The FCS football season has passed the halfway mark and it's time to start debating who is on the short list for yearly FCS awards. Who has stood out as a leader for the Walter Payton Award, given to the most outstanding offensive player in FCS?
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Before we take a look at some of the top candidates, here's a quick word on Walter Payton:
During his prolific career as a professional in the 70s and 80s, Payton earned the nickname “Sweetness” and was named a First-Team All-Pro running back seven different times. He has 16,726 career NFL rushing yards and ran for over 1,200 yards in 10 different seasons. He also won a Super Bowl ring with the ‘85 Bears and was Associated Press NFL MVP for the 1977 season.
Payton was the fourth-overall pick in the 1975 NFL Draft after racking up 3,600 rushing yards at Jackson State University. In addition to the eponymous award handed out by STATS FCS, his legacy also includes the NFL Man of the Year award.
Here's a look at the top four players who have stood out as potential Walter Payton Award winners, as well as a spotlight performance on a player who is making some noise:
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Mack is a product of what happens when capable talent meats scheme and opportunity. As the feature back in Maine’s run-first, run-second, think-about-running-on-third offense, Mack has plenty of chances to tote the rock. Unsurprisingly, he leads all FCS players with 979 rushing yards heading into November.
However, Mack’s production isn’t just a function of opportunity. He’s averaging a 5.8 yards per carry on a mostly one-dimensional team, and that includes a pair of games against stingy defenses at Villanova and JMU.
3. QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
The Spiders aren’t having a vintage season under first-year coach Russ Huesman, but Lauletta’s awesome year has kept Richmond in the playoff conversation. If you like passing stats, then Lauletta is probably your guy — he’s piled up 2,953 passing yards and 26 passing touchdowns, both of which are FCS-leading marks.
2. WR Keelan Doss, UC-Davis
UC-Davis is another team that’s probably on the wrong side of the playoff bubble heading into November, but Doss is having the kind of year that would earn him some Biletnikoff hype if he was playing for an FBS California school. After a 2016 season that saw him break out for 911 receiving yards on 66 catches, Doss already has 80 catches for 1,121 yards this season. The next closest receiver — Jaelon Acklin, from Western Illinois — has 1,002.
1. QB Chris Streveler, South Dakota
Redshirt senior Chris Streveler has pushed South Dakota into the conversation for a playoff seed with his exceptional play this fall. After transferring from Minnesota and winning the Missouri Valley’s ‘Newcomer of the Year’ award in 2016, Streveler is 167-of-253 for 2,317 passing yards and and 19 touchdowns. Oh, and he’s also chipped in 478 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. Not bad.
Spotlight Performance of the Week:
Stats: 423 total yards, 6 tot TDs in 52-24 win over Western Illinois
In the Jackrabbits’ most impressive win of the season, quarterback Taryn Christion dominated Western Illinois, passing for five touchdowns and running for a sixth. Christion finished with 423 total yards (386 passing, 37 rushing) in the game; he also went over 7,000 career passing yards and 8,000 career total yards. Next up? A mega-showdown with the rival Bison.