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25 named to Walter Payton Award watch list

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - 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.

Named to this year's preseason watch list were:

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.

Updated July 31, 2019

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