As the college football season approaches, HERO Sports takes a look at the top returners at each position in every FCS conference.
The base of any good defense is solid play at the linebacker position. Anytime a team returns its top tackler, it should feel good about where its defense is at heading into the 2017 season. These guys provide a stable presence for their team.
Now a junior, Stice is expected to be a top inside linebacker in the Big Sky after being named preseason all-conference. He racked up 103 tackles last season to lead his team and finish eighth in the conference. Stice is a tremendous athlete at 6-foot-3 and showcased it with a 64-yard pick six against South Dakota. [divider]
Brown finished fourth in the Big South last year as a sophomore with 7.0 tackles per game. He totaled 70 tackles and added 4.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. His play earned him a spot on the HERO Sports all-Sophomore Team. Expect more postseason accolades as Brown has two seasons left to play. [divider]
Bell has led Delaware in tackles the last two seasons as the middle linebacker. With a nose for the football, he ranked fourth in the CAA last season with 8.5 tackles per game. He is a two-time all-conference selection and was named to the preseason all-conference team entering his senior season. [divider]
Moskal led his team and finished fourth in the Ivy League with 89 total tackles as he was named to the conference second team. He had four games last season as a junior with 10 or more tackles with a season high of 13. [divider]
Leonard returns after leading the MEAC with 124 total tackles. No other player had more than 100. With great size at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, he is all over the field as shown by his 78 solo tackles in 2016. Leonard is in for a huge senior season and was named a HERO Sports preseason all-American. [divider]
If not for a shoulder injury that sidelined him after three games last year, DeLuca would be playing in the NFL preseason right now as a mid-round draft pick. A medical redshirt allowed him to return for a fith season. He's 6-foot-3, 245 pounds and runs well in the middle of NDSU's Tampa 2 defense. DeLuca had 135 tackles in 2015 and could be the best defensive player in the FCS this season. [divider]
Laguerre led CCSU in total tackles his sophomore year (92) and last season (116). He averaged 10.5 tackles per game last season in an all-conference first team campaign. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound run-stopper was an easy selection for the 2017 preseason all-conference team. [divider]
The Gamecocks have two linebackers on the preseason all-conference team in Neal and Joel McCandless. Neal was second on the team last season with 80 total tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss. He also added one interception, a forced fumble and five passes defended. [divider]
McBeath led the Patriot League in total tackles last season as a junior with 106. A ridiculous 75 of those were solo tackles, which ranked fifth in the FCS. At 6-foot-1, 219 pounds, McBeath flies all around the field and holds his own inside the box. Triple-digit tackles is certainly likely again for the senior. [divider]
Boudreaux might not stick out when standing on the football field at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds. But he will once the whistle blows. He led the PFL last year with 116 total tackles. The Mobile, Alabama, native is an absolute playmaker as shown when he scooped up a blocked field goal against Campbell in overtime and returned it to inside the Camels' five-yard line before pitching the ball to Donald Payne for the game-winning touchdown. [divider]
A SoCon preseason all-conference pick, Cratsenberg led the league with 126 total tackles, which was No. 4 in the FCS. He has started 27 straight games entering his senior season. He accounted for 108 total tackles as a sophomore in 2015 and currently has 296 in his career. [divider]
Dolan became the first Associated Press and STATS all-American selection in HBU football history and was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award last season. As a junior, he led the Southland with 135 total tackles, averaging 12.3 a game. The 135 was second in the FCS. Dolan has earned all-Southland honors every season since his freshman year in 2014. [divider]
Davis finished second in the SWAC last year with 98 total tackles. As a junior, he averaged 8.9 tackles per game and added two sacks.