Charlotte 49ers red-shirt freshman quarterback Matt Johnson (Maiden, N.C.) is among the initial 20 candidates on the Watch List for The Sports Network's Jerry Rice Award, given to the top first-year player in the FCS, whether a true freshman or a redshirt freshman.
The Sports Network announced its initial 20-player watch list for the 2013 Rice Award, which is named for the legendary wide receiver, who played in the FCS (then Division I-AA) at Mississippi Valley State. The Rice Award, in its third year, will be voted on by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season.
Johnson has led the 49ers to a 4-2 start, including last week's thrilling 53-51 comeback victory over #24/#25 Gardner-Webb in which the 49ers trailed by 21 points in the fourth quarter. Johnson ranks third in the FCS with 16 touchdown passes and 10th with 1582 passing yards.
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:
Mouf Adebo, DE, Sam Houston State, 6-foot-1, 225 pounds
Five games: 15 TT (10 solo), 5 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 PBU
Kourtney Berry, LB, Alabama State, 6-0, 210
Six games: 53 TT (26 solo), 8.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FR
Trent Brittain, QB, Incarnate Word, 6-2, 195
Six games: 100-of-183, 1,170 yards, 7 TD, 3 INT, 117.7 passing efficiency; 52 carries, 205 yards, 1 TD
Devin Borders, WR, Eastern Kentucky, 6-5, 203
Six games: 21 receptions, 277 yards, 4 TD; 3 blocked kicks
Dillon Buechel, QB, Duquesne, 6-3, 176
Four games: 81-of-129, 1,159 yards, 6 TD, 4 INT, 147.4 passing efficiency
Marcus Cox, RB, Appalachian State, 5-10, 185
Five games: 73 carries, 398 yards, 5 TD; 22 receptions, 415 yards, 5 TD
Lawrence Forbes, P, Morgan State, 6-4, 180
Six games: 24 punts, 45.8-yard average, 78 long, 8 inside 20, 6 50 yards-plus
Matt Johnson, QB, Charlotte, 6-3, 230
Six games: 132-of-206, 1,582 yards, 16 TD, 7 INT, 147.4 passing efficiency; 52 carries, 191 yards, 1 TD
Javancy Jones, DE, Jackson State, 6-2, 230
Six games: 29 TT (14 solo), 10.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FF, 1 TD
Michael Jones, CB, North Carolina Central, 5-9, 175
Five games: 21 TT (14 solo), 1 TFL, 4 INT, 6 PBU
Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington, 6-2, 195
Five games: 20 receptions, 418 yards, 7 TD
John Law, LB, Appalachian State, 6-0, 225
Five games: 57 TT (22 solo), 1 sack, 2 INT, 1 FR, 1 FF
Christophe Mulumba, LB, Maine, 6-1, 230
Six games: 47 TT (13 solo), 1.5 sacks, 2 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FR
Trenton Norvell, QB, Western Illinois, 6-5, 220
Six games: 84-of-165, 9 TD, 4 INT, 110.2 passing efficiency; 35 carries, 12 yards, 1 TD
Donald Payne, S, Stetson, 6-0, 191
Five games: 53 TT (35 solo), 6.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 INT, 7 PBU, 1 QBH, 2 FR, 2 FF, 2 TD
Peter Pujals, QB, Holy Cross, 6-2, 185
Four games: 71-of-108, 764 yards, 8 TD, 1 INT; 50 carries, 167 yards, 2 TD
Martin Ruiz, RB, Youngstown State, 5-11, 195
Six games: 88 carries, 491 yards, 10 TD; 9 receptions, 110 yards, 1 TD; 109.7 all-purpose yards per game
Marquis Smith, LB, Savannah State, 6-3, 235
Six games: 60 TT (39 solo), 3.5 TFL
Gage Steele, LB, James Madison, 6-1, 230
Six games: 62 TT (23 solo), 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU, 1 FF
Payton Usher, RB, Mercer, 5-7, 162
Five games: 77 carries, 483 yards, 1 TD; 7 receptions, 74 yards; 129 all- purpose yards per game
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