(STATS) - There are few challenges for an FCS player as daunting as facing high expectations and still managing to exceed them.
The three players added to the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year Watch List on Wednesday have done just that.
Keionta Davis stayed put to play at Chattanooga, and the hometown star has delivered as the team's defensive leader this season. The redshirt junior has the Mocs chasing a third straight Southern Conference title in one of their biggest seasons ever.
Portland State safety Patrick Onwuasor and Incarnate Word outside linebacker Myke Tavarres took a different route, albeit with the same level of promise, being the new guys in town after a transfer. Yet Onwuasor, in his second season with the Vikings, is tied for the FCS high in interceptions, and Tavarres, playing in his first season with the Cardinals, has the most tackles for loss in the nation.
Credentials like that will get you noticed.
Keionta Davis, Chattanooga, DE, R-Jr., 6-4, 260, Chattanooga, Tennessee=
A hometown product of Chattanooga, Davis has been right at home in opponents' backfields as one of the more feared pass rushers in the Southern Conference. He played on the end opposite former Mocs defensive standout Davis Tull, the conference's three-time defensive player of the year, in his first two seasons, but still stood out with explosive moves, gaining second-team all-conference honors a year ago. He has helped the Mocs to a 7-1 record and a No. 3 national ranking - their highest ever - while collecting 24 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and six pass breakups. The Mocs rank 12th in the FCS in total defense.
Patrick Onwuasor, Portland State, S, R-Sr., 6-2, 225, Inglewood, California=
Having grown up in the shadow of the "Showtime" Los Angeles Lakers, Onwuasor has put on quite a show himself in his senior season at Portland State. The big, hard-hitting safety is tied for the FCS high with seven interceptions, including three in a win over Big Sky power Montana. He also has been in on 51 tackles. With Onwuasor spearheading the defense, the Vikings have been one of the season's biggest surprises, sporting a 7-1 record and No. 10 ranking just a year after they finished 3-9. A former University of Arizona player, he has restored his personal life following a dismissal from the Wildcats program.
Myke Tavarres, Incarnate Word, LB, R-Sr., 6-3, 230, Lake Oswego, Oregon=
Tavarres is playing only one season for Incarnate Word, but he is making the most of it as he fills the stat sheet from game to game. The outside linebacker has 19.5 tackles for loss, the most of any FCS player while Incarnate Word goes through its transition period from Division II. His monster campaign has included a season-high 4.5 tackles for loss against Abilene Christian. He has 87 tackles, 6.5 sacks, five pass breakups, five quarterback hurries and one forced fumble for his Southland Conference squad, whose coaching staff knew it had a special player - Tavarres was a two-time all-conference selection at the College of the Siskiyous before spending one year at Arkansas.
Other players on the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year Watch List are defensive ends James Cowser of Southern Utah, Tyrone Holmes of Montana, Victor Ochi of Stony Brook, Derek Rivers of Youngstown State, Noah Spence of Eastern Kentucky, Chima Uzowihe of Liberty and Jonathan Woodard of Central Arkansas; defensive tackles Javon Hargrave of South Carolina State and O.J. Mau of Gardner-Webb; linebackers Kourtney Berry of Alabama State, Don Cherry of Villanova, Deon King of Norfolk State, Cory Magwood of Furman, James Rentz of Sacred Heart and Darnell Sankey of Sacramento State; cornerbacks DeVonta "Dee" Delaney of The Citadel, Deiondre' Hall of Northern Iowa, Jermaine Hough of Jacksonville State and Harlan Miller of Southeastern Louisiana; and safeties DeAndre Houston-Carson and William & Mary, Donald Payne of Stetson and Wallace Scott of McNeese State.
The Watch List can undergo revision during the 2015 season. A national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will vote on the award after the regular season.