The 10 best returning players in the FCS

Updated: July 3, 2018, 11:50 AM ET
Associated Press

(STATS) -- The best players not only win games, but they help their teammates reach a higher level as well.

It's not surprising a ranking of the 10 top returning players in the FCS are members of some of the best programs.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so one person's No. 1 could be someone else's No. 3 or 4, and one's No. 11 might crack another's top 10. The truth is, however, you want any of these players on your favorite team.

10. Chandler Burks, Kennesaw State, QB, Sr., 5-foot-10, 187 pounds

Burks was at the controls of the FCS' No. 1-ranked rushing offense, becoming the first Big South quarterback to surpass 1,000 rushing yards (1,103) and 1,000 passing yards (1,307). The Big South offensive player of the year led the third-year program to a 12-game winning streak.

9. Marlon Bridges, Jacksonville State, FS, Jr., 6-0, 200

Bridges has the freedom to go change games. In his first two seasons, the two-time Ohio Valley Conference first-teamer intercepted eight passes and forced five fumbles.

8. Christian Rozeboom, South Dakota State, LB, Jr., 6-2, 230

Rozeboom plays as if he has to prove himself every day. In the Jackrabbits' two deepest playoff runs of their FCS history, Rozeboom led the team in tackles with 132 as a freshman and 127 as a sophomore.

7. Bruce Anderson, North Dakota State, RB, Sr., 5-11, 216

Saving his best for the 2017 playoffs, Anderson led the national champion Bison with 1,216 rushing yards last season. His game-breaking speed and power wrecked Sam Houston State for 237 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns in the semifinals.

6. Davion Davis, Sam Houston State, WR/RS, 5-11, 180

On a Sam Houston team with a number of standouts, Davis was named the Southland Conference offensive player of the year. The speedster dominated in a number of ways, starting with wide receiver (78 receptions for 1,206 yards and 17 touchdowns), but also on reverses and in the return game.

5. Ahmad Gooden, Samford, DE, Sr., 6-1, 240

College D-linemen generally don't surpass 100 tackles in a season, but the Southern Conference defensive player of the year did as a junior. He was always in an opponent's backfield, racking up 15 1/2 tackles for loss and 5 1/2 sacks.

4. Easton Stick, North Dakota State, QB, Sr., 6-2, 221

The most outstanding player of the 2017 championship game is 34-3 as a starter. If he leads NDSU to a 15-0 record -- concluding with a record seventh FCS title -- he would surpass former Bison star Brock Jensen's FCS quarterbacks mark of 48 wins.

3. Keelan Doss, UC Davis, WR, Sr., 6-3, 210

One-on-one coverage is not recommended for defenses. With 115 receptions in 11 contests, Doss led all Division I players with 10.5 receptions per game last year. He has NFL ball skills, using what coach Dan Hawkins calls "big old mitts" for hands. In 2017, Doss finished third in voting for the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award, which honors the offensive player of the year.

2. Gage Gubrud, Eastern Washington, QB, Sr., 6-2, 205

After passing for an FCS single-season record 5,160 yards as well as 48 TDs in 2016, Gubrud had to make do without Cooper Kupp and two other 1,000-yard receivers last year, and he still passed for 3,342 yards in 10 games and ranked second in the FCS in total offense (357.8 yards per game). He's accounted for 84 touchdowns (74 passing, 10 rushing) in the last two seasons, finishing third in the Payton Award voting in 2016 and 13th last season.

1. Devlin Hodges, QB, Sr., 6-1, 205, Samford

By simply matching his junior season, Hodges would finish comfortably at No. 2 in FCS history in total offense (he has 11,005 career yards; 1993 Walter Payton Award winner Steve McNair of Alcorn State set the all-time record with 16,823 yards from 1991-94). The two-time SoCon offensive player of the year has a quick release, throwing for 79 touchdowns against just 25 interceptions. He finished fourth in the Payton Award voting last season.

On the Cusp: Dom Bragalone, RB, Lehigh; Taryn Christion, QB, South Dakota State; Case Cookus, QB, Northern Arizona; Rashad Robinson, CB, James Madison; Rob Rolle, S, Villanova; Nathan Stewart, WR, Sam Houston State.

Copyright 2018 by The Associated Press

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index


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