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.
71: Tavon Matthews, OL (Jr.) — East Tennessee State
ETSU’s breakthrough season en route to the 2021 fall quarterfinals had a lot to do with its tremendous rushing attack. Which, of course, starts with a great offensive line.
Tavon Matthews has been a starter on the o-line since his freshman season in 2019. He played in 756 of the possible 760 snaps in 2019 and all 401 possible snaps in the 2021 spring season, grading out at over 98 percent both years.
Matthews had another tremendous season last fall for the 11-2 Bucs.
Starting 12 games, the 6-foot-1 and 300-pound right guard earned All-SoCon Second Team honors from the coaches and media and was named a HERO Sports Sophomore All-American. The Buccaneers finished No. 8 in the FCS in rushing offense (213.5 YPG). Quay Holmes (1,553 yards, 17 TDs) and Jacob Saylors (1,019 yards, 10 TDs) combined for a dynamic RB duo. In a dominating 23-3 win against the SEC’s Vanderbilt, ETSU out-rushed Vandy 179-85.
Matthews is now the veteran leader on ETSU’s offensive line heading into 2022. It will have to overcome some key losses to replicate last year’s rushing success. The Bucs lost OL Tre’Mond Shorts to LSU, and Holmes declared for the NFL Draft. Saylors does return as one of the best FCS running backs.
With a new head coach (George Quarles) and some standouts to replace on offense and defense, it will be interesting to see if ETSU can repeat last season’s success and/or take another step nationally. We ranked the Bucs No. 5 in our preseason Top 25.