(STATS) – Past winners of the STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award reflect the increasing talent that joins the subdivision each year, and the six players nominated to the 2017 watch list on Thursday have shown the future is now.
The Rice Award, named for the legendary Hall of Fame wide receiver, has been presented to the FCS freshman player of the year since 2011. Two of the first three winners, Towson running back Terrance West and Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp, are NFL players, and the 2014 winner, Fordham running back Chase Edmonds, could be headed to a pro career beginning next year.
The new nominees, listed alphabetically by last name:
Troy Andersen, Montana State, RB/LB, 6-3, 215, Dillon, Montana
Statistics: 78 carries, 444 yards, 3 TDs; 7 receptions, 45 yards, 1 TD; 6 tackles (9 games)
Troy Andersen has caused something of a friendly tug-of-war amongst Montana State’s football coaching staff this season. The Bobcats’ do-everything freshman has spent time on offense, defense, and special teams, with the coordinator of each unit lobbying to tap the talents of the true freshman from Dillon, Montana.
“He’s an exceptional talent,” says Bobcat head coach Jeff Choate when discussing utilizing a player in a variety of roles so early in his career, “so we make exceptions.”
Those exceptions have led Andersen to the watch list for the Jerry Rice Award, presented by STATS Inc. to the top freshman in the FCS. Bobcat head coach Jeff Choate has enjoyed the process of fitting his Andersen into roles to optimize his ability. “Our initial thought was to play Troy at linebacker,” Choate said, “but it became pretty obvious that he would be an impactful player at running back, where there was an immediate need.”
Andersen’s impact was immediate, as well. He rushed for 33 yards against Washington State, then after gaining just five the next week he broke out for 131 yards and two touchdowns against North Dakota.
Montana State’s Troy Andersen, who has contributed to the Bobcats in all three phases of the game as a true freshman in 2017, joined the Jerry Rice Award Watch List Thursday. That 100-yard rushing effort is the earliest a true freshman has ever passed that mark for the Cats, and his current total of 444 is fourth-most by a freshman in school history. His contributions on offense have been multi-faceted. He is fourth on the team in receptions with seven catches for 45 yards and a touchdown. He also has six tackles.
While contributing on kick teams throughout the season, Andersen showed his chops in making plays when the other team possessed the ball. When injuries created a need at linebacker, Choate said the choice was obvious. “We came up with a plan to keep the pitch count down on the number of hits his body took in practice as well as games,” MSU’s second-year head coach said, “but it’s obvious he is an impact player on defense, as he is on offense.”
In the six-year history of the Jerry Rice Award Andersen is the first Bobcat to crack the watch list, but the Big Sky Conference has a strong presence on the winners’ list. Eastern Washington’s Cooper Kupp won the award in 2013, and Northern Arizona’s Case Cookus won in 2015. (courtesy of Bill Lamberty – MSU Sports Information. All Rights Reserved.)
Other nominees added:
Marcus Cooper, Southeastern Louisiana, RB, 5-8, 160, Altair, Texas
Statistics: 52 carries, 502 yards (9.7-yard average), 2 TDs; 4 receptions, 89 yards, 1 TD (8 games)
Kierre Crossley, Central Arkansas, RB, 5-8, 168, Everman, Texas
Statistics: 115 carries, 646 yards, 3 TDs; 9 receptions, 118 yards (9 games)
Glenn Cunningham, Fordham, LB, 6-2, 220, Glastonbury, Connecticut
Statistics: 75 tackles (47 solo), 7.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks; 1 INT, 9 QBH, 2 FR, 2 FF (9 games)
Anthony Knighton, Southern Illinois, DE, 6-2, 246, Fort Pierce, Florida
Statistics: 28 tackles (21 solo), 9.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 1 PBU, 5 QBH, 1 FF (9 games)
Emilio Martinez, San Diego, RB, 5-9, 190, Salinas, California
Statistics: 136 carries, 781 yards, 7 TDs; 14 receptions, 134 yards; 141.8 all-purpose ypg (9 games)
Previously nominated to the watch list:
Quarterbacks Grant Breneman of Colgate, Davis Cheek of Elon, Gresch Jensen of Montana, Caylin Newton of Howard, Kaelan Riley of Mercer and Daniel Smith of Campbell; running backs Zane Dudek of Yale, Wesley Dugger of Davidson, Pete Guerriero of Monmouth, Torrance Marable of Presbyterian and Isaiah Totten of North Carolina Central; linebackers Bryson Armstrong of Kennesaw State, Jabril Cox of North Dakota State, Reynard Ellis of Furman and Jaron Grayer of Maine; and cornerbacks Franklin “Mac” McCain III of North Carolina A&T and Mark Williams of Eastern Illinois.
A national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will vote on 20 finalists following the regular season.
Also this season, STATS will present the Walter Payton Award (FCS offensive player of the year), Buck Buchanan Award (FCS defensive player of the year), Eddie Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) and Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Press release courtesy of Craig Haley – STATS & Bill Lamberty Montana State Sports Information. All Rights Reserved.