FCS 2019 Big Sky Awards

BIG SKY CONFERENCE

Offensive Player of the Year:  Kevin Thomson, QB, Sacramento State

Photo: Skyline Sports

Thomson completed 244 of 397 passes for 2,919 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also rushed for 532 yards and led the Hornets with 10 rushing scores in overcoming a rash of career injuries to enjoy his finest season.

Sacramento State’s gritty and talented quarterback was named the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year after fueling the Hornets to the biggest one-season turnaround at the Division I Football Championship Subdivision level.

Sac State has gone from 2-8 last season to 9-3 now, including an 8-1 showing against FCS teams and a No. 3 national ranking, also a program record, and a first-time FCS playoff berth.

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Co-Defensive Players of the Year: Dante Olson, LB, Montana

Photo: Montana Athletics

Olson, who started the year as the league’s Preseason Defensive MVP, lived up to the hype in 2019, once again leading the FCS in total tackles. To get there, he posted double-digit tackles in eight of Montana’s 12 games, including a season-high 18 stops against Montana State and Idaho State and a game-high 14 against the Oregon Ducks.

Not only were his 151 tackles the best in the league and FCS, they are the second-most in all of D-I football (to date) behind California’s Evan Weaver, who currently leads the nation with 164 stops.

Combined with his junior season total of 151, Olson now has 302 tackles in 23 games as a two-year starter (an average of 13.1 per game), bringing his career total to 369 total tackles.

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Co-Defensive Players of the Year: Jonah Williams, DE, Weber State

Photo: Weber State University Athletics

Williams is the fifth WSU player to earn a defensive player of the year honor. He has 48 tackles this season, including 9.0 for loss and 6.5 sacks, three pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble, helping anchor a run defense that is top 10 nationally.

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Nat L. Faybian’s Mock Draft, version 1.0

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Freshman of the Year:  Nick Eaton, LB, UC Davis

Eaton becomes the first UC Davis player to win Big Sky Freshman of the Year. The recently named Jerry Rice Award finalist ranked fourth on the Aggies with 56 tackles, including team highs of 12.0 tackles for losses and 6.5 sacks. He forced five fumbles in 2019, including an intercepted pitch that sent him 78 yards for his first collegiate touchdown against Cal Poly on October 12. Eaton’s rate of 0.42 forced fumbles per game shared the FCS lead at the end of the regular season, while his 1.00 TFL per game ranked eighth in the Big Sky. Eaton won two ROOT SPORTS Defensive Player of the Week awards plus a STATS FCS National Freshman of the Week and College Sports Madness Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week nod this season.

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Newcomer of the Year:  Marcus Knight, RB, Montana

Knight, a sophomore from San Juan Capistrano, California, is tied for third in the FCS with 21 total touchdowns after transferring from Citrus College in January. He has 930 rushing yards and could become the first Grizzly to eclipse 1,000 since 2014, when Jordan Canada had 1,207.

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Coach of the Year: Troy Taylor, Sacramento State

In his first season at the helm of the Sacramento State program, Taylor led the Hornets to a record-breaking season. Sacramento State recorded nine overall victories during the regular season and registered seven Big Sky wins to set new school marks.

The Hornets captured a share of the Big Sky championship, and will compete in the NCAA Division I Football Championship playoffs this year for the first time. Sacramento State is the No. 4 overall seed for the postseason and has a bye in the first round.

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2018 Big Sky Awards

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FCS 2019 Southern Awards

SOUTHERN CONFERENCE

Offensive Player of the Year: Joe Newman, QB, Wofford

Newman, a senior quarterback from Riverdale, Georgia, is just the second Terrier to ever be named Offensive Player of the Year. Previously Eric Breitenstein won the award in 2011 and 2012. He is also the first Wofford quarterback to ever receive All-Southern Conference honors. Newman has started all 11 games this season and is the team’s leading rusher with 880 yards and 13 touchdowns on 118 carries. He has completed 64-of-115 passes with seven touchdowns. He is the first Wofford quarterback to throw for more than 1,000 yards in back to back seasons since Travis Wilson (1999-01).

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Defensive Player of the Year: Willie Eubanks III, LB, The Citadel

Eubanks, a 6-2, 215-pound junior from Augusta, Ga., led The Citadel with 112 tackles this season, the most for the Bulldogs since 2000. He was second in the SoCon in tackles, third in tackles for loss with 11.5 and eighth in sacks with four.

He also forced three fumbles, intercepted a pass, broke up four passes and had 11 quarterback hurries for the 6-6 Bulldogs, who went 4-4 in SoCon play.

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Nat L. Faybian’s Mock Draft, version 1.0

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Freshman of the Year: Ailym Ford, RB, Chattanooga

Ford led all freshmen at the FCS level with 108.1 rushing yards per game and tied for the team lead with nine rushing touchdowns.

“The best thing about him being freshman of the year,” Mocs coach Rusty Wright said in a UTC release, “is he has four A’s and a B right now going into the finals. That proves what he does on and off the field is the same, and he is very deserving.”

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Jacobs Blocking Award: Blake Jeresaty, OL, Wofford

Wofford OC Blake Jeresaty barks out instructions to his teammates.

Jeresaty, a junior center from Charleston, South Carolina, becomes the fifth Terrier to earn the Jacob Blocking Trophy and the first since 2011. He is part of an offensive line that is ranked first in the nation in fewest sacks allowed, with only one (0.09 spg). The line paves the way for the nation’s second-ranked rushing attack at 323.5 yards per game. He leads the team in knockdown blocks with 117 on the season. He was named All-Southern Conference second team last season. He was also named CoSIDA Academic All-District the past two years.

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Coach of the Year: Scott Wachenheim, VMI

Wachenheim guided the Keydet football team to five wins overall in 2019 – the most since 2003 when VMI posted a 6-6 mark. VMI closed out the regular season with a 31-24 win over Chattanooga last Saturday to finish with a 4-4 mark in SoCon play which marked the first time since 1979 that the Keydets had secured four conference wins in a season. VMI also captured the Silver Shako Trophy for the first time since 2002 with a 34-21 win over The Citadel October 5 in the “Military Classic of the South”.

Wachenheim becomes the first VMI coach named SoCon Coach of the Year since Cal McCombs in 2002.

Wachenheim was also named as a finalist to the 33rd annual Eddie Robinson Award which honors the FCS Coach of the Year and joins 14 other FCS coaches nationally to be considered for the STATS FCS award.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized as the Southern Conference Coach of the Year by my peers in my profession,” said Wachenheim. “It is also a tribute to the outstanding job my staff has performed this season.”

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2018 Southern Awards

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FCS 2019 Southland Awards

SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE

Player of the Year: Sully Laiche, DE, Nicholls

Laiche is just one of nine players in conference history to compile 30 career sacks.
Photo: Misty Leigh McElroy/Nicholls State University

Named a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the FCS’ top defensive player, Laiche totaled 19½ tackles for loss and 10 sacks in the regular season to bring his career totals to 59 tackles-for-loss and 35½ sacks. 

Hailing from Gramercy and a graduate of Lutcher, Laiche was a one-man wrecking crew on the defensive line. Despite missing the first two games, Laiche led all FCS players with 2.1 tackles-for-loss per game and ranked fifth nationally in sacks per game (1.1). He led the Southland with nine sacks in conference play and recorded at least one tackle-for-loss in each of his nine starts.

For his career, Laiche is the active leader in the FCS with 35.5 sacks. The total ranks him fourth all-time in the Southland Conference and just 2.5 from tying the league’s top mark. Laiche is also just a half-sack from reaching the top 10 all-time in the FCS.

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Offensive Player of the Year: Chase Fourcade, QB, Nicholls

All in the family: Fourcade’s Uncle John set all kinds of passing records at Ole Miss and later played for the NO Saints. Photo: Brett Davis/AP

Last year’s Player of the Year, Fourcade finished his final regular season as the most efficient passer in the league in both overall (151.3) and conference-only games (157.7). He ranked ninth among FCS quarterbacks in completion percentage (66.1) and averaged the second-most yards of total offense in Southland contests (303.2).

Fourcade played a key role in the Colonels’ top rushing offense, ranking seventh in league games with 56.0 yards per game. Nine of his 11 rushing TDs were in Southland competition, which was fourth-best in the SLC. In the win over Northwestern State, he rushed for a career-high 135 yards and added two touchdowns. 

He also broke school records for passing and rushing touchdowns this season and is second among active leaders with 12,271 career yards of total offense. and third with 10,448 yards passing.

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Defensive Player of the Year: Chris Livings, DE, McNeese

McNeese senior defensive end Chris Livings, has been named the Southland Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year the league announced in connection with the revealing of the 2019 Football All-Conference teams.

The Lake Charles native ended the season with a team-high 9.5 quarterback sacks, ranking him third in the conference. He recorded 12 tackles for a loss to go along with 52 total tackles, two pass break ups, five quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles.

He ended his career with 30 QB sacks, ranking second all-time in school history and just one away from the career record of 31. He also recorded 44 career tackles for a loss, ranking fourth all-time in school history.

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Freshman of the Year: Tyler Hudson, WR, Central Arkansas

Hudson, a receiver from Spring, Texas, earned the biggest postseason honor for the Bears after catching a team-high 52 passes for 939 yards and 12 touchdowns and averaging 18.1 yards per reception.  He was also named to the All-SLC second-team.

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Newcomer of the Year: Trace Mascorro, DL, Sam Houston State

A transfer from UTEP, Mascorro started all 12 games at defensive tackle for the Bearkats, who led the league in tackles-for-loss and sacks as a team. He tallied 15.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. Mascorro registered at least two TFL in five games.

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Offensive Lineman of the Year: P.J. Burkhalter, Nicholls

Burkhalter served as the starting center and left guard for Nicholls, who led the Southland with 188.3 rushing yards per game and ranked second in scoring (32.8) and total offense per game (449.7).

With Burkhalter leading the way, sophomore RB Julien Gums broke the Colonel’s single-season rushing touchdowns record (13) and has found the end zone in five straight games.

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Coach of the Year: Frank Scelfo, Southeastern Louisiana

Scelfo came to Hammond with over 30 years of coaching experience. He took over the Southeastern program after spending the previous two seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at UTSA. In 2016, his offense set 15 school records and helped the Roadrunners to their first-ever bowl game, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

Scelfo’s changes in his debut season included 10 All-Southland Conference players. Juwan Petit-Frere, Bransen Schwebel, and Devonte Williams were all named to the first team, while Petit-Frere also earned All-American honors from the AFCA as an all-purpose player. Schwebel, Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund, and Jon Miller also represented SLU on the Southland All-Academic Team with Adeyemi-Berglund claiming CoSIDA Academic All-District 6 accolades.

Scelfo led the Lions (7-4, 6-3 Southland) to a berth in the FCS playoffs. The Lions hosted Villanova in Strawberry Stadium.

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2018 Southland Awards

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FCS 2019 Patriot Awards

PATRIOT LEAGUE

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Offensive Player of the Year: Domenic Cozier, RB, Holy Cross

Domenic Cozier, Holy Cross, Sr., RB, Milford, Mass./Milton Academy
*Cozier, a two-time All-League selection, led the Patriot League and finished 20th in the FCS in rushing (95.5 ypg), while placing 13th in the nation in yards per carry (6.3) to lead Holy Cross to its first Patriot League Championship since 2009.
*In six League games, Cozier averaged 135.2 rushing yards per game and 7.3 yards per carry while capturing offensive player of the week honors in three of the last four weeks of the season.
*The STATS FCS Walter Payton Award candidate became the fifth Holy Cross running back, and first since 1991, to eclipse 1,000 yards (1,050), while adding seven touchdowns, including four in League play.

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Defensive Player of the Year: Malik Hamm, DE, Lafayette

Hamm was last year’s Patriot League Rookie of the Year.
Photo: Lafayette College Athletics

Malik Hamm, Lafayette, So., DL, Baltimore, Md./City College
*Hamm finished the season with 43 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss (TFL) of 55 yards, 8.0 sacks, eight quarterback hurries and three pass breakups to lead Lafayette to a second-place finish.
*The 2018 Patriot League Rookie of the Year recorded at least 1.0 sack in each of his final seven games of the season, finishing with 7.5 TFLs and 7.0 sacks in League play.
*Hamm has recorded at least 1.0 sack in 10 of the 12 League games played during his two-year career at Lafayette and is 10th among all active FCS players averaging 0.72 sacks per game during his career.

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Rookie of the Year: Keegan Shoemaker, QB, Lafayette

Keegan Shoemaker, Lafayette, Fr., QB, Prosper, Texas/Prosper
*Shoemaker led the Patriot League in total offense (241.1 ypg), while finishing second in passing yards (212.1 ypg) and touchdown passes (14) with a pass efficiency of 124.4 to lead Lafayette to a second-place finish
*The three-time Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week and four-time Rookie of the Week eclipsed 300 passing yards twice and posted five games with two or more touchdown passes.
*Shoemaker received STATS FCS National Rookie of the Week honors on Sept. 14 after throwing for 391 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 124 yards and two more scores against Sacred Heart.

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Dick Biddle Coach of the Year: Bob Chesney, Holy Cross

*Chesney led Holy Cross to the program’s seventh Patriot League title and first since 2009 with a 7-5 overall record and 5-1 record in League play.
*The Crusaders sit atop the Patriot League in scoring offense (28.2), scoring defense (15.2), total offense (409.0), rush offense (189.0) and rush defense (79.5) in League play.
*Chesney has posted a winning conference record in each of his 10 seasons as a collegiate head coach, while going 9-3 in two seasons in the Patriot League.

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2018 Patriot Awards

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