As the football season approaches, HERO Sports takes a look at the top returners at each position in every FCS conference.
It could be a historic season for the running back position in the FCS as Fordham's Chase Edmonds is on pace to break the all-time rushing record. He was the only non-senior last year in the top six for rushing yards, meaning there's plenty of room for underclassmen to become some of the most feared runners in the subdivision. [divider]
John Santiago, North Dakota – UND goes against the grain a bit in the Big Sky with a power rushing attack. It's proven to work as the Fighting Hawks won the conference title last season and both Santiago and Brady Oliveira were named on the 2017 preseason all-conference team. Santiago is a junior speedster with unexpected power. He was an all-American as a true freshman at running back in 2015 and again last year as a return specialist, totaling 3,759 all-purpose yards already in his career. [divider]
Carrington Mosley, Liberty – A preseason first team all-conference pick, Mosley has high expectations for 2017. At 5-foot-11, 235 pounds, he is a force to bring down. Mosley led Liberty with 663 yards and scored five rushing touchdowns last season. This is the last season in the FCS for the Flames, who are ineligible for the playoffs as they transition to the FBS. [divider]
Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, Albany – Ibitokun-Hanks led the CAA with 126.2 rushing yards per game in 2016 as part of an all-conference and all-American season as just a sophomore. He finished seventh in the FCS with 1,388 yards rushing while running in 16 scores. Against New Hampshire, he broke the school record with 298 yards on the ground. [divider]
Tre Solomon, Penn – The 2016 leading rusher in the Ivy League returns as a senior this season. Solomon ran for 907 yards and nine scores and was an unanimous all-conference first team selection. He became Mr. Reliable in the backfield for Penn, producing 100 all-purpose yards in seven of the 10 games played. [divider]
Anthony Philyaw, Howard – Philyaw trailed just Tarik Cohen, who is now playing in the NFL, in rushing yards in the MEAC last year. As a junior, he ran for 1,230 yards and nine touchdowns. His 123.0 yards per game ranked fifth in the FCS in 2016. Philyaw was named to the preseason all-conference first team this summer. [divider]
Steve McShane, Western Illinois – McShane had a breakout 2016 season for the WIU football team and was second in the MVFC with 83.4 rushing yards per game. McShane is incredibly shifty at just 5-foot-8. When he gets going, he's tough to stop. Eastern Illinois found that out the hard way when he rushed for 110 yards in the fourth quarter in a 207-yard game. [divider]
A.J. Hines, Duquesne – A bright FCS star was born in 2016 when Hines won the STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award for top freshman player. He ran for 1,291 yards, which was 10th in the FCS, and 13 touchdowns. Hines ranked ninth in the FCS and first among freshmen with 117.4 rushing yards per game. [divider]
Roc Thomas, Jacksonville State – The Gamecocks have dominated everything about the OVC – wins, preseason awards, postseason awards, etc. They don’t look to be slowing down and will rely on Thomas to produce big numbers as the quarterback situation settles. He was second in the conference last year with 86.9 yards per game, totaling 782 yards and seven touchdowns. [divider]
Chase Edmonds, Fordham – “It’s about time Edmonds is a senior,” says every Patriot League defensive coordinator, probably. One of the best running backs in the FCS for years, Edmonds can cement his legacy as statistically the greatest of all time if he reaches 1,274 yards, which would break the all-time FCS record for career rushing yards. It may seem like a lot, but that’s pocket change for him. Edmonds has had seasons of 1,838, 1,648 and 1,799 yards. [divider]
Marcellus Calhoun, Marist – All four all-conference performers were seniors last season, making room for Calhoun to emerge as the top guy in the conference. Now a senior, he accounted for 996 all-purpose yards last season, 604 of which came on the ground as he added six touchdowns. Calhoun can also make plays in the passing game, hauling in 43 catches in 2016. [divider]
Detrez Newsome, Western Carolina – Newsome is coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons and as a senior, he looks to establish himself as a top back in the FCS. He was third in the SoCon last season with 93.7 yards per game and 10 touchdowns. This summer, he was tabbed preseason first team all-conference and named to the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award watch list. [divider]
Corey Avery, Sam Houston State – Avery ran for 1,483 yards in 2015, but saw his carries go from 194 to 126 in 2016 with the emergence of quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe, who set an FCS record with 57 touchdown passes, and splitting carries with Remus Bulmer. He ran for 755 yards and 10 touchdowns last year and is looked at again as a feared back in the Southland, being named to the preseason all-conference first team. [divider]
Martez Carter, Grambling State – Carter and his quarterback Devante Kincade form an absolute lethal combination in the GSU backfield. Both are on the preseason all-conference first team and Kincade is the preseason offensive player of the year. Carter was third in the SWAC in 2016 with 891 yards and tied for second with 10 touchdowns.