So many standouts vie for the Payton, Buchanan, Rice and Robinson
The disclaimer with picking the top individual awards in FCS college football is there are a lot of right choices and not many wrong ones.
Everyone’s opinion of the Walter Payton, Buck Buchanan, Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson awards vary, and it’s especially the case with the many strong candidates this year.
A national panel of more than 150 voters select the offensive player of the year (Payton), defensive player of the year award (Buchanan), freshman player of the year (Rice) and coach of the year (Robinson) from the regular season. The Rice and Robinson winners will be announced in December, with the Payton and Buchanan winners to follow on Jan. 4 — the night before the FCS championship game.
Following is one writer’s ballot (a top 5 for each award):
Walter Payton Award
1. Devlin Hodges, QB, Samford
The three-time Southern Conference offensive player of the year is the national passing leader, finishing his career as the all-time FCS leader in passing yards (14,584), completions (1,310) and attempts (1,896), and No. 2 in total offense (15,601).
2. Chandler Burks, QB, Kennesaw State
His 29 rushing touchdowns are a single-season FCS record for a quarterback, and 10 more than anybody else.
3. Easton Stick, QB, North Dakota State
Oh yes, he puts up numbers for the No. 1 Bison – 33 total TDs. More importantly, 45 career wins heading into the playoffs.
4. John Lovett, QB, Princeton
He was a human Madden NFL player, producing 31 TDs in nine games of the Tigers’ 10-0 season.
5. Donald Parham, TE, Stetson
Totaled 85 receptions, 1,319 receiving yards and 13 TD catches... as a tight end... in nine games.
Hard to leave off ballot: Anthony Lawrence, QB, San Diego; Jake Maier, QB, UC Davis
Other finalists: Tyrie Adams, QB, Jr., Western Carolina; Michael Bandy, WR, San Diego; Taryn Christion, QB, South Dakota State; Ra’Quanne Dickens, RB, Incarnate Word; Keelan Doss, WR, UC Davis; Tom Flacco, QB, Towson; Ryan Fulse, RB, Wagner; A.J. Hines, RB, Duquesne; James Holland Jr., RB, Colgate; Alexander Hollins, WR, Eastern Illinois; Noah Johnson, QB, Alcorn State; Kelvin McKnight, WR, Samford; Caylin Newton, QB, Howard; Josh Pearson, WR, Jacksonville State; Joe Protheroe, FB, Cal Poly; James Robinson, RB, Illinois State; Marquis Terry, RB, Southeast Missouri; Reggie White Jr., WR, Monmouth
Buck Buchanan Award
1. Zach Hall, LB, Southeast Missouri
In leading the Redhawks’ turnaround, he has contributed 150 tackles (one shy of the school’s single-season record) as well as four interceptions, four fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles toward their national-high 31 takeaways.
2. Isiah Swann, CB, Dartmouth
Had an FCS-high nine interceptions plus nine more pass breakups for the nation’s No. 2 scoring defense.
3. Dante Olson, LB, Montana
The FCS leader in tackles (151) had as many as 24 in one game.
4. Jimmy Moreland, CB, James Madison
Those three straight games with an interception return for a touchdown say it all.
5. Jabril Cox, LB, North Dakota State
His all-around play resembles the only two-time winner of the Buchanan, Appalachian State linebacker Dexter Coakley.
Hard to leave off ballot: B.J. Blunt, LB, McNeese
Other finalists: Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware; De’Arius Christmas, LB, Grambling State; Thomas Costigan, LB, Bryant; Cam Gill, LB, Wagner; Ahmad Gooden, DE, Samford; Anthony Gore Jr., LB, Kennesaw State; Darin Greenfield, DE, South Dakota; Robbie Grimsley, S, North Dakota State; Darryl Johnson Jr., DE, North Carolina A&T; Isaiah Mack, DT, Chattanooga; Nick Miller, LB, Penn; Mason Moe, LB, UC Davis; Nasir Player, DE, ETSU; Troy Reeder, LB, Delaware; Derick Roberson, LB, Sam Houston State; Khalen Saunders, DT, Western Illinois; Sterling Sheffield, LB, Maine; Will Warner, S, Drake; Nick Wheeler, LB, Colgate
Jerry Rice Award
1. Josh Davis, RB, Weber State
Ranks fifth in the FCS in rushing yards per game (128.8) and third in all-purpose yards per game (170) while scoring 10 touchdowns.
2. Jon Copeland, QB, Incarnate Word
After finishing 1-10 last season, the Cardinals earned a share of their first Southland Conference title and playoff bid, with Copeland passing for 2,984 yards and 22 TDs.
3. Quay Holmes, RB, ETSU
The top offensive threat for the Southern Conference tri-champ has rushed for 820 yards, caught 32 passes and scored 15 TDs.
4. Adrian Hope, LB, Furman
Would you believe the FCS leader in sacks per game – 15 in 10 games – is a rookie?
5. Caleb Snead, WR, Campbell
Had remarkable consistency while catching 45 passes for 810 yards and nine TDs.
Other finalists: Christian Benford, CB, Villanova; Ty Brock, QB, Sam Houston State; Julius Chestnut, RB, Sacred Heart; Jack Cook, QB, Dayton; Mohammed Diakite, Penn; Andrew Edgar, WR, Illinois State; Juwon Farri, Monmouth; Bailey Fisher, QB, Tennessee Tech; Ulonzo Gilliam, RB, UC Davis; Malik Hamm, DE, Lafayette; Robby Hauck, S, Montana; Noah Larson, LB, North Dakota; Skyler Perry, QB, Arkansas-Pine Bluff; Xavier Smith, WR, Florida A&M; Jareem Westcott, RB, Stetson
Eddie Robinson Award
1. Joe Harasymiak, Maine
In a CAA that produced a record six playoff teams, the Black Bears (8-3) navigated injuries yet won the outright title after being picked eighth in the preseason poll, went 5-0 against Top 25 opponents and beat an FBS program (Western Kentucky).
2. Curt Mallory, Indiana State
From 0-11 to 7-4 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Enough said.
3. Chris Klieman, North Dakota State
To keep producing while being the hunted is difficult, yet here the Bison are at 11-0.
4. Bob Surace, Princeton
Jason Garrett’s former center at Princeton led their Ivy League alma mater to its first unbeaten season (10-0) since 1964.
5. Dan Hawkins, UC Davis
The Aggies (9-2) opened with an FBS win (San Jose State), captured a share of the Big Sky title and earned the No. 6 seed in their first playoff season.
Hard to leave off ballot: Eric Morris, Incarnate Word
Other finalists: Brian Bohannon, Kennesaw State; Roger Hughes, Stetson; Dan Hunt, Colgate; Dale Lindsey, San Diego; Tom Matukewicz, Southeast Missouri; Fred McNair, Alcorn State; Randy Sanders, ETSU; Jerry Schmitt, Duquesne; Sam Washington, North Carolina A&T
— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.
(Photo courtesy of SamfordSports.com)