Welcome to the 2022 FCS Jersey Countdown. Leading up to the start of weekly college football odds and Week 0 games on Aug. 27, HERO Sports will name the best returning FCS player by jersey number, 99-0. Due to rosters being updated at different times for teams across the country and to keep things consistent, jersey numbers are based on last season’s rosters.
Note: Jersey numbers are based on 2021 rosters.
26: James Kaczor, LB (Sr.) — North Dakota State
Kaczor is a versatile player in NDSU’s scheme, playing big enough to slot at outside linebacker while also being able to cover like a safety. The Bison have had great success with players similar to Kaczor’s build (6-foot and 215 pounds), especially with being able to keep all three starting linebackers on the field in passing situations or against spread offenses.
He arrived at NDSU as a safety in 2018 before transitioning to linebacker the next season. Kaczor started eight games, including all four playoff matchups highlighted by his 14 tackles against James Madison in the championship game. He finished the season with 77 tackles and four tackles for loss.
Kaczor then had a fantastic 2020-21 season. Despite missing the two playoff games with an injury, he finished second on the team with 70 tackles, including two TFLs, two pass breakups, and three quarterback hurries. Kaczor earned All-MVFC First Team honors and All-American Second Team accolades from Stats Perform, Phil Steele, and the AFCA.
Injuries again limited Kaczor during the 2021 fall season. He played in nine games with eight starts, totaling 36 tackles, three TFLs, one sack, and one pass breakup as NDSU finished 14-1 en route to another national title.
Kaczor did not redshirt back in 2018, playing in 12 games. But he gets a fifth year of eligibility due to the COVID year. It’s a big positive for a Bison team that is relatively inexperienced at linebacker heading into 2022 with Jasir Cox transferring to West Virginia and the graduation of Jackson Hankey. Kaczor will be a leader for that position group and for a defense that ranked No. 1 last season in points allowed per game (11.1). HERO Sports ranks him the No. 24 returning FCS linebacker. And Kaczor was recently named to the Buck Buchanan Award preseason watch list alongside teammates defensive end Spencer Waege and safety Michael Tutsie.