The Jerry Rice Award is in its third season of honoring the FCS freshman of the year.
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
They arrive on campus holding the future of a college football program, but some freshmen aren't content to wait long for their turn.
Given the opportunity to be influential, they can show the future is now.
The top first-year player in the FCS, whether a true freshman or a redshirt freshman, will win the Jerry Rice Award, now in its third season.
On Wednesday, The Sports Network announced its initial 20-player watch list for the 2013 Rice Award. Named for the legendary wide receiver, who played in the FCS (then Division I-AA) at Mississippi Valley State, the Rice Award will be voted on by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season.
The initial position breakdown is five quarterbacks, five linebackers, three running backs, two wide receivers, two defensive ends, one cornerback, one safety and one punter. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference has the most nominees with three.
Towson running back Terrance West won the inaugural Rice Award in the 2011 season and Villanova quarterback John Robertson received the honor last season.
The Rice Award Watch List can undergo revision during the season. The winner will be announced at The Sports Network FCS Awards Presentation Dec. 16 in Philadelphia.
The initial 20 players on the Jerry Rice Award Watch List:
Five games: 77 carries, 483 yards, 1 TD; 7 receptions, 74 yards; 129 all- purpose yards per game
AROUND THE NATION
One of the bigger games of Week 7 is Gardner-Webb (4-2) at No. 8 Coastal Carolina (5-0). The Coastal offense has done everything right behind quarterback Alex Ross and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, but the Chanticleers will have to solve the stout Gardner-Webb defensive front which has received incredible play from big defensive end Shaquille Riddick, who has an NFL future in two years. ... Every FCS team has thrown at least three interceptions except Montana. Quarterback Jordan Johnson leads the nation in passing efficiency (190.5) and has thrown 14 touchdowns among his 110 attempts. The 11th-ranked Grizzlies (4-1) visit UC Davis on Saturday ... Unfathomable thought to those teams beginning conference play this weekend: Alabama State (4-2, 4-1) will play its sixth SWAC game when it hosts Prairie View A&M on Saturday. ... Three of the seven winless teams in the FCS play in the SWAC's five-team West Division: Grambling State (0-6) as well as Texas Southern (0-5) and Arkansas- Pine Bluff (0-5), who square off on Saturday. Despite the winless record, UAPB has yet to lose a fumble - something only Bethune-Cookman and Western Illinois can claim this season. ... The home team has won 15 of the last 16 meetings between Southern Illinois and No. 4 Northern Iowa. That's good news for the Panthers as they return to the UNI-Dome after suffering a one-point loss at top- ranked North Dakota State. ... A win at Georgetown would give Fordham its first 7-0 start since 1930. ... Jacksonville State running back DaMarcus James has scored three touchdowns in three straight games and now takes aim on Tennessee State, which ranks first in the FCS in total defense (248.8 ypg) and third in scoring defense (13 ppg). ... The winner of the Northwestern State- Nicholls game will continue a surprising winning season Saturday. Both open Southland Conference play with 3-2 overall records. ... Marist will make the trip across the country so its defense, led by pass rusher Terrence Fede, can try to stop quarterback Mason Mills and the Pioneer Football League-leading offense at San Diego. The winner of 2-0 PFL teams will at worst keep pace with Butler in the standings. ... There's a terrific Thursday night game in the MEAC: streaking South Carolina State (4-2) at North Carolina Central (3-2). There will be speed to burn in this matchup. ... FCS scoring leader Terrance West of Towson has scored 15 touchdowns in six games this season and an incredible 59 in 27 career games. ... Back from its 3,000-mile trip to Cal Poly, Yale has another road game, although decidedly closer, at Dartmouth on Saturday. The Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0) could have trouble containing Big Green running back Dominick Pierre and quarterback Dalyn Williams. ... Rejuvenated by a win over then-unbeaten Sacred Heart, defending Northeast Conference champion Wagner heads to Duquesne for a key matchup. Seahawks running back Dominique Williams, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in 25 career games, needs 49 yards to hit 4,000 overall. ... The most eclectic schedule in the FCS may belong to transitioning Abilene Christian (3-3), which hosts FCS developmental program Houston Baptist on Saturday. The Wildcats' schedule also includes games against FBS, FCS, Division II and USCAA (United States Collegiate Athletic Association) members. ... Western Carolina will be overmatched at Auburn when it becomes the first FCS team to face an FBS opponent since Sept. 19. Catamounts coach Mark Speir is building with a good, young quarterback in sophomore Troy Mitchell, who is second in the Southern Conference in total offense. "It's our third FBS opponent on the year, and we're glad it's our last for the year," Speir said. "Obviously, it's a huge task for us. We just want to get ourselves better this week. And go down there and play well." ... The MEAC announced the use of a radio communication system during televised games that allows for continuous hands-free communication between referees and other crew officials throughout the games.
SO YOU KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT WINNING
This will be the third straight Saturday in which there will be a matchup involving Penn, Villanova or William & Mary, meaning it's the third straight Saturday in which the two competing head coaches will have at least 200 career wins.
Villanova, behind coach Andy Talley, won its two games. Now Penn's Al Bagnoli and William & Mary's Jimmye Laycock will try to add to their career win total when they face off Saturday in Williamsburg, Va. It will be the 36th all-time meeting of two Division I head coaches with at least 200 career wins.
UNDER THE RADAR STADIUMS
There's an interesting vote going on for the Enterprise Rent-A-Car "Best Under- the-Radar NCAA Football Atmosphere". Four levels of football are represented among seven finalists and three are from the FCS: Delaware (Delaware Stadium), Northern Arizona (Walkup Skydome) and Sam Houston State (Bowers Stadium). Also on the list are Colorado State-Pueblo, Northern Illinois, Ohio University and Wisconsin-Whitewater.
The winner will be determined by fans through Facebook voting at www.Facebook.com/BestofCollegeFootball. Fans can vote once per day until Oct. 21. The winning school will be featured in "Best of College Football," which airs Nov. 29 on CBS.
Also, once again this season, In the FCS Huddle is projecting the potential FCS playoff field. The projections, updated most Sundays, are a long-range look at the season - not based off current records or rankings - and can be found here.
FCS AWARDS WATCH
His numbers aren't eye-popping because he's being double-teamed, held and schemed in every way possible by opposing offenses, but Princeton defensive tackle Caraun Reid, a Buck Buchanan Award candidate, is still working his way toward potentially becoming the first FCS selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Game of the Week: No. 15 Villanova (3-2, 2-0 CAA) at X-No. 3 Towson (6-0, 2-0), 7 p.m. Somebody invite Jerry Rice because it's a matchup of the first two recipients of the FCS freshman of the year award, 'Nova quarterback John Robertson and Towson running back Terrance West.
X-No. 11 Montana (4-1, 1-1 Big Sky) at UC Davis (2-4, 2-0), 7 p.m.
Stephen F. Austin (2-3, 0-0 Southland) at X-Southeastern Louisiana (3-2, 0-0), 8 p.m.
X-Abilene Christian (3-3) at Houston Baptist (2-1), 8:30 p.m.
X-No. 19 Northern Arizona (3-2, 1-1 Big Sky) at Sacramento State (3-3, 2-0), 9:05 p.m.
Weber State (1-5, 0-2 Big Sky) at X-Cal Poly (2-3, 1-0), 9:05 p.m.