The countdown to the 2018 college football season is on. Four FCS teams are in action Aug. 25 as Duquesne takes on UMass, Prairie View faces Rice and North Carolina A&T and Jacksonville State square off in ESPN’s FCS Kickoff.
HERO Sports is going to count down each day by highlighting the best player in FCS football who wears the jersey number of the number of days to kickoff. You can find the running list of top players here.
*Note: Jersey numbers are from the 2017 season.
24: Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, junior running back — Albany
Some of the most interesting players to track this summer have been guys who didn't really play in 2017 because of injury. Greg Menard and Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks are probably the co-captains of Team Comeback.
Ibitokun-Hanks graduated from high school powerhouse Don Bosco Prep before playing a postgrad year with Avon Old Farms in Connecticut. With a pedigree like that, it's little wonder that he posted a team-best 609 rushing yards during his true freshman season.
Next came the blow up. (Cue the J. Cole.) Elijah posted 1,401 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns in 2016, which ranked first and second in the CAA, respectively. The powerful run-game engine provided by Ibitokun-Hanks helped Albany to a sixth-place finish in the Colonial, which remains its best-ever CAA finish. Naturally, the sensational sophomore garnered plenty of All-America love.
Unfortunately, Ibitokun-Hanks' encore performance was put on hold. Elijah tore his ACL in the last game of the 2016 season against Stony Brook, ending his season. He suffered a rehab setback during Albany's August 2017 camp, which ultimately cramped the entire 2017 season. Following a 17-carry performance in Albany's season-opening win over Monmouth, Ibitokun-Hanks did not play in a game for the remainder of the season.
Now, in 2018, Albany's All-American back finally appears healthy and primed for another classic season. Albany isn't necessarily expected to finish in the top half of the conference, but Ibitokun-Hanks should threaten to lead the conference in rushing once again, assuming he stays healthy.
FCS Kickoff Countdown: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
CFB Countdown: The Best Player in FBS Football, 1-99