CHICAGO – July 31, 2019 – The race for the Heisman of the FCS is on.
A preseason watch list of 25 players was announced for the 2019 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award on Wednesday.
It included at least one player from all 13 FCS conferences.
The Payton Award, given to the offensive player of the year in college football’s Division I subdivision and first awarded in 1987, has watched past winners such as Steve McNair, Tony Romo, Brian Westbrook, John Friesz, Brian Finneran, Jimmy Garoppolo and Cooper Kupp move on to the NFL.
Among this year’s Watch List athletes is Montana State junior Troy Andersen, a unanimous first-team All-Big Sky Conference selection at quarterback last season. The Dillon, Montana native is expected to play linebacker in an elevated capacity this season.
Andersen earned First Team All-Big Sky honors at quarterback in 2018, and was named to the 2019 Preseason All-Big Sky team as a fullback. The Payton Award Watch List calls Andersen’s position Athlete, which MSU head coach Jeff Choate says is appropriate.
“I’ve talked about this,” he said, “but we have to open our minds to not putting Troy in a box. We’re going to use him (on offense) in ways that he’ll be able to positively impact any given game the most. He could line up at running back, he’ll take some snaps, he may play with Isaiah (Ifanse) in two-back sets, he may line up at tight end, he may split out as a receiver.”
A 6-4, 228 lb junior from Dillon, Montana, Andersen also opens the 2019 as the projected starting Sam linebacker. He rushed for 1,412 yards and threw for 1,195 last season, and his 21 rushing touchdowns in 2018 set an MSU single-season record. His 1,927 rushing yards is already 12th in Bobcat history. He is one of five Big Sky Conference selections on the 25-player list.
The Big Sky Conference had five football players named to the 25-man preseason watch list. UC Davis quarterback Jake Maier, Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere, Northern Arizona quarterback Case Cookus and Portland State tight end Charlie Taumoepeau joined Andersen on the watch list.
Maier was named the 2018 Big Sky Player of the Year, after leading the league in passing yards with an average of 302.4 per game.
Barriere carried Eastern Washington to the FCS national title game with 2,450 passing yards as a sophomore.
Cookus appeared in three games for NAU in 2018 before being sidelined with an injury. In 2017, Cookus registered 3,413 passing yards.
Taumoepeau tallied 580 receiving yards and five touchdowns in nine appearances last season.
Payton Award Watch List
Tyrie Adams, Western Carolina, QB, R-Sr., 6-2, 180
Dual-threat leads all active FCS signal callers with 9,389 yards of total offense; Southern Conference standout accounted for 26 touchdowns as a junior
Troy Andersen, Montana State, ATH, Jr., 6-3, 215
All-around player was on the All-Big Sky first team as a quarterback last year (1,421 yards and 21 touchdowns on ground); will be utilized in different ways offensively while also playing linebacker in 2019
Kenji Bahar, Monmouth, QB, R-Sr., 6-3, 190
Fourth-year starter has accounted for 6,114 yards of total offense and 47 touchdowns in career; led Big South in most passing categories in 2018, including yards (2,626), TD passes (20) and efficiency (139.6)
Eric Barriere, Eastern Washington, QB, R-Jr., 6-0, 200
Guided EWU to the national championship game after setting FCS playoff record with seven touchdown passes in semifinals; accounted for 31 total TDs in 10 starts
Michael Bandy, San Diego, WR, Sr., 5-11, 190
Led the FCS in receiving yards (1,698); set San Diego record with 324 receiving yards in Pioneer Football League title-clinching win over Davidson
Grant Breneman, Colgate, QB, Jr., 6-1, 220
2017 Patriot League rookie of the year and then the first-team all-league QB in 2018, leading the Raiders to the FCS quarterfinals; has rushed for 708 yards in first two seasons
Case Cookus, Northern Arizona, QB, R-Sr., 6-4, 205
Won 2015 STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award with FCS freshman record 37 touchdown passes; two-time All-Big Sky first-team selection has 74 career TD passes
Zerrick Cooper, Jacksonville State, QB, R-Jr., 6-4, 230
Passed for JSU school records 3,416 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2018; named to All-Ohio Valley Conference first team
Tom Flacco, Towson, QB, R-Sr., 6-1, 208
No. 1 among returning FCS quarterbacks in total offense (332.8) in 2018; voted CAA Football offensive player of the year
Chase Fourcade, Nicholls, QB, Sr., 6-0, 190
2018 Southland player of the year who guided Nicholls to share of conference title; fourth-year starter has 7,728 career passing yards
A.J. Hines, Duquesne, RB, Sr., 5-11, 225
Has surpassed 1,000 rushing yards three times to total 3,849 in his career (most among active players); 2016 STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award winner and three-time All-Northeast Conference first-team selection
Cade Johnson, South Dakota State, WR, R-Jr., 5-10, 175
Tied for FCS high and set school record with 17 touchdown receptions; set South Dakota State mark with 839 kick return yards in 2017
Noah Johnson, Alcorn State, QB, R-Sr., 6-0, 195
2018 SWAC offensive player of the year and championship game MVP; one of only two FCS quarterbacks with 2,000 passing and 1,000 rushing yards in 2018 (Adams)
Reed Klubnik, Yale, WR, Sr., 6-3, 200
With a banner season in 2018, Klubnik ranked fifth in the FCS in receiving yards per game (114.3), catching 73 passes for 1,143 yards and nine touchdowns; also led the team in receptions in 2016
Jake Maier, UC Davis, QB, R-Sr., 6-0, 200
The Big Sky offensive player of the year led UC Davis to its best FCS season; passed for more yards (3,932) and touchdowns (34) than any returning player in the subdivision
Caylin Newton, Howard, QB, Jr., 6-0, 195
Dual-threat signal caller was named MEAC offensive player of the year as a sophomore; ranked seventh in the FCS in total offense (313.3 yards per game)
Bryce Nunnelly, Chattanooga, WR, Jr., 6-2, 190
All-Southern Conference standout ranked seventh nationally in receiving yards per game (112.5); had 11 receptions of at least 40 yards
Aaron Parker, Rhode Island, WR, Sr., 6-3, 191
All-CAA wideout has led URI in receiving yards and touchdown receptions in three straight seasons; had six games with at least 100 receiving yards and scored 11 times as a junior
Josh Pearson, Jacksonville State, WR, R-Sr., 6-4, 205
Was the FCS co-leader and set the school record with 17 touchdown receptions; All-OVC first-team honoree had 67 receptions for 1,123 yards
James Robinson, Illinois State, RB, Sr., 5-10, 220
Led the Missouri Valley Football Conference in rushing (1,290 yards, 117.3 per game); rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns in FBS win over Colorado State
Shane Simpson, Towson, RB/RS, R-Sr., 5-9, 200
Ranked second in the FCS in all-purpose yards per game in 2018 and sixth in 2016; two-time All-CAA first-team selection has 4,414 career all-purpose yards, ranking No. 1 among active players
Nathan Stewart, Sam Houston State, WR, Sr., 6-0 180
Has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his three seasons; leads all active FCS players in receptions (182), receiving yards (3,715) and TD receptions (31)
Charlie Taumoepeau, Portland State, TE, Sr., 6-3, 245
Flashed NFL potential with at least 125 receiving yards and two touchdown catches in back-to-back games against FBS opponents to open junior season; earned first-team All-Big Sky honors
Adam Trautman, Dayton, TE, R-Sr., 6-6, 253
Consistent pass-catching threat with NFL size has caught the attention of next-level scouts; enters final season with 108 career receptions for 1,379 yards and 17 touchdowns
De’Shawn Waller, Alcorn State, RB, Sr., 5-10, 210
All-SWAC newcomer of the year was eighth in the FCS in rushing yards per game (121.5); rushed for 177 yards and three TDs in SWAC championship game and 167 yards in Celebration Bowl
More players can join the watch list during the 2019 season. A national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will select the winner following the regular season.
Also this season, STATS will present the Buck Buchanan Award (FCS defensive player of the year), Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman player of the year), Eddie Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) and Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year.