaging linemen — he’s a lean player, but his hands are heavier than expected. On longer-developing plays, Land has enough motor to keep working his hands and find ways to get free for hustle efforts.

Land also missed spring practice with a hip injury, which may or may not be a concern for programs interested in him depending on his timetable for recovery, and his best fit may be in an off-ball role similar to the strong-side linebacker in Texas defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski’s scheme. His size is definitely a concern when projecting him to the FBS level, but he’s so quick and rangy that he should have a chance to be an impact player on a Power Five team.

And while it’s also still too early to know if the Longhorns might have serious interest in Land and vice versa, he’s certainly an intriguing player to monitor over the coming days.