Who's next man up as teams move on without noted All-Americans
All is not lost when an All-American moves on from a college football team. Even in the FCS, where the depth doesn’t run as deep as on the big brother FBS level.
Other players lie in wait, ready to carve their niche into their team's success.
Here are five big losses at FCS programs and the likely solution heading into the 2020 season:
North Dakota State OLB Jabril Cox
Cox went from one national champion to another with a grad transfer to LSU. Ironically, his younger brother Jasir, a 6-foot, 205-pound rising junior, is in the mix to replace him in the starting lineup. Jasir had 14 tackles as the Bison won a third straight FCS title. Safety James Kaczor also saw time at linebacker, starting one game in place of Jabril when the latter sat out with a minor knee injury. Redshirt freshman Nick Kubitz also seeks a regular role.
Illinois State RB James Robinson
Robinson racked up more than 600 rushing yards in three playoff games and finished second in the FCS in that department, but the Redbirds also were grooming a successor before Jeff Proctor missed the season's final four games with a PCL injury to his left knee. The powerfully built Proctor (5-8, 195), who's expected to be back to 100 percent as a senior, was the team's second-leading rusher with 476 yards on 112 attempts and made the Missouri Valley Football Conference All-Newcomer Team. A handful of freshmen and sophomores will vie for time behind Proctor.
James Madison DEs John Daka and Ron'Dell Carter
Daka and Carter combined for 55 tackles for a loss and 28.5 sacks for the CAA champion and national runner-up. While the Dukes return senior defensive tackles Mike Greene and Adeeb Atariwa to a stout interior, they’ll need pressure from the edge. Leading the way is Jalen Green (6-1, 256), who flashed emerging skills as a freshman. The Dukes also expect Isaac Ukwu to return from a season-ending injury and signed Minnesota transfer Abi N-Okonji one year after bringing in Antonio Colclough from Temple.
Dayton TE Adam Trautman
Dayton is asking a lot of Jay Vallie as he replaces Trautman, the school’s first NFL Draft choice in 33 years (New Orleans Saints, third round). Vallie, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound fifth-year senior, has made it through only one full season (2018) and has only one reception in his career — a one-yard touchdown against Marist last year. But Vallie is expected to be a starter and will seek a finish strong to his career.
Northern Arizona QB Case Cookus
It felt as though last year's FCS passing leader was around forever, that even when Cookus was sidelined by injury, it was only a matter of time before he was back behind center, where he set NAU career records for passing yards (12,082) and TD passes (105). A successor is needed. Rising sophomore Heath Beemiller, a safety in his redshirt season in 2018, impressed off the bench in a win over Western New Mexico last season, while Keondre Wudtee, who transferred in from Oklahoma State last offseason, is the lone senior at a position. Youngsters Jeff Widener and Niko Haen also will get long looks.
— 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 James Madison Athletics)