Big Sky Conference

Reigning Payton award winner Brisco has strong company on watch list


(STATS) – Many talented players adorn the preseason watch list for the 2017 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award, announced Wednesday.

Even more precise, many familiar names.

Eighteen of the 22 players were nominees for the outstanding offensive player of the year in the FCS last season, including 14 finalists and led by the recipient, Jeremiah Briscoe of Sam Houston State. This year, the record-setting quarterback will attempt to become the second two-time winner of the 31-year-old award, joining Appalachian State’s Armanti Edwards in 2008 and ’09.

The Payton Award, first handed out in 1987, has had past winners such as Steve McNair, Tony Romo, Brian Westbrook, John Friesz, Brian Finneran, Jimmy Garoppolo and Cooper Kupp move on to the NFL.

The watch list will have updates during the season. A national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will vote on 25 finalists following the regular season.

Briscoe, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound redshirt senior, set the FCS single-season record with 57 touchdown passes last year, helping Sam Houston State enjoy a perfect regular season, win the Southland Conference title and reach the FCS quarterfinals. He completed 315 of 503 passes (62.6 percent) and ranked second nationally in passing yards (4,602), passing yards per game (354) and passing efficiency (172.9).

“God has really blessed me with these amazing teammates. They make me look so much better and are so talented,” Briscoe said.

Briscoe has all of his leading receivers back this season, but he will be challenged to win another Payton Award by the standout group of nominees. Included are Eastern Washington quarterback Gage Gubrud, the third-place finisher last year, and Fordham running back Chase Edmonds, who was fourth.

Eastern Washington quarterback Gage Gubrud/by Brooks Nuanez

Eastern Washington quarterback Gage Gubrud/by Brooks Nuanez

Gubrud set the FCS single-season record with 5,160 passing yards and also ranked first in the nation in total offensive yards per game (411.9) and second in touchdown passes (48). Edmonds was first in the nation in rushing yards per game (163.5) and second in all-purpose yards per game (194.6) and points per game (10.9).

Also named to the watch list were quarterbacks Taryn Christion of South Dakota State, Case Cookus of Northern Arizona, Devlin Hodges of Samford, DeVante Kincade of Grambling State, Kyle Lauletta of Richmond, Anthony Lawrence of San Diego, Tyrell Maxwell of Gardner-Webb and Bryan Schor of 2016 FCS champion James Madison; running backs Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks of Albany, John Lovett of Princeton and Detrez Newsome of Western Carolina; fullback Joe Protheroe of Cal Poly; wide receivers Emmanuel Butler of Northern Arizona, Kamron Lewis of Saint Francis, Troy Pelletier of Lehigh, Justin Watson of Penn and Jake Wieneke of South Dakota State; tight end Dallas Goedert of South Dakota State; and offensive tackle Brandon Parker of North Carolina A&T.

The breakdown of the watch list by position: 10 quarterbacks, five wide receivers, four running backs, one fullback, one tight end and one offensive tackle. The Big Sky Conference had the most nominees with four, while CAA Football and the Missouri Valley Football Conference had three each.

Also this season, STATS will present the Buck Buchanan Award (FCS defensive player of the year), Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman of the year), Eddie Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) and Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year. STATS will hold its national awards banquet the night of Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas, on the eve of the FCS national championship game.

The preseason nominees to the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award Watch List:

Jeremiah Briscoe, Sam Houston State, QB, R-Sr., 6-3, 220, Houston

Was selected as the 2016 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award winner. Seeking to become the second two-time winner after former Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards (2008 and ’09). … Set the FCS single-season record with 57 touchdown passes as a junior, throwing for at least three in 12 of his 13 games. The first-team All-American ranked second nationally with 4,602 passing yards and led Sam Houston State to the Southland Conference title. … Played as a high school senior under Eliot Allen, who coached Andrew Luck. Briscoe transferred to Sam Houston from UAB after the Blazers program folded following the 2014 season.

NAU wide receiver Emmanuel Butler

NAU wide receiver Emmanuel Butler

Emmanuel Butler, Northern Arizona, WR, Sr., 6-4, 220, Phoenix

A background in basketball pays off as Butler has a physical style with good size and hands, and even better leaping ability to snatch receptions over defensive players. … The only player in Northern Arizona history with multiple seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards. As a sophomore in 2015, he had a breakout season with 64 receptions for a school single-season record 1,208 yards (18.9 yards per catch) and 15 touchdowns, which tied a school single-season mark. … Has twice earned All-Big Sky first-team honors and was a 2015 STATS FCS All-America second-team selection. … Nominee to the 2016 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award Watch List.

Taryn Christion, South Dakota State, QB, So., 6-2, 220, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

The Missouri Valley Football Conference’s 2016 offensive player of the year set or tied 11 South Dakota State records in an outstanding sophomore campaign. Included was a school single season-record 3,714 passing yards and 4,049 yards of total offense. … The third-team STATS FCS All-American is mobile and plays with great efficiency. … Was named the national offensive player of the week after leading the Jackrabbits to a road win at North Dakota State on Oct. 15, 2016. He accounted for 444 total yards and threw a last-second, game-winning touchdown pass. … Finished seventh in voting for the 2016 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award.

NAU quarterback Case Cookus in 2015/by Brooks Nuanez

NAU quarterback Case Cookus in 2015/by Brooks Nuanez

Case Cookus, Northern Arizona, QB, R-So., 6-4, 200, Thousand Oaks, California

The 2015 STATS FCS Freshman Player of the Year and Jerry Rice Award winner hopes to rebound from an injury-shortened 2016 season. He was among the national leaders with 1,173 passing yards and 13 touchdowns with only one interception, and a 184.4 passing efficiency rating, when he was sidelined after four games by a separated shoulder. He’s expected to earn a medical redshirt. … As a freshman in 2015, Cookus set an FCS rookie record with 37 touchdown passes. He threw for seven TDs against Northern Colorado and six against Sacramento State. … Stands tall in the pocket and has excellent mechanics and downfield ability. … Spent time at Ventura Junior College but didn’t play because of injury and then enrolled at NAU in 2015.

Chase Edmonds, Fordham, RB, Sr., 5-9, 210, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The fourth-place finisher for the 2016 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award seeks an epic finish to an already banner career. Through his junior season, Edmonds’ 5,285 career rushing yards put him on pace to surpass former Georgia Southern running back Adrian Peterson’s FCS all-time rushing record of 6,559 yards. … Also enters his senior season with 6,645 all-purpose yards and 69 touchdowns in 37 career games. … Uses a fast and deceptively punishing style to get past defenders. … Led the FCS in rushing yards per game (163.5) as a junior while earning first-team STATS FCS All-America honors for the second consecutive season. … Won the 2014 Jerry Rice Award as the FCS freshman of the year.

Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State, TE, R-Sr., 6-4, 255, Britton, South Dakota

Goedert was an unstoppable force in 2016, setting South Dakota State’s single-season record with 92 receptions while totaling 1,293 yards and 11 touchdown catches. … Included was an eight-catch, 204-yard, four-touchdown performance against Western Illinois. … Considered one of the better 2018 NFL prospects from the FCS, Goedert has wide receiver skills in a tight end’s body: quick for his size, but strong enough to carry multiple tacklers for extra yards. … Was named to the STATS FCS All-America first team as a junior and finished 14th in voting for the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award.

EWu quarterback Gage Gubrud (8)

EWu quarterback Gage Gubrud (8)

Gage Gubrud, Eastern Washington, QB, R-Jr., 6-3, 195, McMinnville, Oregon

Gubrud announced his arrival on Sept. 3, 2016, by racking up an Eastern Washington-record 551 total yards with six total touchdowns in his first career start – a 45-42 win over Washington State. … The dual threat (he led the team in rushing) went on to set the FCS single-season record with 5,160 passing yards. He was first in the nation in total offensive yards per game (411.9) and second in touchdown passes (48). … Co-winner of the 2016 Big Sky offensive player of the year award with former EWU wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Was selected as the second-team All-America quarterback and finished third in voting for the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award.

Devlin Hodges, Samford, QB, R-Jr., 6-1, 213, Kimberly, Alabama

Hodges posted a record-shattering season as a sophomore, setting school records for passing yards (4,088), completions (375), attempts (530) and touchdown passes (36). He was rewarded with the Southern Conference offensive player of the year award. … A dual threat with a quick release and efficient style, he has to overcome the loss of two of his three favorite wide receivers as a junior. … In his first collegiate start against Western Carolina in 2015, Hodges was 42 of 61 for 399 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 94 yards and a score. … Was named to the 2016 STATS FCS All-America third team and finished ninth in voting for the Walter Payton Award.

Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, Albany, RB, R-Jr., 5-9, 200, Newark, New Jersey

Led Albany with 609 rushing yards as a freshman in 2015, but more than doubled that total in his sophomore season, racking up a CAA Football-high 1,388 yards as well as 16 touchdowns. Ranked fourth in the FCS in rushing yards per game (126.2). … Ibitokun-Hanks suffered a torn ACL and medial meniscus in the season’s final game and will have to overcome the injuries in 2017. … Was named to the STATS FCS All-America third team as a sophomore. … Lauded for his vision and instincts, Ibitokun-Hanks is a fast, hard-charging running back who’s been a workhorse. The Great Danes plan to decrease his carries in 2017 following the knee injuries.

DeVante Kincade, Grambling State, QB, R-Sr., 6-1, 190, Dallas

In his first season at Grambling State after transferring in from Ole Miss, Kincade matched 2015 SWAC offensive player of the year Jonathan Williams by winning the 2016 award. He helped lead the G-Men to their first conference title since 2011 and then to a win over North Carolina Central in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. … Kincade passed for 2,999 yards and, more impressively, 31 touchdowns against only four interceptions. … A gritty leader, he stays in the pocket to find his receivers, but will use his legs to gain yards. … Was a member of Ole Miss’ 2015 Sugar Bowl-winning squad.

Kyle Lauletta, Richmond, QB, Sr., 6-3, 208, Exton, Pennsylvania

Lauletta has thrown for more than 3,000 passing yards in each of the last two seasons, However, as a senior, he is trying to overcome an ACL injury suffered in Richmond’s final regular-season game in 2016. … Lauletta can make every throw on the field. As a sophomore, he led the Spiders to a share of the CAA Football title and to their first FCS semifinal appearance since the 2008 squad won the FCS title. … He improved his touchdown passes from 19 as a sophomore to 24 as a junior while lowering his interceptions from 15 to eight. … Co-founded the “Pass It On” program, which donated new and gently used sports equipment to the Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia.

Anthony Lawrence, San Diego, QB, R-Jr., 6-1, 195, La Mesa, California

Born in San Diego, the Pioneer Football League’s 2015 offensive freshman of the year became its first-team all-league quarterback in 2016. As a sophomore, he helped the Toreros to an undefeated league record and then an FCS playoff win over Cal Poly that was the first in PFL history. … Ranked fourth in the FCS in completion percentage (67.6) and eighth in passing efficiency rating (155.0) while throwing for 2,998 yards and 25 touchdowns against eight interceptions. … An accurate passer with great poise and command of the offense. … Nominee to the 2016 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award Watch List.

Kamron Lewis, Saint Francis, WR, Jr., 6-4, 195, Fresno, California

Lewis posted a breakout season as a sophomore and it coincided with Saint Francis claiming the Northeast Conference title and an FCS playoff bid – both firsts in program history. … Named the 2016 NEC’s offensive player of the year, the wiry wideout caught 75 passes for 1,478 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 123.2 receiving yards per game ranked third in the FCS. … The big-play receiver has excellent hands and is adept at breaking the first tackle and picking up extra yards. He scored the final three touchdowns of a 38-17 win over Sacred Heart on Oct. 29, 2016, which gave the Red Flash control of the NEC title race. … Finished 24th in voting for the 2016 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award.

John Lovett, Princeton, RB, Jr., 6-3, 220, Wantagh, New York

One of the best all-around offensive threats in the FCS, Lovett will line up as either a running back, quarterback or wide receiver. He set a Princeton single-season record with 20 rushing touchdowns in 2016, while passing for 10 more and catching one. … Captured the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League’s offensive player of the year, helping the Tigers claim a share of the league title with Penn. … Was named the first-team all-purpose selection on the STATS FCS All-America Team. … The two-time first-team All-Ivy Leaguer mixes power, speed and athleticism into his versatile style.

Tyrell Maxwell, Gardner-Webb, QB, Sr., 6-2, 220, Cordova, South Carolina

Maxwell, the 2016 Big South offensive player of the year, enters his senior season as the conference’s all-time leader in rushing yards by a quarterback with 2,014. … Also an improved passer, he led the Big South in total offensive yards (2,622) and total offense per game (238.4) in 2016. His big season helped Gardner-Webb to its first winning conference record since 2003. … Led an upset of No. 8 Charleston Southern on Nov. 5 with 360 yards of total offense and two total touchdowns, including the game-winning pass with 27 seconds remaining. … Finished 24th in voting for the 2016 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award.

Detrez Newsome, Western Carolina, RB, Sr., 5-10, 210, Raeford, North Carolina

Newsome led all FCS players with an average of 213 all-purpose yards in 2016. He went over 1,000 rushing yards (1,031) for the second consecutive season, nearly reached the century mark (970) on kickoff returns and had 342 receiving yards. … Named to the STATS FCS All-America second team as an all-purpose player. … Against South Carolina, he amassed a school-record 365 all-purpose yards, including 240 kickoff return yards that set a Southern Conference standard. As a result, he was named the national special teams player of the week.

Brandon Parker, North Carolina A&T, OT, R-Sr., 6-7, 300, Kannapolis, North Carolina

Was the only non-senior among offensive linemen selected to the STATS FCS All-America first team in 2016. He also was named the offensive lineman of the year in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference for the second time. … Late-round NFL prospect for 2018 had 48 pancake/knockdown blocks, did not allow a sack and committed only two penalties as a junior. … Has displayed excellent durability at North Carolina A&T, mixing good speed and length with a tireless motor. … Parker’s consistent play helped the Aggies to at least nine wins in each of his first three seasons.

Troy Pelletier, Lehigh, WR, Sr., 6-3, 205, Deerfield, New Hampshire

Pelletier’s college career has been marked by consistent productivity, but his pass catching reached an elite level in 2016. He hauled in 96 passes (the third-most in the FCS) for 1,278 yards and 12 touchdowns. … A two-time All-Patriot League first-team selection, he was named to the STATS FCS All-America third team as a junior. … Known for his excellent hands and ability to gain yards after the catch. … Finished 21st in voting for the 2016 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award. Also was a finalist for the 2014 Jerry Rice Award, which honors the FCS freshman of the year.

Former Cal Poly quarterback Chris Brown runs the option with returning fullback Joe Protheroe

Former Cal Poly quarterback Chris Brown runs the option with returning fullback Joe Protheroe

Joe Protheroe, Cal Poly, FB, Sr., 6-0, 225, Concord, California

Don’t be fooled by the position – fullback. In Cal Poly’s triple option offense, the athletic, powerful Protheroe eats up yardage as well as any running back in the FCS. … He racked up 1,334 yards (the ninth-most in the FCS) and 13 touchdowns on the ground while earning STATS FCS All-America first-team honors as a junior. He was named to the third team as a sophomore. … Helped Cal Poly to the 2016 FCS playoffs – the Cowboys’ first appearance in four years. … Protheroe and his wife Ashley are the parents of two young daughters.

Bryan Schor, James Madison, QB, Sr., 6-2, 213, Milford, Pennsylvania

It wasn’t certain in the offseason prior to the 2016 season that Schor would be James Madison’s starting quarterback, but he wound up leading the Dukes to their second FCS national title. Along the way, he was named the CAA Football offensive player of the year. … Led the nation in completion percentage (73.1) and passing efficiency (186.2) while throwing for 3,002 yards and 29 touchdowns with only six interceptions. The dual threat added 569 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. … Plays with composure and an intelligent style. … During a six-week span of his junior season, Schor was named the CAA Football offensive player of the week four times. … Finished 12th in voting for the 2016 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award.

Justin Watson, Penn, WR, Sr., 6-3, 210, Bridgeville, Pennsylvania

Twice the runner-up for the Ivy League’s offensive player of the year award, Watson will challenge to claim the honor as a senior. He’s led the league in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches in two straight seasons. … As a junior, Watson ranked third in the FCS in receptions per game (8.9) and fourth in receiving yards per game (111.5). … Named to the STATS FCS All-America third team in 2015 and second team in 2016. … His signature performance came against Harvard in 2015 when Penn stopped the Crimson’s 22-game winning streak. He rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown and caught seven passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. … Finished 23rd in voting for the 2016 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award.

Jake Wieneke, South Dakota State, WR, R-Sr., 6-4, 215, Maple Grove, Minnesota

An 2018 NFL draft prospect, Wieneke enters his final season ranked No. 1 among active FCS players in receptions (223), receiving yards (4,192) and touchdown receptions (43). … He’s been both great and consistent over his first three seasons at South Dakota State. Physically gifted at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Wieneke uses his body to overwhelm defenders. He has big hands and a crafty ball-catching technique. … A three-time FCS All-American, including on the first team in 2015. … Finished 10th in voting for the 2016 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award. … Younger brother Clark also plays for the Jackrabbits as a running back.

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