This season, I had the honor to be included by Craig Haley as one of the 40 voters in the STATS Perform FCS Top 25 for the Spring. Along with the Top 25 vote comes the opportunity to vote for the FCS Legacy Awards: Walter Payton, Buck Buchanan, Eddie Robinson and Jerry Rice.
As a voter, I believe integrity and transparency are very important. I have made sure to post my ballot for all to see and respond to each and every week. That is no different for the awards ballot I cast. I have always welcomed the respectful feedback. It makes me a better voter.
Without further ado, here are my top five for each award.
Jerry Rice Award (Top Freshman in the FCS)
- Cameron Ward, QB, Incarnate Word
- Mark Gronowski, QB, South Dakota State
- Isaac Dowling, LB, Mercer
- Seth Morgan, QB, Virginia Military Institute
- Tony Muskett, QB, Monmouth
Explanation: This was a tough decision between Ward and Gronowski. While Gronowski has been very steady in leading South Dakota State to the top seed in the playoffs, I could not ignore Ward’s eye-popping stats. He is second in passing yards and first in passing touchdowns. The gaudy numbers gave Ward the slight edge.
Breaking up the quarterback dominance of the ballot is Isaac Dowling, a tackling machine who sparked a much improved Mercer defense.
Morgan and Muskett both took over for school record setting quarterbacks at VMI and Monmouth respectfully.
Eddie Robinson Award (Top Coach in the FCS)
- Scott Wachenheim, Virginia Military
- Bubba Schweigert, North Dakota
- Doc Gamble, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
- Danny Rocco, Delaware
- K.C. Keeler, Sam Houston
Explanation: This was the easiest award on my ballot. Wachenheim, in his sixth season, led VMI to its first playoff appearance. No slight to any of the other nominees, but Wachenheim should win this in a landslide.
Bubba Schweigert led North Dakota to a share of the Missouri Valley title in their first season in the conference. Doc Gamble’s Arkansas-Pine Bluff team is current unbeaten in the SWAC. Danny Rocco and K.C.Keeler led Delaware and Sam Houston to unbeaten season as well.
Buck Buchanan Award (Top Defensive Player in the FCS)
- Jordan Lewis, DE, Southern
- Colby Campbell, LB, Presbyterian
- La’akea Kaho’ohanohano-Davis, LB, Southern Utah
- Jahari Kay, DE, Sam Houston
- Stone Snyder, LB, Virginia Military
Explanation: The Buchanan award was the toughest to decide. But Jordan Lewis’s 10 sacks and 15 tackles for loss make him the top guy on my ballot. Campbell is a tackling machine with 96 in just seven games. Kaho’ohanohano-Davis had 9TFL and 7 sacks in just six games. Jahari Kay led a resurgent Sam Houston defense to the #2 seed. At linebacker, its hard to find a better name than Stone Snyder. As good as his name is, his play is even better.
Walter Payton Award (Top Offensive Player in the FCS)
- Cole Kelley, QB, Southeastern Louisiana
- Eric Barriere, QB, Eastern Washington
- Julius Chestnut, RB, Sacred Heart
- Otis Weah, RB, North Dakota
- Aqueel Glass, QB, Alabama A&M
Explanation: Kelley became the easy answer for the top of my Walter Payton ballot over the last few weeks. With a stat line that looks much like Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills, Kelley was impactful in all phases of the offense. He threw 18 touchdowns (with only four interceptions), ran for seven touchdowns and caught two more. He completed nearly 69% of his passes for 2662 yards all in 7 games.
Barriere had another nice season for Eastern Washington and early the second slot on this ballot. He accounted for 18 passing touchdowns, same as Kelley. But Eric was not as involved in the run game as he has been in the past. EB3 has the Eagles in the playoffs and poised to make another run at Frisco.
Chestnut seemed untacklable this Spring. In just four games, he ran for 717 yards (7.7 per carry) and eight touchdowns along with catching 3 more touchdowns with 171 yards. His effort led Sacred Heart to the NEC championship and a playoff berth.
Weah was just a touch behind Chestnut. He was noticeable in every North Dakota game. He may get stopped for a couple runs but would eventually break one. At 7.5 yards per carry and seven touchdowns he was the offensive catalyst for his team.
Glass was such a fun player to watch. His effort against Jackson State showed that he is one of the top quarterbacks in the FCS. In that game he threw for 440 yards and 6 touchdowns, adding one on the ground. In just three games, Glass threw for 1084 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Jamie is a proud 2002 graduate of James Madison University. He’s witnessed the growth of the program from no one in the stands in 1998, to the hiring of Mickey Matthews, to the 2004 National Championship, to the 2008 team, to the struggles in the early 2010s, and finally the rebuild under Mike Houston. He also allegedly really enjoys Washington, DC-based Stanley Cup winners.
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