Welcome to the 2023 FCS Jersey Countdown.
Leading up to Week 0 games on Aug. 26, HERO Sports will name the best returning FCS player by jersey number, 99-0. Because team rosters are updated at different times across the country and to keep things consistent, jersey numbers are based on last season’s rosters.
Note: Jersey numbers are based on 2022 rosters.
52: Chandler Kirton, OL (So.) — Austin Peay
Kirton emerged in a big way last year for an Austin Peay offense that scored 31.5 points per game, which ranked No. 33 in the FCS.
The 6-foot, 289-pounder held down the starting right guard spot as a redshirt freshman. Kirton helped the Governors to the No. 26 FCS rushing offense (189.3 yards per game) and helped protect standout quarterback Mike DiLiello (2,447 yards passing, 21 TDs, 11 interceptions; 238 yards rushing, eight TDs).
In 390 pass-blocking reps recorded by PFF, Kirton allowed three sacks, four hits, and seven hurries for a 97.7 efficiency.
Kirton was named on the All-ASUN Conference Team and a HERO Sports Freshman All-American.
Austin Peay finished 7-4 last season with only one loss to a true FCS opponent (Central Arkansas). The Govs had losses to FBS opponents WKU and Alabama and to FBS-transitioning Jacksonville State.
They were one of the first four teams left out of the playoff bracket along with Chattanooga, Rhode Island, and Florida A&M.
With plenty of talent returning, including DiLiello and Kirton, they will be in the postseason mix again. Austin Peay has received votes in HERO Sports’ FCS Preseason Top 25.