Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Candidacy for this year's Jerry Rice Award, given annually to the national freshman player of the year at the FCS level, has largely consisted of Fordham running back Chase Edmonds, and then everyone else.
Perhaps the majority of the nation's freshmen just needed a little bit of time to wake up.
That's exactly what freshmen players all over the country did this past weekend. It's even more promising considering Edmonds' Rams squad was idle with an open week, so the rookie sensation wasn't able to participate in the fray.
Although it's customary for one, and sometimes two players, to garner a national weekly award, there were a handful of freshmen who deserved to be recognized this week.
Idaho State linebacker Mario Jenkins and VMI quarterback Al Cobb were named co- freshmen of the week after leading their teams with outstanding performances. Jenkins recorded 14 tackles, two interceptions (for the first time in his career at any level) and had four tackles for loss. Cobb threw for a program- record six touchdown passes and a career-high 351 yards in a double-overtime defeat. That was just the start.
Freshmen who weren't named to the weekly awards included Portland State running back Steven Long, who carried the ball 16 times for 253 yards and a touchdown in a losing effort. Wide receiver Jared Beard caught seven passes for 88 yards and three touchdowns as his Austin Peay Governors ended their 18-game losing streak - the longest in Division I - against Murray State. And Gardner-Webb linebacker Jeffrey Pegues accounted for 20 tackles (the fifth-highest single-game total in the FCS this season) against Cobb and VMI.
Maybe it won't be Edmonds and then everyone else going forward. The Rice Award, which has been handed out to some spectacular names already in its three years of existence, once again appears to have serious promise.
Jenkins and Cobb, along with Idaho State's Justin Arias, Gardner-Webb's Kenny Cook, Tennessee Tech's Marty Jones and Nicholls State's Keenan Canty have all been named The Sports Network national FCS players of the week following Week 8 action of the college football season.
CO-OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK:
Justin Arias, Idaho State, QB, R-Sr., 6-0, 213, Agoura Hills, California
It seems like Arias, when looking at the big picture for quarterbacks in the nation, has flown relatively under the radar. The senior has led the Bengals to a 4-3 record, including a perfect 4-0 mark at home and a 2-1 Big Sky Conference record. Over the weekend, he threw for over 400 yards for the fourth consecutive game, completing 30-of-50 pass attempts for a career-high 465 yards and four touchdowns in his Bengals' 56-28 win over Southern Utah. The 465 passing yards rank seventh in Idaho State program history. Since throwing an interception in the third quarter against Eastern Washington a few weeks ago, Arias has completed 71-of-106 attempts for 1,006 yards and 11 touchdowns without another pick.
Kenny Cook, Gardner-Webb, WR, R-Sr., 6-4, 218, Cross Hill, South Carolina
Prior to this weekend's double-overtime victory for Gardner-Webb, Cook had only one 100-yard receiving game and a total of just two touchdowns. Maybe some critics got to Cook because he exploded in the Runnin' Bulldogs' win over VMI. The senior hauled in 12 receptions for a Big South Conference single-game record 251 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including the game-winning 25-yard touchdown grab in the second overtime. Earlier in the third quarter, Cook caught a pass and took it 80 yards to the end zone, which was the longest pass play of his career at GWU. He nearly matched his yardage total from the previous four games played (260) in the contest, and set the FCS high this season for single-game receiving yards.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
Marty Jones, Tennessee Tech, S, Sr., 5-11, 195, Cincinnati
Tennessee Tech faced a tall order Saturday going up against previously unbeaten Eastern Kentucky. But the Golden Eagles were, well, golden in their effort to slow the Colonels, and Jones was right at the center of the action, especially late in the game. Jones registered a game-high 12 tackles and had four interceptions on defense, which tied a single-game Ohio Valley Conference record. Two of his interceptions came within the final 1:07 of play to help preserve TTU's eight-point lead and ultimately the victory. He also contributed on special teams when he took a low snap as the holder in a PAT situation, and carried the ball into the end zone for the two-point conversion that gave the Eagles a one-point lead (the team's game-winning score). Jones now shares the single-game OVC interception record with five others in history.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
Keenan Canty, Nicholls State, WR, R-Sr., 5-9, 170, New Orleans
Talk about a hefty workload. Canty saw plenty of action as Nicholls' kick returner in his Southland Conference team's one-sided loss at the hands of Lamar, 63-21. Canty took advantage of his opportunity as he racked up a ridiculous 203 yards on 10 kick returns, which included a long of 39 yards. He also took his one punt return 83 yards for a touchdown, giving him 286 total return yards and Nicholls its first punt return for a touchdown since Lardarius Webb did so back in 2008. Midway through the third quarter, Canty caught his only reception of the day - a 5-yard touchdown strike. He finished the contest with 297 all-purpose yards (he added a 6-yard rush) and two total touchdowns.
CO-FRESHMEN PLAYERS OF THE WEEK:
Mario Jenkins, Idaho State, LB, R-Fr., 6-1, 225, Nampa, Idaho
Jenkins is enjoying a strong freshman campaign, but this past weekend was truly his time to shine. The Idaho native recorded 14 total tackles, adding in four tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, a quarterback hurry and a pair of interceptions. It's the first time on any level of play Jenkins had recorded two interceptions in a single game. His Bengals easily handled Southern Utah - a playoff team in 2013 - at home (56-28), and are now perfect in Pocatello with a 4-0 mark. Jenkins, thanks to a big stat boost from the weekend, is a prime candidate for the Rice Award.
Al Cobb, VMI, QB, R-Fr., 6-3, 190, Pulaski, Tennessee
Cobb has been on the cusp of winning freshman of the week on multiple occasions, but his stats in VMI's double-overtime loss to Gardner-Webb were not only undeniably strong, but record-setting. The freshman quarterback completed 34-of-53 pass attempts for 351 yards (a season high) and a school-record six touchdowns as his Keydets were taken down, 47-41, in two overtimes. All six of Cobb's touchdown tosses went to different receivers.