Inaugural Jerry Rice Award has 20 finalists

An impressive group of 20 finalists were announced Tuesday for the inaugural Jerry Rice Award, which honors the freshman of the year in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Monmouth running back Julian Hayes became the final candidate on the list after he posted an impressive end to his rookie season.

The winner of the Rice Award, presented by The Sports Network and sponsored by, will be announced at the national awards banquet on Friday, Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas - the night before the national championship game.

A panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will select the Rice Award winner.

Rice made receiving look effortless during his amazing career in the FCS (then Division I-AA) at Mississippi Valley State University. He was a two-time first-team All-American and finished his career with 310 receptions for 4,851 yards and 50 touchdowns. His 27 TD receptions in 1984 set the NCAA record for all divisions.

Voting will reflect only the regular season. The FCS playoffs begin Saturday.

The 20 Jerry Rice Award finalists are:

Christian Bryan, Youngstown State, WR, 5-10, 180

The Penguins' big-play threat grabbed 45 passes for 719 yards (the FCS high for freshmen). He caught six touchdowns.

Mike Crutcher, Missouri State, FS, 6-2, 198

The redshirt freshman collected 83 tackles with one interception and three pass breakups. He had 13 tackles against North Dakota State.

Chuck Dibilo, Princeton, RB, 5-11, 200

The first freshman in Ivy League history to rush for over 1,000 yards, Dibilo finished with 1,068 yards. He scored eight total touchdowns.

Michael German, Tennessee State, QB, 6-2, 215

German was elevated to starter in October and finished the season by throwing for 1,899 yards and 12 touchdowns. He did not throw an interception in his first 137 attempts.

D'Vonte Grant, North Carolina A&T, LB, 5-11, 215

The active redshirt frosh totaled a team-high 87 tackles, including 10.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks, one interception, two pass breakups, two quarterback hits, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick.

R.J. Harris, New Hampshire, WR, 6-0, 194

The redshirt freshman was spectacular in September, then finished the season with 46 receptions for 658 yards and seven touchdowns.

Julian Hayes, Monmouth, RB, 5-10, 220

A workhorse, Hayes rushed for 805 yards and 14 touchdowns on 216 carries. He scored four touchdowns in a game and three touchdowns in two other games.

Taylor Heinicke, Old Dominion, QB, 6-1, 190

In completing nearly 71 percent of his passes, Heinicke was 165 of 233 for 1,770 yards and 15 touchdowns with only one interception. He rushed for 263 yards and three touchdowns.

David Johnson, Northern Iowa, RB, 6-3, 214

The No. 2-ranked Panthers have relied heavily on its redshirt freshman, who rushed for 730 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 30 passes for 409 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season.

Dillon Lucas, Villanova, LB, 6-0, 215

A consistent player, Lucas averaged 8.4 tackles to lead FCS freshmen. He had 51 solos among his 92 total tackles.

Brady Measom, Southern Utah, WR, 5-9, 165

Part of a deep receiving corps at Southern Utah, Measom had 48 receptions for 547 yards and two touchdowns. He also had an 12.3-yard average on 15 punt returns.

Greg McGhee, Howard, QB, 6-3, 200

A mobile left-hander, he was a threat as a passer (182 of 321 for 1,784 yards and 13 touchdowns) or a runner (388 yards, four touchdowns) for the resurgent Bison.

Jake Miller, Eastern Washington, Punter, 6-5, 205

A transfer from Washington State, Miller came on strong during his redshirt freshman season, averaging 44.2 yards per punt. He booted 10 punts of at least 50 yards.

Ross Scheuerman, Lafayette, RB, 6-0, 190

The all-around standout ranked 40th in the FCS with 127.5 all-purpose yards per game in the regular season. He rushed for 499 yards and also was a threat as a receiver and kick returner.

Neal Sterling, Monmouth, WR, 6-3, 235

Sterling led all FCS freshmen in receptions (57) and was second in receiving yards (677) in the regular season. He caught five touchdowns.

Austin Sumner, South Dakota State, QB, 6-5, 230

After the Jackrabbits turned the offense over to the redshirt freshman, he had five 300-yard games in his seven starts. Sumner set a Missouri Valley Conference record for freshmen with 2,382 passing yards while firing 16 touchdowns.

Jordan Wells, Southeastern Louisiana, RB/KR, 5-11, 195

The redshirt freshman shattered the Southland Conference record for kickoff return yards in a season with 1,383 on 52 returns (26.5-yard average). He had 265 return yards against Central Arkansas.

Terrance West, Towson, RB, 5-11, 222

West led all FCS freshmen with 1,242 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns in the regular season. He scored at least two touchdowns in nine games.

Brandon White, San Diego, WR, 6-3, 195

While the Toreros won a share of the Pioneer Football League title, White caught 45 passes for 561 yards and five touchdowns.

Will Whitman, Harvard, OT, 6-6, 260

The first freshman offensive lineman to start under veteran head coach Tim Murphy, Whitman has 53 knockdowns and was excellent on pass protection. The Crimson ranked third in scoring in the FCS in the regular season.