(STATS) - Defenses saw red this season when trying to stop the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year finalists.
Literally and figuratively.
Running backs Marshaun Coprich of Illinois State and Kade Harrington of Lamar, and wide receiver Cooper Kupp of Eastern Washington - all donned in the red and white of their respective schools - no doubt raised the collective blood pressure of defensive coordinators throughout the year with their incredible exploits. As a result, the trio of standouts have been invited to the national awards banquet, where the offensive player of the year will be announced in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 8 - the night before the FCS national championship game.
Coprich, a 5-foot-9, 205-pound senior from Victorville, California, ranks second in the FCS in rushing yards (1,720) and rushing yards per game (156.4), and is tied for third in touchdowns (20) and points per game (11.1). He was a repeat winner of the Missouri Valley Football Conference's offensive player of the year award, having rushed for over 100 yards in nine of Illinois State's 11 games, and over 200 yards three times. His Redbirds (9-2), Missouri Valley co-champions for the second consecutive season, are seeded second in the FCS playoffs and will host Western Illinois in a second-round game Saturday.
"He's a very, very physical player. He enjoys that part of it," coach Brock Spack said. "I like to think he's one of the better players in the country. … He's a very good player and has been clutch for us and has made big runs in critical situations throughout his career, particularly the last two years."
Harrington, a 5-9, 190-pound junior from Kingswood, Texas, leads the FCS in rushing yards (2,092), rushing yards per game (190.2), all-purpose yards per game (213.4), rushing touchdowns (21) and points per game (12.5). Lamar's first-ever Southland Conference Player of the Year rushed for more than 200 yards in six of the Cardinals' 11 games as they went 5-6, including a league-record 354-yard performance in a victory over Abilene Christian. Using a north-south running style, he averaged 7.9 yards per carry, ranking third in the FCS.
"Kade has far exceeded our expectations when we recruited him," coach Ray Woodard said. "He has gone from a young running back fighting for playing time to one of the best in the country."
Kupp, a 6-2, 205-pound redshirt junior from Yakima, Washington, leads the FCS in receptions (114, a Big Sky Conference record), receptions per game (10.4, another Big Sky mark), receiving yards (1,642), receiving yards per game (149.3) and touchdown catches (19). In Eastern Washington's 6-5 season, the Big Sky offensive player of the year had three games with at least 200 receiving yards and three TD receptions, including a 20-catch, 275-yard, three-TD performance in a win at Northern Colorado.
"What an amazing year, huh?" coach Beau Baldwin said. "What he accomplished was an indication of how hard he competed. He was going just as hard Tuesday at practice. He's a special individual, and I don't throw out the word 'special' very often. But he is one special individual and one special player."
A national panel of 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries voted for the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year, selecting a top five among 25 finalists. Their voting reflected the regular season and was conducted before the start of the playoffs.
The results for fourth through 25th place were as follows:
5. Case Cookus, Northern Arizona: 13-10-17-14-16-200
19.(T) Alex Ross, Coastal Carolina: 0-1-2-2-3-17
24. Johnta' Hebert, Prairie View A&M: 1-1-0-0-2-11
A first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote four points, a third-place vote three points, a fourth-place vote two points and a fifth-place vote one point.