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.
30: Tristan Wheeler, LB (Jr.) — Richmond
Wheeler was a huge recruiting get for Richmond in the class of 2019. He chose the Spiders over a long list of offers that included Air Force, Army, UAlbany, Bryant, Colgate, Duquesne, Elon, Fordham, Furman, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Robert Morris, and Towson.
Wheeler wasted no time making an impact on the team. The 6-foot-2, 228-pounder tied for the team lead with 104 tackles in 2019, which were the most among FCS freshmen. He was named to the All-CAA Third Team, the CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year, a HERO Sports Freshman All-American, and finished fourth in voting for the Jerry Rice Award.
Richmond played only four games in the 2021 spring. Wheeler still racked up 38 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. He earned All-Conference First Team honors, was named a HERO Sports Sophomore All-American, and was named a Stats Perform Second Team All-American.
The awards kept flowing in last fall. Wheeler led the team again with 114 tackles in 11 games, including six TFLs and two interceptions. His accolades included All-CAA First Team, HERO Sports Third Team All-American, and Stats Perform Second Team All-American.
Wheeler is now a team captain heading into this season. Averaging 9.5 tackles per game in his career, he is our No. 8 returning FCS linebacker.
Richmond has had a good defense recently, ranking No. 21 last season (20.0 points allowed per game) and No. 9 in the spring (17.0 PPG). The defense will be strong again despite losing studs like LB Tyler Dressler to the NFL and Kobie Turner to Wake Forest. Richmond returns its top tackler in Wheeler and No. 3 tackler Aamir Hall (60 total tackles). Lacking some explosiveness on the other side of the ball, the Spiders brought in some offensive help through the transfer portal with VMI All-American WR Jakob Herres and former Maryland/VMI standout quarterback Reece Udinski.
The expected improvement in team balance has Richmond on the playoff radar after going 6-5 overall and 4-4 in CAA play last season. We ranked the Spiders No. 25 in our preseason Top 25.