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.
Let’s establish the run first and take a look at the running backs:
In each of his first three seasons on campus, Dotson went over 1,000 all-purpose yards from 2017-2019 with his ability to run the ball, catch it, and return kickoffs. The two-time All-Big Sky First Team selection and 2019 HERO Sports Second Team All-American rushed for 1,154 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018, and then had 742 yards and seven TDs on the ground in 2019 along with 70 catches for 702 yards and four TDs.
4. Jah-Maine Martin, North Carolina A&T
Martin has all of the tools at 5-foot-10 and 214 pounds. He can get the tough yards with a physical running style, but he also has great cutting ability and solid speed in the open field. After rushing for 656 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019, Martin rushed for 1,446 yards and 23 touchdowns on 187 carries in 2019 as he was named to the All-MEAC First Team and HERO Sports All-American First Team.
3. Otis Weah, North Dakota
Weah is an absolute menace to bring down. The 5-foot-9, 195-pounder is slippery, yet powerful. He’s thick, yet can outrun defensive backs. After redshirting in 2018 and having to sit out in 2019, Weah emerged as a top running back in the FCS during the spring. In seven games, he rushed 102 times for 730 yards and nine touchdowns while being a five-time All-American selection.
2. Julius Chestnut, Sacred Heart
Chestnut has a scary combination of size (6-foot-1 and 215 pounds), power, speed, and elusiveness. He’s been productive his entire college career, rushing for 713 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman in 2018. He jumped into the national scene in 2019, rushing for 1,495 yards and 11 TDs on 293 attempts.
Despite playing in only five games during the spring, Chestnut garnered the respect to be named to six All-American teams and was a top-three finalist for the Walter Payton Award. In those five games, he rushed 124 times for 855 yards and nine TDs.
1. Pierre Strong Jr., South Dakota State
Strong is as smooth as it gets on the football field. With great patience, vision, and cutting ability near the line of scrimmage, he glides in the open field when he gets to the second level and barely breaks stride when making DBs miss. Strong rushed for more than 1,000 yards in both of his first two seasons in 2018 and 2019 with a combined 19 TDs. He earned HERO Sports Freshman and Sophomore All-American honors along with All-American nods in 2019 from Phil Steele and the AP.
Strong was named to three more All-American teams in the spring as he rushed 131 times for 707 yards and three TDs while splitting carries with Isaiah Davis (the No. 13 RB above).
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.