The Jerry Rice Award goes to the best FCS freshman. There’s a strong history with the award, featuring some future NFL Draft picks and an impressive list of players who went on to have great college careers.
Sophomore slumps can be a talking point in sports, usually reserved for pro sports. When it comes to the FCS and the Jerry Rice Award, is there such a thing as a sophomore slump? We take a look below.
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2013: Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington WR
Kupp’s legendary career began with 93 catches for 1,691 yards and 21 touchdowns as a freshman.
The next season, he tallied 104 catches for 1,431 yards and 16 TDs. Kupp earned First Team All-American honors from six organizations. Kupp went on to be a 2017 NFL Draft pick, and he was named the 2022 Super Bowl MVP.
2014: Chase Edmonds, Fordham RB
Edmonds erupted for 1,838 rushing yards and 23 scores on 294 carries in 2014.
As a sophomore, he had 251 carries for 1,648 yards and 20 touchdowns, finishing fourth in voting for the Walter Payton Award and earning multiple All-American honors.
2015: Case Cookus, Northern Arizona QB
Cookus’ freshman season saw him go 223/323 passing for 3,117 yards, 37 TDs, and five interceptions.
In 2016, he played in only four games before a season-ending injury. Cookus returned in 2017 to throw for 3,413 yards and 22 touchdowns.
2016: A.J. Hines, Duquesne RB
Hines totaled 1,291 yards and 13 scores on 242 carries as a freshman.
In 2017, he rushed 182 times for 1,038 yards and 10 TDs, earning All-NEC First Team accolades.
2017: Bryson Armstrong, Kennesaw State LB
In 2017, Armstrong racked up 114 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, three interceptions, 10 passes defended, three forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries.
As a First Team All-Big South selection in 2018, he totaled 75 tackles, 10 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, one interception, and three passes defended.
2018: Josh Davis, Weber State RB
Davis carried the ball 250 times for 1,362 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman.
In 2019, he ran 183 times for 1,136 yards and 11 scores, earning All-Big Sky First Team accolades.
2019: Trey Lance, North Dakota State QB
Lance won the Jerry Rice Award and also became the first freshman to win the Walter Payton Award as the top offensive player in the FCS. He went 192/287 passing for 2,786 yards, 28 TDs, and zero interceptions while rushing for 1,100 yards and 14 scores.
The 2020 season was pushed to the 2021 spring due to COVID. NFL Draft buzz suddenly arrived for Lance during the 2020 late spring/summer. NDSU played one non-conference game vs. Central Arkansas in the 2020 fall, where Lance threw for 149 yards and two scores and ran for 143 yards and two TDs. It was Lance’s last game for NDSU as shortly after, he declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. Lance was selected No. 3 overall by San Francisco.
2020: Cameron Ward, UIW QB
In six games during the COVID-impacted 2021 spring season, Ward went 183/303 passing for 2,260 yards, 24 TDs, and four interceptions.
In 2021, Ward had an All-American season as he threw for 4,648 yards, 47 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions on 384/590 passing. He transferred to Washington State ahead of the 2022 season.
2021: Shedeur Sanders, Jackson State QB
A 4-star recruit, Sanders’ debut season saw him go 272/413 passing for 3,231 yards, 30 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.
As a sophomore All-American in 2022, he went 344/488 for 3,752 yards, 40 TDs, and six interceptions with six rushing scores. Sanders transferred to Colorado this offseason after his father Deion was named Colorado’s head coach.
2022: Gevani McCoy, Idaho QB
McCoy’s debut season featured 2,719 yards passing, 27 touchdowns, and seven interceptions on 204/298 throwing.
Idaho has massive expectations this fall, getting Top 10 preseason love after going from four wins in 2021 to seven wins in McCoy’s and head coach Jason Eck’s first year. The play of McCoy will, of course, be key in Idaho living up to the hype.
He looks to follow the previous Jerry Rice Award winners and avoid a sophomore slump. In one game so far, McCoy has gone 14/19 for 164 yards and two touchdowns as the Vandals rolled Lamar 42-17.