Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Eastern Washington star quarterback Vernon Adams may seem like an easy choice for The Sports Network FCS Preseason All-America first team, but consider this:
The FCS level is so deep in dual-threat signal callers that the 10th-place finisher for last year's national player of the year award failed to make any of the three teams on this year's preseason squad.
Adams, a junior who was the Walter Payton Award runner-up, was one of 33 2013 All-Americans to be selected to the preseason team and one of five from Eastern Washington, which tied for the most selections by a school with Fordham, whose senior quarterback, Michael Nebrich, was the preseason second-team choice at the position.
Southeastern Louisiana senior Bryan Bennett and Villanova junior John Robertson shared third-team honors at quarterback.
All four quarterbacks finished in the Top 10 of the Payton Award voting for the top individual FCS honor. Princeton's 10th-place finisher, Quinn Epplerly, the 2013 Ivy League offensive player of the year who led the FCS in points responsible for per game, fell just short of being named a Preseason All- American.
Indeed, it was talent galore as the three preseason teams went 101 players deep, spread out among 59 schools and all 13 FCS conferences.
Dual-threat quarterbacks are certainly in fashion in today's game. Adams finished second in the FCS in total yards per game (373.3) just behind the national leader Nebrich (376.4). Robertson (306.5) and Bennett (300.8) finished ninth and 11th, respectively, in total yards per game. All four QBs rushed for at least 500 yards, with Robertson leading the position nationally with 1,405 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Adams electrified all season as the Big Sky Conference offensive player of the year and the second-team All-America quarterback behind Payton Award winner Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois. Adams passed for 4,994 yards and 55 touchdowns, which both rank third all-time in an FCS season, and rushed for 605 yards and four touchdowns for the Eagles, who upset nationally ranked FBS member Oregon State, won their second straight conference title and reached the national semifinals for the third time in four years.
Joining Adams on the preseason first team was his favorite target, Eastern Washington sophomore wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who hauled in 21 touchdowns as well as the 2013 Jerry Rice Award as the national freshman of the year. In addition, Eagles senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin made the second team, and senior running back Quincy Forte and junior offensive lineman Clay DeBord landed on the third team.
Fordham's five Preseason All-America players were Nebrich, first-team choices Sam Ajala, a wide receiver, and Stephen Hodge, a linebacker, second-team selection Mason Halter, an offensive lineman, and third-team pick Dan Light, a tight end. Each a senior, they return to a Rams squad that set a school record with 12 wins in 2013.
Seven players returned to the first team after receiving top postseason honors last season. They were Kupp, South Dakota State senior running back Zach Zenner, Southern Illinois senior tight end MyCole Pruitt, Eastern Illinois senior offensive lineman Collin Seibert, Southeastern Louisiana sophomore kickoff returner Xavier Roberson, Norfolk State senior linebacker Lynden Trail and Missouri State senior safety Caleb Schaffitzel.
Zenner will pursue a third straight season with over 2,000 rushing yards, which hasn't been done on the FCS level. He finished sixth in the 2013 Payton Award voting.
Other first-team selections on offense were Northern Iowa running back David Johnson; Towson fullback Emmanuel Holder; New Hampshire wide receiver R.J. Harris; offensive linemen Robert Booker of Missouri State, Antoine Everett of McNeese State, Max Holcombe of Jacksonville State and Jack Rummells of Northern Iowa; all-purpose selection Rob Hollomon of Central Connecticut State; and Southern Illinois senior place-kicker Thomas Kinney. All are seniors except Holder and Booker, a pair of juniors.
The first team on defense also consisted of defensive ends Zach Hodges of Harvard and Davis Tull of Chattanooga, defensive tackles O.J. Mau of Gardner- Webb and Troy Moore of Sacred Heart, linebackers Quinn Backus of Coastal Carolina and Tony Bell of UT Martin, cornerbacks Harlan Miller of Southeastern Louisiana and Tye Smith of Towson, Tennessee State safety Daniel Fitzpatrick, Portland State punter Kyle Loomis, Illinois State long snapper Chris Highland and North Carolina Central punt returner Adrian Wilkins. Mau, Miller and Wilkins are juniors; the rest are seniors.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference, home to three-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State, had the most first-team selections with eight, while its 13 overall selections tied with the Big Sky Conference for the second-highest total behind CAA Football's 15.
Eastern Illinois and Southeastern Louisiana had four selections each, and eight other schools, including North Dakota State, collected three each.
The full FCS Preseason All-America team can be found at http://tinyurl.com/maslhoo.