(STATS) - The FCS regular season is closing in on the finish line and a number of players are getting there with a flourish.
The exploits of quarterbacks Case Cookus of Northern Arizona, Austin Gahafer of Morehead State, KD Humphries of Northern Arizona, Mark Iannotti of Southern Illinois and Daniel Sams of McNeese State, as well as running back Jacobi Green of Richmond, have landed each a nomination to the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year Watch List.
Voting for the national honor will take place next week, with the top three vote-getters from 25 finalists getting invited to the STATS FCS Awards Banquet on Jan. 8 in Frisco, Texas, where the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year will be named.
Case Cookus, Northern Arizona, QB, R-Fr., 6-4, 200, Thousand Oaks, California=
The Big Sky is a conference with a history of great quarterbacks, and Cookus stands out this year as the first freshman named to the Watch List. He has soared to a new level in the last month, accounting for seven touchdowns in a game twice and throwing for 18 TD passes with only one interception during Northern Arizona's four-game winning streak. He has completed 189 of 266 attempts this season for an FCS-leading 71.1 completion percentage. He also leads the nation in passing efficiency (196.33) while throwing for 2,761 yards and an FCS freshman-record 33 touchdowns against only three interceptions.
Like Cookus, Gahafer has earned a STATS FCS National Offensive Player of the Week accolade this season. The third-year starter is fourth among active FCS quarterbacks in career passing yards (8,247) and he's the only non-senior among the group. He's posted his best season as a junior, leading the Pioneer Football League in passing yards (2,977), passing yards per game (297.7), attempts (454), completions (259), touchdown passes (23) and total offense per game (294.6). Most importantly, he has helped lift Morehead to the upper echelon of the PFL standings.
While enjoying his first 1,000-yard rushing season, Green has used a hard-charging style to rank second in CAA Football in rushing yards per game (106.8) and third in all-purpose yards per game (144.1), and he's tied for the conference lead with 14 touchdowns. He's an excellent pass catcher and can return kicks. His profile really took off after a career-high 236 rushing yards with five touchdowns (which tied a school single-game record) as the Spiders handed James Madison its first loss on Oct. 24. He's hoping to help Richmond earn a share of the CAA title this weekend.
Asked to carry the Murray State offense, Humphries has responded all season. The Ohio Valley Conference standout has followed last year's breakout campaign to rank among the top FCS quarterbacks as a redshirt junior. He leads all signal callers in the nation in passing yards (3,492), passing yards per game (349.2), completions (308) and attempts (487), throwing for 21 touchdowns against only six interceptions. He has a comfortable lead in completions per game (30.8) as he attempts to lead the FCS in that category for a second consecutive season.
Mark Iannotti, Southern Illinois, QB, R-Sr., 6-2, 220, Schaumburg, Illinois=
After opening the season with a school-record 517 total yards (411 passing, 106 rushing) and five total touchdowns in Southern Illinois' 48-47 loss at Indiana, Iannotti let it be known he would be among the top quarterbacks in not only the Missouri Valley Football Conference, but the FCS. He earned STATS FCS National Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors for his performance. The gritty, accurate signal caller has the fifth-most passing yards (2,931) in the nation and ranks second in total offense (358.7 yards per game). He's accounted for 31 touchdowns (22 passing, nine rushing) overall.
Daniel Sams, McNeese State, QB, R-Sr., 6-2, 198, Slidell, Louisiana=
McNeese State coaches are smart - they want the ball in Sams' hands as much as possible. The elusive signal caller has rushed for over 1,000 yards at two different schools - first at Kansas State before he transferred to McNeese before his junior campaign. He's saved his best for last as he's become a more polished passer while leading McNeese to an undefeated season and a Southland Conference championship. He's averaging 241.9 total yards per game, which ranks second in the Southland Conference, passing for 1,404 yards and rushing for 773 more in nine games. He has 10 rushing touchdowns and nine passing scores.
Other players on the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year Watch List are quarterbacks Scott Hosch of Harvard, Jacob Huesman of Chattanooga, Eli Jenkins of Jacksonville State, Troy Mitchell of Western Carolina, Dakota Prukop of Montana State, Alex Ross of Coastal Carolina, Dalyn Williams of Dartmouth and Johnathan Williams of Grambling State; running backs Kendell Anderson of William & Mary, Tarik Cohen of North Carolina A&T, Marshaun Coprich of Illinois State, Chase Edmonds of Fordham, Kade Harrington of Lamar, Johnta' Hebert of Prairie View A&M and De'Angelo Henderson of Coastal Carolina; wide receivers Tyler Dube of Sacred Heart, Cooper Kupp of Eastern Washington and Jake Wieneke of South Dakota State; and offensive tackle Joe Haeg of North Dakota State.
A national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will select the award winner.