In the FCS Huddle: Past finalists flood Payton Award Watch List

The 2013 Walter Payton Award Watch List looks a lot like 2012. And a little like 2011. Even 2010.

Eleven finalists from last year's race - and a 12th from 2011 - are among the initial 20 nominees named Monday for the 27th annual award, which will be presented by The Sports Network to the outstanding player in the FCS on Dec. 16.

Past winners of the FCS' most coveted award include Steve McNair, Tony Romo, Brian Westbrook, Brian Finneran, John Friesz and Armanti Edwards, the only two-time recipient.

Returning to the Watch List as 2012 finalists are quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, Jamal Jackson of Appalachian State, Gavin McCarney of Colgate, DeNarius McGhee of Montana State and Wynrick Smothers of Central Arkansas; running backs Zach Bauman of Northern Arizona, Shakir Bell of Indiana State, Timothy Flanders of Sam Houston State, Terrance West of Towson and Zach Zenner of South Dakota State; and wide receiver Erik Lora of Eastern Illinois.

Delaware running back Andrew Pierce, a 2011 finalist and a nominee to start last season, returns to the Watch List as well. Also named are quarterbacks Brock Jensen of North Dakota State, Jeff Mathews of Cornell and Jerick McKinnon of Georgia Southern; running backs David Johnson of Northern Iowa and Carlton Koonce of Fordham; and wide receivers Jordan Harris of Bryant, Sean Price of Appalachian State and Walter Powell of Murray State.

Bell, West and Flanders also were finalists in 2011. McGhee was a finalist in each of his first three seasons, starting in 2010.

The Watch List's breakdown is eight running backs, seven quarterbacks and five wide receivers.

The highest returning vote-getters from the 2012 Payton race are Lora and McCarney, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Lora set an FCS single- season record with 136 receptions for the Ohio Valley Conference champions at Eastern Illinois. McCarney ranked ninth nationally in total offense for Patriot League champion Colgate.

There is no shortage of offense on the initial Watch List. It includes the 2012 FCS rushing leader (Zenner, 2,044 yards), receptions leader (Lora), scoring leader (McCarney, 23 touchdowns, 140 points) and the No. 2 finisher in passing yards per game (Mathews, 355.1).

The Payton Award Watch List can undergo revision during the 2013 season. Ballots will be sent to a panel of about 175 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season. The top three vote-getters will be invited to The Sports Network FCS Awards Presentation.

Old Dominion, whose quarterback Taylor Heinicke captured the 2012 Payton Award, is not eligible for the top FCS honor this season as it transitions out of the FCS as an independent. Players from FBS-bound Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, both still Southern Conference members, are eligible.

The Sports Network also presents the Buck Buchanan, Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson awards. The Buchanan Award honors the outstanding defensive player in the FCS, the Rice Award goes to the FCS freshman of the year and the Robinson Award honors the FCS coach of the year. The winners of those three awards will be invited to the national awards banquet along with the top three vote- getters for the Payton Award.

The FCS Awards package can be found at