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
Ty Whitworth, Weber State
Whitworth has been a mainstay on Weber State’s offensive line, starting all 42 games in his career. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound guard is a two-time First Team All-Big Sky selection and was a 2020 HERO Sports fall preseason Second Team All-American.
Chris Dye, Kennesaw State
A leader on the offensive line paving the way for Kennesaw State’s option offense, Dye stepped into a starting role in 2019. The Owls led the FCS with 342.4 rushing yards per game. Dye, who is 6-foot-3 and 296 pounds, earned All-Big South Conference First Team honors.
Liam Fornadel, James Madison
Fornadel is entering his third season as a starter. He was a HERO Sports FCS Sophomore All-American in 2018 and a HERO Sports First Team All-American in 2019. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound tackle was named on our fall preseason All-American First Team.
Kenneth Kirby, Norfolk State
Kirby is as experienced as they come in the FCS. He started all 22 games at tackle as a true freshman in 2016 and as a sophomore in 2017. After taking a redshirt in 2018, he returned and started all 12 games in 2019. Kirby, who is 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds, was named to the All-MEAC Second Team in 2017 and the First Team last season.
Drew Himmelman, Illinois State
A HERO Sports First Team All-American entering the 2020 fall season, Himmelman is in his fourth year as the starting left tackle. The 6-foot-10, 315-pound behemoth was a freshman All-American, a sophomore All-American and was named to four All-American teams in 2019.
J’Von Brown, Central Connecticut State
Brown was a HERO Sports Second Team All-American coming into the 2020 fall season. Brown earned First Team All-NEC honors in 2017 and 2018. He was a preseason All-American entering 2019, but the 6-foot-3, 320-pound guard was limited to four games due to injury. He’s back for a big spring season.
Aries Davis, UT Martin
Davis stepped into a starting role in 2019 and took over the right guard spot for all 12 games. Grading out at 86 percent and totaling 107 knockdowns, the 6-foot-2 and 310-pounder earned All-OVC First Team honors.
Jack Badovinac, Colgate
Badovinac has been a mainstay for Colgate since his freshman season, where he started eight games at guard. He went on to start a combined 23 games in 2018 and 2019, earning HERO Sports Sophomore All-American honors and being named to the All-Patriot League First Team twice.
DJ Wright, San Diego
Wright stepped into a starting role in 2019 after developing for two years as a redshirt and a redshirt freshman. The HERO Sports Sophomore All-American and All-PFL First Team selection started 12 games at tackle.
Cole Strange, Chattanooga
Strange is a big body on the interior of Chattanooga’s offensive line. The guard is 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds and has a lot of starts under his name. He started six games as a freshman, all 11 games in 2018 and all 12 games in 2019. Strange has been named to the All-SoCon Second Team twice.
PJ Burkhalter, Nicholls
Burkhalter has been a starter for Nicholls since his redshirt freshman season in 2017. Playing both guard and center, he is a punishing blocker at 6-foot-3 and 330 pounds. Burkhalter entered the fall 2020 season as a HERO Sports First Team All-American.
Danny Garza, Prairie View A&M
At 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds, Garza helped pave the way for the SWAC’s top-ranked offense in 2019 as he was named to the All-Conference First Team. The Panthers had the second-best rushing attack in the SWAC and allowed the fewest sacks.
Listen to the latest episodes of B-Mac and Herd’s FCS Podcast, which can also be found on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Spotify, iHeart and Spreaker.
SUBSCRIBE: B-Mac and Herd’s FCS Podcast