As we hit the preview portion of the 2023 FCS offseason, HERO Sports will rank the top returning players by position group.
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 players and teams they should keep an eye on.
Here are the top returning running backs in 2023.
These rankings are formed by a combination of the author’s opinion/FCS knowledge (watching guys play, knowing what system they play in, strength of opponents, etc.), on-field production, pro potential, postseason accolades, how they perform against their toughest opponents, and PFF grades.
Best Returning FCS RBs
25. Anthony Woods, Idaho
24. Latrell Collier, North Carolina Central
23. Jalen Hampton, Elon
22. Justin Dinka, Indiana State
21. Jordan Fuller, Holy Cross
20. Sam Franklin, UT Martin
19. Marcus Fulcher, Sacramento State
18. Julius Loughridge, Fordham
17. Derrel Kelley III, Tarleton State
16. Dominic Roberto, Furman
15. Amar Johnson, South Dakota State
14. Desmond Reid, Western Carolina
13. Kayvon Britten, Tarleton State (transfer from Arkansas-Pine Bluff)
12. Darius Hale, Central Arkansas
11. TaMerik Williams, North Dakota State
10. Jarveon Howard, Alcorn State
9. Narii Gaither, Gardner-Webb
8. Malik Grant, Sacred Heart
7. Ailym Ford, Chattanooga
6. Dylan Laube, New Hampshire
The Top 5
5. ShunDerrick Powell, Central Arkansas (transfer from North Alabama)
UCA will have a two-headed monster at RB with Darius Hale (No. 12) and the addition of in-conference transfer Powell. The 2022 ASUN co-Offensive Player of the Year had a breakout sophomore season last year, rushing 221 times for 1,508 yards and 18 TDs. Powell, who is 5-foot-7 and 168 pounds, ranked fourth in FCS rushing yards and TDs.
4. Bronson Yoder, William & Mary
Yoder has gone from being one of the best returners in the FCS in his younger years to being a more workhorse back in W&M’s strong rushing attack. After a solid 2021 season of 622 yards rushing and four touchdowns, the 5-foot-11 and 205-pounder ran 203 times for 1,255 yards and 13 scores last fall, using his blend of power and explosiveness to lead W&M’s offense.
3. Geno Hess, SEMO
Hess will continue his fabulous SEMO career for a sixth season this fall. He has had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons while having a career total of 4,112 rushing yards and 53 rushing TDs. Last season, the 5-foot-8, 222-pounder rushed 236 times for an FCS-high 21 TDs and 1,691 yards, which was No. 2 in the FCS. Hess finished fifth in the 2022 Walter Payton Award voting
2. Jaden Shirden, Monmouth
Shirden was unstoppable last year for a breakout season. He rushed 206 times for an FCS-leading 1,722 yards and 13 touchdowns. Shirden, who is 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds, led the FCS with 8.36 yards per carry, a full yard ahead of McNeese’s Deonta McMahon. Shirden finished third in the 2022 Walter Payton Award voting, the highest for a non-quarterback.
1. Isaiah Davis, South Dakota State
Davis has the full skillset to be the next NFL Draft pick from SDSU. The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder had a memorable spring season as a true freshman, rushing for 818 yards and 10 TDs on only 85 carries. Davis missed a chunk of the 2021 season but still ran for 701 yards and seven scores on 95 attempts. His workload increased in 2022 to help the Jackrabbits win their first FCS title, rushing 249 times for 1,451 yards and 15 TDs.
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