The Top 25s are coming in hot as the 2021 FCS season is less than two months away.
The rankings give fans an idea of what teams they should keep an eye on. But let’s put a player-focus spin on Top 25 szn. In this summer series, we’ll rank the Top 25 returning players at every position.
In 2019, Harper stepped into the starting lineup after Noah Johnson, the SWAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, went down with an injury. The Alcorn State offense didn’t miss a step as Harper went on to win the SWAC Offensive Player of the Year award. He threw for 2,954 yards, 33 touchdowns, and nine interceptions along with six rushing TDs. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder was a preseason All-American heading into 2020 before the Braves opted out of the fall/spring season.
4. Jeff Undercuffler, UAlbany
Undercuffler was fantastic as a redshirt freshman in 2019, finishing second in the STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award voting. The big-bodied QB (6-foot-5 and 231 pounds) showed off his strong arm and set single-season program records with 262 completions, 464 passing attempts, 3,543 passing yards, and 41 passing touchdowns. The 41 TDs led the FCS and were four times more than his 10 interceptions. Undercuffler battled injuries in the spring and played in three games, throwing for 556 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions.
3. Cole Kelley, Southeastern Louisiana
The reigning Walter Payton Award and multi-time 2020-21 All-American is a blast to watch at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds. Kelley can sling it and isn’t too shabby running the ball either with 353 career rushing yards and 17 TDs. He was a part of a two-QB system in 2019, then fully took over as QB1 in the spring. Kelley tore apart defenses, going 210-of-305 passing for 2,662 yards, 18 touchdowns, and four interceptions as he also rushed for a team-high seven TDs. He is a former four-star recruit who began his career at Arkansas, making six starts in two seasons before transferring to SLU in 2019.
2. Eric Schmid, Sam Houston
Schmid had clutch moment after clutch moment in SHSU’s run to a spring national championship. After injuries plagued his 2019 season, his dual-threat abilities got the Bearkats back to their explosive ways in the spring. The Southland Conference Player of the Year and three-time All-American went 194-of-325 passing for 2,808 yards, 20 TDs, and nine interceptions. He also rushed 98 times for 436 yards and eight scores. Schmid’s 10-yard TD pass to Ife Adeyi with 16 seconds left gave SHSU a 23-21 lead against South Dakota State to win its first FCS national title.
1. Eric Barriere, Eastern Washington
Barriere has been electrifying stadiums since stepping in for injured All-American Gage Gubrud and leading EWU to the national title game in 2018, earning HERO Sports Sophomore All-American honors. He was named a HERO Sports Third Team All-American in 2019 and finished fifth in the Walter Payton Award voting. This spring, Barriere earned six different All-American honors and was the runner-up in the Walter Payton Award voting.
Barriere can make all of the throws, whether it’s routine or throwing off-platform. He’s equally as dangerous with his legs as one of the fastest players on the field. In his career, Barriere has thrown for 8,739 yards, 75 TDs, and 21 interceptions and has rushed for 1,363 yards and another 18 scores.
Sam’s coverage of the FCS began in 2012 as the sports editor and eventual editor-in-chief of NDSU’s The Spectrum. After graduating in 2015, he spent three years in the newspaper and magazine industry while starting his work for HERO Sports in the fall of 2016 as a freelancer. In May 2018, he joined the website full time as the Senior FCS Analyst.