The unique 2021 FCS spring season is right around the corner. The first game is scheduled for Feb. 13 (McNeese at Tarleton State) and 22 games are scheduled the following week.
As of this writing, only a limited number of teams have opted out of the spring. With each passing day, it gets more likely this unprecedented season is going to happen. So it’s time to start looking at the top returning players.
This series will look at the top returning player at each position in every conference.
*Not included in these rankings:
- Conferences that have opted out as of the publish date
- Players on teams that have opted out as of the publish date
- Players who are in the transfer portal as of the publish date
Josh Davis, Weber State
Davis is only halfway through his Weber State career and already has a long list of accolades. In 2018, he was named a HERO Sports Freshman All-American, the Big Sky Freshman of the Year and he won the Jerry Rice Award for the best freshman in the FCS. Last season, he earned HERO Sports Sophomore All-American and HERO Sports Third Team All-American honors and was named on the All-Big Sky First Team.
A tough runner at 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds, he ran for 1,362 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018 and 1,136 yards and 11 TDs in 2019.
Davis was a 2020 fall preseason HERO Sports Second Team All-American.
Juwon Farri, Monmouth
Monmouth was set to have an elite duo at running back heading into 2019 with Pete Guerriero and Juwon Farri. Farri ended up redshirting after some eligibility issues. He played as a true freshman in 2018. That led to a monstrous season for Guerriero, who led the FCS with 1,995 yards rushing. Guerriero declared early for the 2020 NFL Draft, a big loss for the Hawks.
But now Farri is ready to remind folks his name. In 2018, he was named to the All-Big South First Team and was a HERO Sports Freshman All-American after rushing for 1,024 yards and eight TDs.
Percy Agyei-Obese, James Madison
JMU has a loaded group of RBs, so Agyei-Obese may not have eye-popping numbers this spring. But he is coming off of a productive 2019 season, rushing for 1,216 yards and 19 TDs on 259 carries. The 19 scores were the fifth-most in the FCS.
Agyei-Obese was named a 2019 HERO Sports Third Team All-American and was a First Team All-CAA selection.
The senior was a 2020 fall preseason HERO Sports Second Team All-American.
Jah-Maine Martin, North Carolina A&T
Martin has the speed and the physicality to be one of the most feared RBs in the FCS. After a solid 2018 season in which he earned Third Team All-MEAC honors after rushing for 656 yards and seven touchdowns, Martin’s carries doubled as the feature back in 2019.
He rushed for 1,446 yards and led the FCS with 23 rushing TDs and 7.7 yards per carry. Martin was named on the All-MEAC First Team and earned several All-American honors, including HERO Sports First Team.
Entering the 2020 fall season and his senior year, Martin was named a preseason HERO Sports First Team All-American.
Pierre Strong Jr., South Dakota State
The No. 1 RB in the FCS in this writer’s opinion, Strong made his name known at the end of the 2018 season when he surpassed 100 yards rushing in five of the last six games as a freshman. He was named a HERO Sports Freshman All-American and the MVFC Freshman of the Year.
In 2019, Strong earned HERO Sports Second Team All-American honors. He averaged 7.1 yards per carry while rushing for 1,018 yards and eight TDs.
Strong was on our preseason All-American First Team entering the fall 2020 season.
Julius Chestnut, Sacred Heart
Chestnut was named the NEC Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, finishing the year with 713 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Last year, he earned HERO Sports Sophomore All-American honors, gaining 1,495 yards on the ground and rushing for 11 TDs.
With good size at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, Chestnut is a dynamic offensive weapon and ranked third in the FCS last year with 124.6 total yards per game.
Chestnut was a 2020 fall preseason HERO Sports Third Team All-American.
Peyton Logan, UT Martin
Logan began his career at UT Martin doing most of his damage as a returner in 2017 and 2018. He took on a bigger role with the offense in 2019, rushing 109 times for 784 yards and six touchdowns while missing the last three games due to injury.
Logan earned All-OVC Second Team honors. He is utilized in different ways as the Skyhawks look to get the ball in his hands. Logan had six games last season with at least 100 all-purpose yards.
Zach Davis, Fordham
Davis showed a ton of promise early in his career, but injuries cut his 2017 and 2018 seasons short. He stayed healthy in 2019, starting all 12 games and proving just how much damage he can do. The First Team All-Conference selection rushed for 1,013 yards on 200 carries and seven touchdowns.
His seven scores on the ground led the Patriot League along with his 84.4 rushing yards per game.
Jake Chisholm, Dayton
Dayton had the best FCS scoring offense in 2019, averaging 42.5 points per game. The Flyers had great balance and its rushing attack was led by Chisholm. The HERO Sports Sophomore All-American led the FCS in all-purpose yards with 204.3 yards per game.
Chisholm totaled 1,129 yards rushing, 230 yards receiving and 684 return yards. The First Team All-Conference selection had one kick return for a TD, scored eight TDs on the ground and caught three TDs.
Ailym Ford, Chattanooga
Ford’s breakout freshman season in 2019 was cut short when he tore his ACL, missing the final two games of the year. He still totaled 1,081 yards rushing on 206 attempts with nine TDs. Ford was named the SoCon Freshman of the Year, a First Team All-SoCon selection and earned HERO Sports Freshman All-American honors.
Ford finished fifth in voting for the Jerry Rice Award. In Chattanooga’s lone 2020 fall game against FBS Western Kentucky, Ford looked fully recovered from his knee injury as he rushed 25 times for 92 yards.
Julien Gums, Nicholls
Gums is a difficult guy to bring down at 5-foot-10 and 230 pounds. He set school records in 2019 with 1,232 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns.
Averaging 5.8 yards per carry, Gums earned HERO Sports Sophomore All-American honors and was named on the All-Southland First Team. Stats Perform listed Gums on its 2020 fall preseason All-American Third Team.
Niko Duffey, Alcorn State
Duffey played a huge role as a true freshman in Alcorn State’s 2019 run to the Celebration Bowl. The three-star recruit out of Tampa led the Braves with 838 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 162 attempts. He also caught 24 passes for 227 yards and two TDs.
Duffey was named a HERO Sports Freshman All-American for his play.
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