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
Brandon Porter, Northern Arizona
Porter showed his versatility in 2018, playing WR, RB and QB for NAU as a redshirt freshman. Last year, as a full-time WR, he proved how dangerous he can be.
Porter broke NAU’s single-season record with 85 catches and had 1,198 yards receiving and six TDs. He was named a HERO Sports Sophomore All-American and earned All-Conference Second Team honors.
He was a 2020 fall preseason HERO Sports Third Team All-American.
Lonnie Moore, Monmouth
Moore is electric with the ball in his hands. As a First Team All-Big South selection in 2019, he caught 74 passes for 1,022 yards and nine TDs.
Moore also rushed for 114 yards and one score on just seven carries (16.3 yards per carry) and returned 19 kicks for 529 yards and a score (27.8 yards per return). Good things tend to happen when Moore touches the ball.
Jaaron Hayek, Villanova
With All-American QB Daniel Smith coming back and All-American WR Changa Hodge transferring to Virginia Tech in the fall of 2020, Hayek has a great shot at turning into the top receiver in the CAA. All nine 2019 All-Conference WR selections are gone.
Hayek was key in Villanova’s explosive offense last season, catching 47 passes for 670 yards and eight touchdowns. He did this in his debut season and was named a HERO Sports Freshman All-American.
Zachary Leslie, North Carolina A&T
Leslie had a breakout season in 2018 as a sophomore. He led the Aggies with 50 receptions for 676 yards and nine touchdowns. Last year, Leslie totaled 42 catches for 652 yards and five TDs.
NC A&T has had a lot of stars on its teams. Perhaps Leslie has flown under the radar despite how solid he’s been. Expect a big spring season and some postseason awards to go along with it.
Isaiah Weston, Northern Iowa
Weston showed promise in 2017 as a redshirt freshman, catching five touchdowns. He then missed all of 2018 with an ACL injury. Weston battled injuries again in 2019 but played in 12 of UNI’s 15 contests.
Despite missing three games, he caught 43 passes for 1,053 yards and 10 TDs. A big-time downfield target at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Weston led the FCS in yards per reception at 24.49. He earned HERO Sports Sophomore All-American and First Team All-MVFC honors.
Weston was a 2020 fall preseason HERO Sports Second Team All-American.
Tyshaun James, Central Connecticut State
Another big target in the FCS, James is 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds. He saw a breakout 2019 season, earning All-NEC First Team honors.
James caught 48 passes for 978 yards and nine TDs. He was also utilized in the run game, rushing 24 times for 167 yards (7.0 YPC) and five TDs.
DeAngelo Wilson, Austin Peay
The top returning receiver this spring, Wilson was a HERO Sports First Team All-American in 2019. After catching seven touchdowns in 2018 as a sophomore, Wilson took another huge step last season.
He set school records in receptions (89), receiving yards (1,564), touchdown receptions (15) and receiving yards per game (104.3). Wilson played in two games in the fall of 2020, catching seven passes for 57 yards.
Wilson was a 2020 fall preseason HERO Sports First Team All-American.
Brandon Sanders, Bucknell
As a true freshman in 2018, Sanders led Bucknell with 44 catches and 516 receiving yards. Last year, despite missing two games to injury, he led the team again with 58 catches for 530 yards and three touchdowns.
Sanders earned All-Patriot League First Team honors for his play, the first Bison to make the First Team as an offensive skill player since 2014.
Landon Hurst, Morehead State
Hurst had a breakout junior season in 2019, earning a spot on the All-PFL Second Team
The 5-foot-10, 205-pounder led Morehead State with 53 catches for 642 yards and six TDs.
Raleigh Webb, The Citadel
The top NFL prospect in the SoCon, Webb plays a key role in keeping the defense honest as it defends The Citadel’s option offense.
Webb earned All-SoCon First Team honors in 2019. He caught 30 passes for 617 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 20.57 yards per reception were the ninth most in the FCS.
Dai’Jean Dixon, Nicholls
Dixon was a 2018 HERO Sports Sophomore All-American and was named to the All-Southland Conference Second Team. In 2019, he earned First Team All-Conference honors.
In nine games, he caught 54 passes for 1,044 yards and eight touchdowns. Dixon’s 116 receiving yards per game ranked second in the FCS.
Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim, Alabama A&M
Ibrahim put his stamp on the FCS right away in his career as a freshman in 2019. His name popped up everywhere when it came to postseason accolades and statistical leaders. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound playmaker made it known he is one of the best young receivers in the subdivision.
Finishing 2019 with 59 receptions for 1,004 yards and 11 touchdowns, Ibrahim was named the SWAC Freshman of the Year and was on the All-Conference First Team as well. HERO Sports recognized him as a Freshman All-American.
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