While what happens on the field and how things finish at the end of the season is what really matters, preseason rankings give fans an idea of what teams and players they should keep an eye on. In this summer series, we’ll take the Top 25 approach and rank the best returning players at every position.
Next up are the running backs/fullbacks.
RELATED: FCS Jersey Countdown
Best Returning RBs/FBs
Honorable Mention: Weber State’s Josh Davis, Nicholls’ Julien Gums, Mississippi Valley State’s Caleb Johnson, Gardner-Webb’s Narii Gaither, Alcorn State’s Niko Duffey, Murray State’s Damonta Witherspoon, Jackson State’s Sy’Veon Wilkerson (transfer from Delaware State), Davidson’s Coy Williams (FB), South Carolina State’s Kendrell Flowers
25. Gary Quarles, Alabama A&M
24. Jake Chisholm, Dayton
23. Javon Williams Jr., Southern Illinois
22. Irvin Mulligan, Wofford
21. J.J. Davis, Norfolk State
20. Collin Guggenheim, Nicholls
19. Fred Davis, Mercer
18. Tamerik Williams, North Dakota State
17. Juwon Farri, Monmouth
16. Zak Wallace, UT Martin
15. Kevin Daniels, Northern Arizona
14. Elijah Dotson, Northern Colorado (transfer from Sac State)
13. Ty Son Lawton, Stony Brook
12. Alex Ramsey (FB), The Citadel
11. Ulonzo Gilliam, UC Davis
10. Marcus Knight, Montana
9. Jacob Saylors, ETSU
8. Ailym Ford, Chattanooga
7. Geno Hess, SEMO
6. Darius Hale, Central Arkansas
RELATED: Position Rankings Home Page
The Top 5
5. Malik Grant, Sacred Heart
Grant stepped in for injured All-American Julius Chestnut last season and the Sacred Heart run-heavy attack didn’t lose a step. He rushed for 1,347 yards (No. 4 in the FCS) and nine touchdowns on 240 carries while adding two receiving scores. The 5-foot-9, 200-pounder proved challenging to bring down for defenses as a tough and elusive runner, and he was named on the HERO Sports All-American Third Team.
4. Jaleel McLaughlin, Youngstown State
After two standout seasons at D2 Notre Dame College, McLaughlin burst onto the FCS scene in the spring with 691 yards rushing and five TDs on 133 carries in only seven games. He was even better last fall, rushing for 1,139 yards and 12 TDs on 175 attempts. The 5-foot-9, 195-pounder was named a Third Team All-American by HERO Sports and the AP, and he is certainly on the radar of NFL scouts.
3. Isaiah Davis, South Dakota State
Davis was a part of SDSU’s dynamic duo in the spring with Pierre Strong Jr. Davis was a Freshman All-American, averaging 8.5 yards per rush, totaling 818 yards and 10 TDs. His highlight reel runs in the national title game went viral, showing off his speed and power at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds. Davis missed time with an upper-body injury last season, appearing in seven games and rushing 85 times for 701 yards and seven TDs. He’ll be in a feature role this fall after Strong was drafted in the fourth round.
2. Hunter Luepke (FB), North Dakota State
Luepke may not have huge numbers as he’s battled some minor injuries and NDSU is selective in terms of when to utilize him most. But there’s arguably no FCS player more dominant than him when he’s handed the load. An All-American fullback in the spring and fall, the 6-foot-1 and 234-pounder also plays running back and tight end. In the last two seasons, he’s combined for 1,001 yards rushing and 14 TDs on 171 carries along with four touchdown catches. In the final two games last fall, Luepke had 19 rushes for 110 yards and three catches for 89 yards and two scores in the semifinals against James Madison, and he was named the national championship game’s Most Outstanding Player after rushing 14 times for 82 yards and three scores against Montana State.
1. Isaiah Ifanse, Montana State
Ifanse has been a top RB in the FCS for years with numerous postseason accolades and records to his name. He went over 1,000 yards rushing as a freshman in 2018 and followed it up with 813 yards and six TDs on just 113 carries in 2019. Last season was a special one for Ifanse, leading MSU to the national title game. He broke the school’s single-season record with 1,623 rushing yards (No. 2 in the FCS) to go along with 10 TDs. Ifanse was named a Second Team All-American by HERO Sports, Stats Perform, the AP, and the AFCA. His 3,461 career rushing yards are second in MSU history behind Ryan Johnson’s 3,646.