FCS Offensive POY Watch List kicks off with a group already highly decorated

Football VS William and Mary
AP Photo

Everywhere you look, there is an abundance of offensive talent spread across FCS college football.

And it's usually found settling into an opponent's end zone.

The 2015 season won't be easy on defensive coordinators as nine of the 13 FCS conferences return their offensive player of the year, and 12 players who were finalists for national player of the year honors last season are back. They were among 22 players nominated Monday to the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year Watch List, including one from each conference.

The returning finalists are highlighted by 2014 national player of the year John Robertson of Villanova. The 6-foot-1, 222-pound senior quarterback hopes to build on - that is, if building on is even possible - a season in which he passed for 35 touchdowns against only three interceptions. In addition, he surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the third straight season and added another 11 touchdowns on the ground.

A concussion kept Robertson on the sideline last December when Villanova was knocked out of the FCS playoff quarterfinals, so he returns this season with some unfinished business on his checklist.

Robertson may be the biggest individual name, but there are numerous All-America, all-conference and, well, all-everything to-their-team type of players returning this season. Other 2014 finalists named to the preseason watch list are quarterbacks Jacob Huesman of Chattanooga, Vad Lee of James Madison, Dakota Prukop of Montana State and Alex Ross of Coastal Carolina.

Also returning are running backs Marshaun Coprich of Illinois State, Khairi Dickson of Saint Francis, Chase Edmonds of Fordham, Connor Kacsor of Dayton, Dy'Shawn Mobley of Eastern Kentucky and Herb Walker Jr. of Morgan State, as well as Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

The newcomers featured quarterbacks John Gibbs Jr. of Alcorn State, Troy Mitchell of Western Carolina, Tre Roberson of Illinois State, Carson Wentz of North Dakota State and Dalyn Williams of Dartmouth; running backs Tarik Cohen of North Carolina A&T, Johnta Hebert of Prairie View A&M and Darius Victor of Towson; and wide receivers Ed Eagan of Northwestern State and Darrin Peterson of Liberty.

The accolades of this year's crop of players is staggering. It's a list that features the Most Outstanding Player of the 2014 FCS championship game (Wentz, who led North Dakota State to a record fourth straight title) and the 2014 FCS leaders in rushing yards (Coprich, 2,274), rushing yards per game (Dickson, 155.3), all-purpose yards per game (Hebert, 225.3) and points (Coprich, 162), as well as the top five finishers in passing efficiency - led by Robertson's 181.3.

The breakdown by position for the watch list: 10 quarterbacks, nine running backs and three wide receivers. The conferences with the most nominees were CAA Football and the Missouri Valley with three each.

The STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year Watch List will undergo a handful of revisions as the 2015 season progresses. A national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will vote on the winner following the regular season.

Also this season, STATS will honor the outstanding defensive player in the FCS, a freshman player of the year and coach of the year with season-ending awards.

---=

Tarik Cohen - No. 28

North Carolina A&T Aggies

Running Back - Junior

5-feet-6, 172 pounds

Hometown: Bunn, N.C.

Cohen's smaller stature doesn't belie big playmaking ability. Superb in open space, whether it be on carries or receptions, has been clocked in 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Can also run hard between the tackles and shed defenders; Had 15 carries of at least 25 yards in 2014, leading to a 6.8-yard average which ranked third in FCS. Finished with 1,340 yards and 15 touchdowns on 197 carries as well as 143.4 all-purpose yards per game for Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference co-champs. Named conference's co-offensive player of the year; Led MEAC in rushing yards (1,148) and average per carry (5.9) in 2013, earning conference's rookie of the year award; A social media sensation, made two live appearances on ESPN's "SportsCenter" to showcase his ability to catch a football while doing backflip.

---=

Marshaun Coprich - No. 25

Illinois State Redbirds

Running Back - Senior

5-9, 205

Hometown: Victorville, Calif.

Tough, downhill-style running back with "Baby Bull" nickname was named Missouri Valley Football Conference's 2014 offensive player of the year, helping Illinois State to school-record 13 wins and into FCS national championship game; first-team All-American led FCS in rushing yards (2,274) and touchdowns (27), and set numerous school records along the way; Patterns himself after football legend Barry Sanders, Coprich prefers to blast off tackle, get around edge of defenses and move up sideline; Finished fifth in voting for 2014 national offensive player of the year; Illinois State coach Brock Spack came across Coprich while recruiting Coprich's cousin, who ended up at University of California.

---=

Khairi Dickson - No. 1

Saint Francis (Pa.) Red Flash

Running Back - Senior

6-0, 182

Hometown: Cleveland

Lanky tailback blends power with unassuming speed. Will wait behind his linemen to find hole in defense, then uses strength to bounce off or carry tacklers as well as run past them; One of the bigger surprises in FCS in 2014, rushing for 244 yards in season opener against Fordham and going on to set Saint Francis single-season record with 1,708 yards. Was named Northeast Conference offensive player of the year; Finalist for 2014 national offensive player of the year led FCS in rushing yards per game (155.3) and scored 12 rushing touchdowns to lead NEC; third-team All-American will be tested in 2015 as Saint Francis is replacing four of five starters on offensive line.

---=

Ed Eagan - No. 7

Northwestern State Demons

All-Purpose - Senior

5-10, 181

Hometown: New Orleans

Eagan's versatility was most evident in the 2014 Southland Conference postseason honors as he received three first-team selections - at wide receiver, all-purpose and punt returner; A cornerback and special teams performer during first season at Northwestern State, his speed, leaping ability and ball-attacking skills earned him a switch to wide receiver as career progressed; As a junior in 2014, set five program records - career kickoff return yardage (2,125), single-season kickoff return yardage (1,045), single-season kickoff returns (45), single-season receptions (73) and single-game receiving yardage (238 versus McNeese State) - and tied single-game receptions mark with 13 against Abilene Christian; Finished second in FCS in all-purpose yards per game (180.8); Set Louisiana high school record with five interceptions in a game during junior season.

---=

Chase Edmonds - No. 22

Fordham Rams

Running Back - Sophomore

5-9, 185

Hometown: Harrisburg, Pa.

Edmonds faced difficult job of replacing All-Patriot League first-teamer Carlton Koonce as true freshman in 2014, but literally hit the ground running with 300 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in first career game. He didn't slow much, either, winning national freshman of the year honor and becoming finalist for national offensive player of the year; Enjoyed record-setting rookie season, setting Fordham marks with 1,838 rushing yards, 23 touchdowns and 2,473 all-purpose yards, while earning second-team All-America honors; Uses fast and deceptively punishing style to get past defenders; Like his start, Edmonds ended first season strong by gaining a Patriot League single-game record 385 all-purpose yards (208 rushing, 13 receiving, 164 kickoff return) in FCS playoff matchup versus New Hampshire.

---=

John Gibbs Jr. - No. 3

Alcorn State Braves

Quarterback - Senior

6-6, 220

Hometown: Houston

Enters fourth year as starter after earning the Southwestern Athletic Conference's 2014 co-offensive player of the year award; Led Braves to first SWAC championship since 1994, collecting 365 total yards and three touchdown passes in the title game win over reigning champ Southern. The game was played in his hometown of Houston, and 10 days later, the city designated Dec. 16 to be John Gibbs Jr. Day; Uses height to see downfield receivers, but also is athletic for his size and will overpower defenders while on the run; Considered a student of the game, Gibbs finished second in the SWAC in passing efficiency (139.7), throwing for 2,482 yards and 21 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. Also eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards (1,006) on a national-high 7.5 yards per carry, with 11 touchdowns, as Alcorn State finished second in FCS with 44-point average.

---=

Johnta Hebert - No. 3

Prairie View A&M Panthers

All-Purpose - Senior

5-10, 195

Hometown: Baton Rouge, La.

Was named to 2014 All-Southwestern Athletic Conference first team as both running back and return specialist. Also effectively catches passes out of the backfield; Led the FCS in all-purpose yards per game (225.3) by a decisive margin and finished second in the SWAC in rushing yards per game (106.3) as a junior. Scored at least one touchdown in nine of Prairie View's 10 contests, totaling 15 overall; Earned second-team All-America honors; Speedy runner makes opposing tacklers miss, but isn't afraid to lower his head and get the tough yards; Was named SWAC's freshman of the year in 2012 after showing off his all-around skills.

---=

Jacob Huesman - No. 14

Chattanooga Mocs

Quarterback - Senior

6-1, 215

Hometown: Chattanooga, Tenn.

Son of Tennessee at Chattanooga head coach Russ Huesman received Southern Conference's offensive player of the year award in both 2013 and '14, helping the Mocs to a share of the title as a sophomore and then an unbeaten conference record and outright title as a junior. His leadership has helped build the Mocs' winning culture; Led Mocs to FCS playoff quarterfinals in 2014 - their first postseason appearance in 30 years. Was responsible for school-record 37 touchdowns (23 passing, 14 rushing); Dual-threat who plays with consistency in a spread offense, can turn a poor play into a positive. Has long put up impressive rushing statistics without forcing the run, and has improved so much as a passer that he led FCS in completion percentage (68.5) in 2014; Started 35 games in his first three seasons, including one as a wide receiver. He is Chattanooga's all-time record holder in total offense.

---=

Connor Kacsor - No. 23

Dayton Flyers

Running Back - Redshirt Senior

6-0, 211

Hometown: St. Leo, Ind.

Speedy tailback likes to work the middle of the field against opposing defenses; Was named the Pioneer Football League's 2014 offensive player of the year and a third-team All-American, rushing for 1,547 yards and 17 touchdowns on 255 carries; Coaches consider the finalist for 2014 national offensive player of the year to be powerful (school-record 301 yards versus Georgetown), fast (three touchdown runs of 50 yards or more versus Morehead State), durable (47 carries versus Davidson), dependable (65 of his 81 yards at Marist came in the fourth quarter when Dayton protected a lead) and clutch (four TDs in five overtimes at Davidson); His season-opening performance at Georgetown was the second 300-yard rushing game in PFL history; Kacsor, Dayton's all-time leading rusher, just missed 1,000 yards in 2013 as he rushed for 996 yards on 177 carries and scored 10 touchdowns. In 2012, he averaged 10.6 yards per carry in rushing for 432 yards and five touchdowns.

---=

Cooper Kupp - No. 10

Eastern Washington Eagles

Wide Receiver - Junior

6-2, 195

Hometown: Yakima, Wash.

Through two seasons, Kupp is on pace to be one of the top wide receivers in FCS history. In first 28 career games, totaled 197 receptions for 3,122 yards and 37 touchdowns; As a freshman in 2013, caught a touchdown in his first 14 games (an FCS record). As he won FCS freshman of the year honors, he set national freshman marks in receptions (92), receiving yards (1,691) and touchdown receptions (21); In 2014, had 104 receptions in only 13 games, turning them into 1,431 yards and 16 touchdowns as Eastern Washington won a third straight Big Sky Conference championship; The two-time first-team All-American understands what opposing defenses are doing and can work a release from different spots on the line of scrimmage; Kupp comes from a rich football background: His father, Craig, was a former NFL quarterback, while his grandfather, Jake, enjoyed a long NFL career as an offensive guard.

---=

Vad Lee - No. 2

James Madison Dukes

Quarterback - Senior

6-1, 225

Hometown: Durham, N.C.

Former Georgia Tech quarterback was electrifying in his first season at James Madison, leading the Dukes to the 2014 FCS playoffs. The precise thrower became their first-ever 3,000-yard passer in a season (3,462) and also set school records with 30 touchdown passes and 4,288 total yards; Ranked first in FCS in total combined runs and passes (648) as well as fourth in total yards per game (329.8); Plays with a high-energy style, whether getting into the open field on runs or using his strong arm to reach downfield targets. The JMU offensive system was a switch for Lee from the triple option at Georgia Tech, where he was the primary signal caller for two seasons; Was the second-team quarterback in CAA Football behind 2014 national offensive player of the year John Robertson of Villanova. Lee finished fourth in the national voting.

---=

Troy Mitchell - No. 10

Western Carolina Catamounts

Quarterback - Senior

6-0, 205

Hometown: Houston

Has matured into the catalyst of the Western Carolina offense, becoming equally reliant on his passing prowess as well as his elusiveness and running ability. Will keep plays alive to find a seam in the defense or a receiver open downfield; Named the Southern Conference's 2014 second-team quarterback (behind offensive player of the year Jacob Huesman of Chattanooga) after the resurgent Catamounts went 7-5 following a 3-20 mark over previous two seasons; Versatile, dual-threat quarterback set school's single-season record for total offensive yards (3,096) and accounted for 26 total touchdowns as a junior; Surrounded by a wealth of returning skills players in 2015 to build upon the Catamounts' breakout campaign; Made 26 career starts through his first three seasons.

---=

Dy'Shawn Mobley - No. 7

Eastern Kentucky Colonels

Running Back - Senior

5-11, 215

Hometown: Powell, Tenn.

Transfer from University of Kentucky was Ohio Valley Conference's 2014 offensive player of the year in first season at Eastern Kentucky; Big physical back who overpowers defenders between the tackles, Mobley consistently finds the end zone. He equaled the conference record with six touchdowns in a win over Murray State; Racked up 1,491 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns - both OVC highs - to help the Colonels reach the FCS playoffs; Highly touted preps prospect set Tennessee high school records with 3,068 yards and 48 touchdowns as a senior. Played in all 24 games over the 2012 and '13 seasons at Kentucky, starting the final two games of his sophomore campaign.

---=

Darrin Peterson - No. 13

Liberty Flames

Wide Receiver - Senior

6-2, 190

Hometown: Attalla, Ala.

Peterson - "Petey" - to his teammates, has worked hard with Liberty quarterback Josh Woodrum to become the team's go-to receiver - and an All-American at that; Uses long strides to gain separation along the sideline, has soft hands and is adept at catching passes over his shoulder; Enjoyed a record-setting junior campaign in 2014, when he set school single-season marks with 85 receptions and 1,379 receiving yards (fourth-best in the FCS) with 12 touchdown catches. In the process, earned All-Big South first-team honors for the second consecutive year and made the All-America second team; Helped Liberty earn a share of conference title and reach FCS playoffs for the first time. The Flames beat James Madison on the road in the postseason.

---=

Dakota Prukop - No. 5

Montana State Bobcats

Quarterback - Junior

6-2, 195

Hometown: Austin, Texas

From a growing list of recent standouts who migrated from Texas to Montana State, Prukop was outstanding in 2014 after replacing four-year standout DeNarius McGhee - a fellow Texan - as the Bobcats' starting quarterback; Known for being a terrific decision maker, Prukop's elusive running ability sets him apart from many quarterbacks. The quick signal caller is as likely to run for a touchdown as he is to pass for one; Late-season knee injury slowed what was a brilliant sophomore season. Included were an eight-touchdown performance (five passing, three rushing) with 488 total yards at Sacramento State followed by 509 total yards and six total touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) at UC Davis - two wins in which Montana State averaged 68 points; Finished first season as a starter (11 games) by completing 171-of-263 pass attempts for 2,559 yards and 18 touchdowns as well as a 164.8 QB rating; also ran for 947 yards and 13 touchdowns.

---=

Tre Roberson - No. 5

Illinois State Redbirds

Quarterback - Senior

6-0, 205

Hometown: Indianapolis

Earned Missouri Valley Football Conference's newcomer of the year award in 2014 after transferring from the University of Indiana. The conference's first-team quarterback led Illinois State to a school-record 13 wins and a spot in the FCS national championship game; Wears a "Superman" shirt below his jersey and lives up to the pressure; Keeps opposing defenses off balance with deceptive ability on the read option and will accelerate through the front seven to find open space. Finished redshirt junior season as both a 3,000-yard passer (3,221) and 1,000-yard rusher (1,029), averaging 283.3 total yards per game; Totaled 41 touchdowns (30 passing, 11 rushing) to combine on the second-most points responsible for in FCS (248); First true freshman to start at quarterback for Indiana in 2011, collecting five starts overall. Received medical redshirt in 2012 after suffering broken leg in Hoosiers' second game.

---=

John Robertson - No. 19

Villanova Wildcats

Quarterback - Senior

6-1, 221

Hometown: Paramus, N.J.

In dominating opponents with both his arm and feet, Robertson captured 2014 national offensive player of the year award as a junior; Accounted for 46 total touchdowns (35 passing, 11 rushing) and 301.8 total yards per game while leading FCS in passer efficiency rating (181.3) and points responsible for (280). He threw only three interceptions in 301 pass attempts; Lanky, elusive runner has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of first three seasons; Was selected as 2012 national freshman of the year, rushing for 1,021 yards and 14 touchdowns, and passing for 1,965 yards and 14 touchdowns.

---=

Alex Ross - No. 4

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

Quarterback - Graduate Student

6-1, 205

Hometown: Alpharetta, Ga.

Teammates laud Ross for his poise, presence, preparation and tenacity in helping Coastal Carolina become a Top 10 program; Named Big South's 2014 offensive player of the year, set conference season records for total offense (4,080), passing yards (3,389) and completions (271) while ranking second on its seasonal lists for rushing yards by a quarterback (691) and most games with at least 300 yards of total offense (seven); Already a two-time selection to the All-Big South first team, Ross finished seventh in the voting for 2014 national offensive player of the year; Had shoulder surgery following his junior season, separating it early in the Chanticleers' FCS quarterfinal-round loss at North Dakota State, but stayed in game and led team to a fourth-quarter lead; Graduated cum laude in management in December 2014 (after his junior season) and is pursuing his M.B.A.

---=

Darius Victor - No. 7

Towson Tigers

Running Back - Junior

5-8, 210

Hometown: Hyattsville, Md.

No longer understudy to Towson running back great Terrance West, Victor earned All-CAA Football first-team honors in 2014; Victor worked his way to a conference-high 1,305 rushing yards as well as 12 touchdowns on 250 carries; Physical back who looks for contact, Victor runs downhill between the tackles. Has learned to be patient behind his blockers and can keep his balance despite getting hit near the line of scrimmage; While playing behind West on Towson's 2013 FCS runner-up squad, Victor was named the CAA offensive rookie of the year, rushing for 629 yards and seven touchdowns on 98 carries. Like West, Victor can break away from defenders once into the open field.

---=

Herb Walker Jr. - No. 3

Morgan State Bears

Running Back - Junior

5-8, 180

Hometown: Cleveland

Athletic, elusive runner didn't begin his sophomore season as Morgan State's No. 1 tailback, but earned the job and ran with it, helping the Bears to a share of the 2014 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title and their first FCS playoff appearance; Despite smaller size - teammates call him "Smurf" - Walker is durable because of his low center of gravity and pad level. He follows blocks well and will jump-cut abruptly with stop-and-start quickness; Set the school's single-game rushing record with 271 yards in his first career start en route to All-MEAC first-team honors and eventually set both a school-record and conference-high with 1,408 yards on 233 carries. He rushed for 13 touchdowns; After finishing third in his high school's graduating class, Walker's goal at Morgan State is to finish with a 3.0 or higher grade point average.

---=

Carson Wentz - No. 11

North Dakota State Bison

Quarterback - Senior

6-6, 231

Hometown: Bismarck, N.D.

Kept North Dakota State's dynasty going in 2014, leading Bison to a record fourth straight FCS national title while scoring the winning touchdown and earning Most Outstanding Player honors in the championship game; Highly decorated honors student who brings heady play to his position. Possesses a strong arm with a quick delivery, and can be a battering ram when he takes off on runs; As a first-year starter, Wentz set NDSU single-season records for passing attempts (358), completions (228), passing yards (3,111) and total offense per game (234.6); Two-time recipient of the NCAA Elite 89 award for the highest grade point average among players in FCS championship game; Considered one of the top quarterback prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft.

---=

Dalyn Williams - No. 10

Dartmouth Big Green

Quarterback - Senior

6-0, 210

Hometown: Corinth, Texas

Williams is a dual-threat signal caller, but he's not quick to pull down the ball and run. Works to find an open receiver downfield; Has helped lift Dartmouth back into the upper echelon of the Ivy League, playing with a cerebral, confident style. In 2014, Williams was an All-Ivy first-team selection and helped the Big Green to their best record (8-2) in 17 years. Also was runner-up for Ivy offensive player of the year award; Led league in completion percentage (67.5) and passing efficiency (157.57) while throwing for 2,119 yards and 21 touchdowns with just three interceptions - the best ratio in school history - as a junior. Also had 444 rushing yards to pace Ivy QBs, scoring six touchdowns on the ground; Was selected Ivy rookie of the year in 2012.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.