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.
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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.
As a linebacker, Nick Wheeler's tackle numbers (38 in 2017) aren't going to blow you away. But Wheeler is a classic pass-rushing linebacker who has an instinctive feel for collapsing the pocket. Colgate was all the better for it during last season, too — as a team, the Raiders were one of the 25 best teams in FCS when it came to sitting the quarterback down.
A big part of that was success Wheeler, whose 11.5 sacks ranked third nationally. It also ranked second in Colgate's single-season program record book.
Seven Raiders posted more tackles last year than Wheeler, including Nick Ioanilli, who led the team with 62. But Wheeler's ability to blow up the backfield is a big reason why Colgate rode its defense, which ranked first in the Patriot League in both rushing defense and scoring defense, to a solid season.
The Raiders ended 2017 by winning six of their last seven and giving up an average of 11.4 points in those games. If Wheeler and the Raiders can reproduce that kind of defensive intensity, they should challenge for the conference title in 2018.
FCS Kickoff Countdown: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
CFB Countdown: The Best Player in FBS Football, 1-99