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.
81: DJ Nelson, TE (So.) — UT Martin
Note: Jersey numbers are based on 2022 rosters. Nelson is wearing No. 13 this fall
Nelson has quickly become one of the best tight ends in the FCS.
After redshirting in 2021, he had a fantastic 2022 season. Nelson caught 21 passes for 267 yards and six touchdowns, getting named to the All-OVC First Team and the OVC All-Newcomer team. He also earned Freshman All-American honors from HERO Sports and Phil Steele.
His size and athleticism (he was a standout quarterback and pass-catcher in high school) have proven to be a problem for defenses. The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder looks to up his game even more as a sophomore, getting ranked No. 10 on our best returning FCS tight ends.
After making the playoffs in 2021, UT Martin finished 7-4 last season and 5-0 in the OVC. But the Skyhawks did not play SEMO, who also went 5-0 in the conference standings. SEMO won the coin-flip tiebreaker for the OVC’s playoff auto-bid, and UT Martin did not receive an at-large bid from the selection committee.
The Skyhawks have plenty of talent coming back to make a run at the playoffs, but they will need a new starting quarterback and top pass-catcher to emerge. The Big South-OVC Football Association also features SEMO and Gardner-Webb as playoff contenders. Keep an eye on Nelson to have another standout season and be relied on more for an offense that averaged 34.73 points per game in 2022.