And still the best ...
Six players repeated as first-team selections on The Sports Network FCS All- America Team on Monday, including Wofford fullback Eric Breitenstein for the third straight year.
The other players returning to the first team for the second consecutive year were Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette, Georgia Southern nose tackle Brent Russell, New Hampshire linebacker Matt Evans, Sam Houston State safety Darnell Taylor and North Dakota State cornerback Marcus Williams.
Breitenstein did some horseback riding over his Thanksgiving break, but he's been sitting tall in the saddle each of the past three seasons. He completed his Wofford career in the FCS playoffs this past Saturday with the most rushing yards (5,730) and touchdowns (65) among active FCS players, including 2,035 yards - a school single-season record - and 19 touchdowns on 230 carries in Wofford's triple option this year.
Breitenstein, a 5-foot-11, 230-pound senior, was named the Southern Conference's offensive player of the year. Wofford finished with a share of the conference title and a 9-4 record.
"Being named an All-American is a great honor," Breitenstein said. "It has always been one of my goals, but wouldn't be possible without my team. They really make it all possible. The offensive line is excellent, maybe the best unit in the country and individually four of the five were named all- conference. I have truly been blessed to be a part of a program that has had a great deal of success."
Mellette and Russell also dominated play in the SoCon. Mellette, a difficult matchup for defenses at 6-4, 220 pounds, caught 97 passes for 1,398 yards as well as an FCS-high 18 touchdown receptions in 11 games. The senior finished his career with 304 receptions for 4,254 yards and 44 touchdowns with 23 100- yard receiving games - each mark ranking second to Terrell Hudgins in Elon and SoCon history.
Russell, 6-2, 300, is a SoCon legend. A senior, he has faced double teams throughout Georgia Southern's season, but has still managed 39 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 12 games. The Eagles are 10-3 and have reached the FCS semifinals for the third straight season.
Evans, the 2011 Buck Buchanan Award recipient as a junior, enjoyed a big senior season as well while New Hampshire qualified for the FCS playoffs for the ninth straight season - the longest active streak in the nation. In 12 games, the 6-foot, 226-pounder collected 126 tackles, including 87 solos, 9.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.
Taylor, 6-0, 195, was named the Southland Conference's defensive player of the year for the second consecutive season. The senior has totaled 94 tackles, including 64 solos, two sacks, two interceptions, five pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles in Sam Houston State's 13 games. The Bearkats have reached the national semifinals for the second consecutive season.
Williams, a 5-11, 194-pound junior, is the most electrifying player on a North Dakota State squad that has returned to the national semifinals and is seeking its second straight FCS national championship. Teams shy away from passing toward the shutdown cornerback, but he has five interceptions for 125 return yards, four pass breakups and 27 tackles. He also has two touchdowns and 558 total return yards, including on special teams.
Also named to the first team for the first time was Old Dominion sophomore quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who threw for an FCS single-season record 5,076 passing yards as well as 44 touchdown passes with 5,546 total yards - national- leading numbers in all three statistical categories. He also rushed for 11 touchdowns while the Monarchs posted an 11-2 record.
All the skill position players racked up impressive offensive statistics, including Stony Brook senior running back Miguel Maysonet (1,964 rushing yards, 23 touchdowns), South Dakota State sophomore running back Zach Zenner (2,044 rushing yards), Eastern Illinois junior wide receiver Erik Lora (an FCS-record 136 receptions for 1,664 yards) and Tennessee State sophomore tight end A.C. Leonard (51 receptions for 733 yards).
Murray State junior Walter Powell was the first-team all-purpose selection. The wide receiver and return specialist ranks second nationally with an average of 193 all-purpose yards per game, including 1,213 yards on 94 receptions with 12 overall touchdowns.
The offensive linemen were James Madison senior Earl Watford and juniors Michael Bamiro of Stony Brook, Mike Sellers of The Citadel, Billy Turner of North Dakota State and Bryan Witzmann of South Dakota State.
The other defensive players included Georgetown senior linebacker Robert McCabe, who leads the FCS with 159 tackles. He was named the Patriot League defensive player of the year.
Joining McCabe and Evans at linebacker were Appalachian State senior Jeremy Kimbrough, the co-defensive player of the year in the Southern Conference, and Montana State senior Jody Owens, the Big Sky defensive player of the year.
Southern Utah senior Cody Larsen was the other first-team defensive tackle alongside Russell. Also up front at defensive end were Montana State senior Caleb Schreibeis, whose eight forced fumbles lead the FCS, and Illinois State junior Colton Underwood.
In the secondary, safeties Cooper Taylor of Richmond, a senior, and Jaquiski Tartt of Samford, a sophomore, joined Darnell Taylor and Williams.
The special teams featured Fordham senior place-kicker Patrick Murray, who converted 25-of-30 field goal attempts - six more than any other kicker in the FCS. Joining Murray were Furman senior kick returner Jerodis Williams, Northern Arizona junior punter Andy Wilder and Northern Colorado senior punt returner Dominic Gunn.
The Big Sky, the largest conference in the FCS, had the most All-America selections with 16, followed by the Southern Conference with 15, CAA Football with 12, the Missouri Valley Football Conference with 11, and the Ohio Valley Conference with 10. The Southland Conference garnered seven selections, the Ivy League, Patriot League and Southwestern Athletic Conference had five selections each, the Big South four, the Northeast Conference three, and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Pioneer Football League two each.
2012 The Sports Network FCS All-America Team
With position, player, school, class, height, weight:
First Team - Offense
QB - Taylor Heinicke, Old Dominion, So., 6-1, 195
RB - Miguel Maysonet, Stony Brook, Sr., 5-10, 205; Zach Zenner, South Dakota State, So., 6-0, 215
FB - Eric Breitenstein, Wofford, Sr., 5-11, 230
WR - Erik Lora, Eastern Illinois, Jr., 5-10, 181; Aaron Mellette, Elon, Sr., 6-4, 220
TE - A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State, So., 6-4, 245
OL - Michael Bamiro, Stony Brook, Jr., 6-8, 345; Mike Sellers, The Citadel, Jr., 6-0, 295; Billy Turner, North Dakota State, Jr., 6-6, 300; Earl Watford, James Madison, Sr., 6-4, 290; Bryan Witzmann, South Dakota State, Jr., 6-7, 300
AP - Walter Powell, Murray State, Jr., 6-0, 180
PK - Patrick Murray, Fordham, Sr., 5-7, 160
KR - Jerodis Williams, Furman, Sr., 5-11, 195
First Team - Defense
DE - Caleb Schreibeis, Montana State, Sr., 6-3, 252; Colton Underwood, Illinois State, Jr., 6-4, 255
DT - Cody Larsen, Southern Utah, Sr., 6-4, 300; Brent Russell, Georgia Southern, Sr., 6-2, 300
LB - Matt Evans, New Hampshire, Sr., 6-0, 226; Jeremy Kimbrough, Appalachian State, Sr., 5-11, 240; Robert McCabe, Georgetown, Sr., 6-2, 230; Jody Owens, Montana State, Sr., 6-0, 223
DB - Jaquiski Tartt, Samford, So., 6-1, 220; Cooper Taylor, Richmond, Sr., 6-5, 235; Darnell Taylor, Sam Houston State, Sr., 6-0, 195; Marcus Williams, North Dakota State, DB, Jr., 5-11, 194
P - Andy Wilder, Northern Arizona, Jr., 6-3, 205
PR - Dominic Gunn, Northern Colorado, Sr., 5-11, 170
QB - Gavin McCarney, Colgate, Jr., 6-2, 205
RB - Shakir Bell, Indiana State, Jr., 5-8, 185; Deonte Williams, Cal Poly, Sr., 5-10, 200
FB - Kendall Gaskins, Richmond, Sr., 6-1, 238
WR - Jordan Harris, Bryant, Jr., 6-2, 215; Brandon Kaufman, Eastern Washington, Jr., 6-5, 215; Kevin Norrell, Stony Brook, Sr., 5-10, 200
TE - Kyle Juszczyk, Harvard, Sr., 6-3, 240
OL - Aaron Adams, Eastern Kentucky, Sr., 6-5, 295; Sean Davies, UC Davis, Sr., 6-4, 297; Dakota Dozier, Furman, Jr., 6-4, 291; Rogers Gaines, Tennessee State, Sr., 6-7, 320; Corey Howard, Central Arkansas, Sr., 6-1, 290
AP - Tyler Varga, Yale, So., 5-11, 220
PK - Jimmy Pavel, Eastern Washington, Sr., 5-11, 195
KR - Fabian Truss, Samford, Jr., 5-9, 190
Second Team - Defense
DE - Brandon Thurmond, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Sr., 6-2, 260; Davis Tull, Chattanooga, So., 6-3, 230
DT - Montori Hughes, UT Martin, Sr., 6-4, 330; Caraun Reid, Princeton, Sr., 6-2, 305
LB - Keith Pough, Howard, Sr., 6-3, 225; Stephon Robertson, James Madison, Jr., 5-11, 220; Ian Sluss, Portland State, Sr., 6-0, 225; Jordan Tripp, Montana, Jr., 6-4, 244
DB - Robert Alford, Southeastern Louisiana, Sr., 5-11, 185; Steven Godbolt III, Tennessee State, So., 6-1, 180; T.J. Lee III, Eastern Washington, Jr., 5-9, 170; B.W. Webb, William & Mary, Sr., 5-11, 180
P - Bobby Wenzig, Alabama State, Jr., 6-2, 185
PR - Austin Shanks, Northern Arizona, Sr., 5-8, 185
Third Team - Offense
QB - Casey Brockman, Murray State, Sr., 6-2, 220
RB - Timothy Flanders, Sam Houston State, Jr., 5-9, 210; Jordan McCord, Colgate, Sr., 5-11, 210
FB - Jake Hess, Northern Arizona, Sr., 5-10, 227
WR - Sean Price, Appalachian State, Fr., 6-5, 210; Quentin Sims, UT Martin, Sr., 6-3, 202
TE - MyCole Pruitt, Southern Illinois, So., 6-3, 247
OL - Garrett Frye, Georgia Southern, So., 6-4, 257; Terrance Hackney, Bethune- Cookman, So., 6-6, 310; Kaleb Hopson, Sam Houston State, Sr., 6-6, 300; Terren Jones, Alabama State, Sr., 6-7, 334; Ryan Risch, Colgate, Sr., 6-5, 303; J.C. Tretter, Cornell, Sr., 6-4, 295
AP - Greg Hardin, North Dakota, Jr., 5-11, 168
PK - Ernie Collins, San Diego, Sr., 6-2, 240
KR - Carlos Anderson, Northern Iowa, Sr., 5-8, 172; Colby Walden, Jacksonville, Sr., 5-11, 185
Third Team - Defense
DE - Frank Beltre, Towson, Sr., 6-2, 225; Mike Catapano, Princeton, Sr., 6-4, 270; Nolan Nearhoof, Robert Morris, Sr., 6-2, 250; Zach Wagenmann, Montana, So., 6-4, 240
DT - Chris Burnette, Old Dominion, Sr., 6-4, 290; Robert Simpson, Mississippi Valley State, Jr., 6-4, 255; Jared Smith, New Hampshire, Sr., 6-3, 300
LB - Seth Allison, Central Arkansas, Sr., 5-11, 195; Quinn Backus, Coastal Carolina, So., 5-10, 205; Dorian Bell, Duquesne, Jr., 6-1, 234; Wes Dothard, Chattanooga, Jr., 6-1, 235; Blake Peiffer, Southeast Missouri State, Sr., 6-1, 225; Paul Worrilow, Delaware, Sr., 6-0, 230
DB - Jordan Dangerfield, Towson, Sr., 5-11, 200; Ben Ericksen, Illinois State, Sr., 6-1, 200; Demetrius McCray, Appalachian State, Sr., 6-0, 185; Kejuan Riley, Alabama State, Sr., 6-2, 208; Caleb Schaffitzel, Missouri State, So., 6-0, 214; Johnny Towalid, Indiana State, Sr., 5-11, 170
P - Sam Martin, Appalachian State, Sr., 6-1, 205
PR - Jesse Grandy, Central Arkansas, Sr., 5-11, 165