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.
The 99-0 countdown central page can be found here.
Note: Jersey numbers are based on 2022 rosters.
98: Ryan Van Marel, DL (Sr.) — South Dakota State
Van Marel was a big part of the FCS’ best defensive line last season, even if the stats and lack of postseason accolades don’t stand out.
He took on starting duties in 2022, plugging up the middle at defensive tackle for an elite rushing defense. The Jackrabbits led the FCS with 88.1 rush yards allowed per game and 2.84 yards per rush. Van Marel, at 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds, totaled 19 tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks.
Van Marel’s physical presence especially can’t be overlooked in how SDSU finished its season.
Montana State came into the semifinal matchup with the No. 1 FCS rushing offense, averaging 332.4 yards per game. SDSU held MSU to 52 yards on 34 carries. North Dakota State then came into the national title game with the No. 3 FCS rushing offense, averaging 273.3 YPG. The Jacks limited NDSU to 160 yards on 37 attempts. Van Marel had a big TFL against the Bison as the Jacks won their first FCS title via a 45-21 win.
SDSU loses only four starters from its championship team. Two of those starters were on the d-line: All-American DT Caleb Sanders and All-Conference DE Reece Winkelman. The Jacks have plenty of depth there, but new standouts will need to step up. Van Marel, who is one of many sixth-year seniors returning for another season, is a prime candidate to become one of the more well-known names as an interior defensive lineman, similar to Sanders last year.
Players like Van Marel are why SDSU went from a Top 5 FCS program to the No. 1 FCS team by going from good to great in the trenches.