44 players to know for 44 years of FCS football history

The FCS (then called I-AA) began 44 years ago in 1978. In honor of those 44 years of history, here are 44 players to know entering 2022.

This is not a ranking of the top 44 players in the FCS, meaning some fan-favorite players will be left off the list.

However, those players are likely to bounce back on the national radar with their performances during the season.

That said, let's dive into the 44-player list. 44 FCS players to know

1. TE Kemari Averett | Bethune-Cookman In Kemari Averett's first season at Bethune-Cookman, he caught 52 passes for 888 yards and 10 touchdowns. Averett is a unique threat for the Wildcat offense, standing at 6-foot-6 260 pounds. In 2022, he returns as one of the best TEs in HBCU football and the FCS.

2. QB Nic Baker | Southern Illinois Southern Illinois' Nic Baker was a top-10 passer in 2021, finishing with 3,231 passing yards, a school record. He led the Salukis to a playoff win last year, completing 70 percent of his passes in the win.

3. CB Montrae Braswell | Missouri State Montrae Braswell is a dynamic athlete on the outside of Missouri State's defense. Braswell grabbed four interceptions in 2021, earning All-American honors from multiple outlets in the secondary.

4. G Michael Corbi | Villanova Michael Corbi moved from center to guard in 2021, quickly becoming one of the best linemen in the FCS. Corbi earned All-American honors last fall after leading an offensive line that only allowed 14 sacks all season.

5. WR Avante Cox | Southern Illinois Even though Avante Cox missed three games in fall 2021, he finished with an average of 73.9 receiving yards per game, highlighted by a 99-yard touchdown catch on the first offensive play of Southern Illinois' season. That came after a spring 2021 season where he was a consensus First-Team All-American.

6. RB Isaiah Davis | South Dakota State Isaiah Davis ran for six touchdowns and 499 yards in South Dakota State's three playoff wins, highlighted by his three-touchdown performance against Villanova. 2022 figures to be Davis' best year yet, entering with a healthy offseason and without a future NFL draft pick splitting carries.

7. QB Tim DeMorat | Fordham Tim DeMorat returns to Fordham in 2022 with the most passing yards per game and passing touchdowns in 2021 of any returning FCS quarterback. His 8,393 career total yards of offense are the most of any returning FCS player. 

8. LB Jacob Dobbs | Holy Cross Holy Cross' Jacob Dobbs has earned All-American honors every season since first taking the field as a freshman back in 2019. But no season was better than 2021 when Dobbs won Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year after finishing with 137 tackles (75 solo), 17.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks, ranking in the top 10 in the FCS in solo tackles and total tackles.

9.RB Juwon Farri | Monmouth Juwon Farri has long been one of the best FCS running backs, finishing as ECAC Player of the Year in 2018 and Big South Offensive Player of the year in spring 2021. In 2022, Farri will lead Monmouth as it heads into a new conference, the CAA, hoping to get the Hawks to the playoffs for the third time in four years.

10. CB Justin Ford | Montana Justin Ford was one of two Montana Grizzlies to finish top four in Buchanan Award voting in 2021. Ford was the best ball hawk in the FCS in 2021, nabbing nine interceptions, taking two back to the end zone.

11. WR Xavier Gipson | Stephen F. Austin Stephen F. Austin's Xavier Gipson was arguably the FCS's best wide receiver in 2021 after leading the sub-division with 1,377 receiving yards while hauling in 14 touchdowns on 75 catches.

12. RB Malik Grant | Sacred Heart Malik Grant enters 2022 in a lead-back role, with his first full offseason as a starter. He should build off his breakout season where he finished with 1,347 rushing yards, the fourth-most in the nation. 

13. LB Ryan Greenhagen | Fordham Ryan Greenhagen took college football by storm in Week 1 of 2021, making a record-breaking 31 tackles against Nebraska. Greenhagen was on pace to catch the single-season tackles record before his injury last year. He returns in 2022, looking to pick up where he left off.

14. WR Taylor Grimes | Incarnate Word In his first year at Incarnate Word, Taylor Grimes dominated the competition. He finished with the most receiving touchdowns (15), third-most catches (87) and eighth-most receiving yards (1,145) in the FCS in 2021.

15. QB Mark Gronowski | South Dakota State The last time we saw Mark Gronowski under center was in the spring 2021 FCS as a true freshman. Gronowski suffered an injury in that game and missed all of the fall 2021 season. However, the talented signal-caller returns at full health in 2022 with one of the most talented teams in the country as his supporting cast. 

16. RB Darius Hale | Central Arkansas Darius Hale was only a freshman last year, but he led all running backs in rushing touchdowns (17) during the 2021 regular season, while finishing as one of 16 running backs to run over 1,000 yards (1,021).

17. C Matthan Hatchie | UT Martin Matthan Hatchie gave up one sack on 362 attempts last fall. The dominant center led UT Martin to a conference title with an offense that averaged 207.6 rushing yards per game. 

18. S Robby Hauck | Montana Robby Hauck led Montana, the FCS's eighth-best scoring defense, in tackles last fall making 128 stops. Now, Hauck enters 2022 with the third-most tackles in Montana history. Hauck figures to be a key part of a top FCS defense once again.

19. QB Nolan Henderson | Delaware After leading Delaware to the spring 2021 FCS semifinals, Nolan Henderson had an injury-riddled fall 2021 season. Since then, the Blue Hens have made a head coaching switch among other changes this offseason. Yet for all the change, a healthy Henderson returns under center providing stability to a talented 2022 Delaware team.

20. WR Jakob Herres | Richmond Jakob Herres will play his first season with Richmond after transferring from VMI, bringing 200-plus catches, 3,000-plus yards and 26 touchdowns.

21. RB Geno Hess | Southeast Missouri State Geno Hess has consistently been one of the top FCS running backs since receiving the reins for the Red Hawks, finishing the 2021 season in the top 10 nationally in rushing yards (1,115), rushing touchdowns (14) and rushing yards per game (111.5).

22. WR/DB Travis Hunter | Jackson State Travis Hunter is the lone freshman on this list, but he's already making waves in the FCS. Not only was Hunter the top recruit in the nation and the highest ranked recruit to choose an FCS school in the modern era, but he's also been tabbed as a day-one starter by Jackson State head coach Deion "Coach Prime" Sanders.

23. WR Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim | Alabama A&M In 2021, Alabama A&M's Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim was one of the best HBCU and FCS wide receivers in the country. He led the nation's fourth-best passing offense with 1,008 receiving yards, standing out among a quartet of 300-plus yard pass catchers.

24. RB Isaiah Ifanse | Montana State Isaiah Ifanse's 3,461 career rushing yards are the most of any returning running back and he rushed for 1,623 yards — the second-most in the FCS — last year. 

25. WR Jaxon Janke | South Dakota State South Dakota State's Jaxon Janke had the best season of his career in 2021, turning in six 100-yard receiving games en route to 1,176 receiving yards during the season, the seventh-most in the FCS. Janke also set career highs with 72 catches and 16.2 yards per catch.

26. TE Tucker Kraft | South Dakota State Tucker Kraft is arguably the best tight end in the FCS after making 65 catches for 780 yards and six touchdowns in 2021. With the ability to play as an in-line tight end or flexed out wide, Kraft is a versatile weapon for the South Dakota State offense.

27. LB Isaiah Land | Florida A&M Reigning Buck Buchanan Award winner Isaiah Land enters 2022 as the top defender in the FCS, hoping to build after a season where he led the FCS in sacks (19) and tackles for loss (25.5).

28. DE Jordan Lewis | Southern After winning the Buck Buchanan Award in the spring 2021 season, Jordan Lewis looks to bounce back after a down year last fall. When at his best, Lewis is a terror off the edge, with the speed and bend to give any quarterback nightmares. He'll look to become the second player to ever win two Buchanan Awards in a career and the first since 1996.

29. FB Hunter Luepke | North Dakota State Hunter Luepke is more than your average fullback that just makes blocks. Luepke makes game-changing plays. In the 2021 FCS playoffs, Luepke scored six touchdowns — three in the title game — as the Bison won the championship. Whether it's blocking, running or receiving, Luepke makes his presence felt.

30. DL Nate Lynn | William & Mary In his first year as a starter, Nate Lynn tied a William & Mary record with 12 sacks while forcing six fumbles and making 13.5 tackles for loss. Lynn earned All-American honors for his efforts.

31. OT Cody Mauch | North Dakota State Cody Mauch, an All-American offensive tackle, anchored the outside of North Dakota State's offensive line that blocked for the nation's second-best rushing attack in 2021. Mauch also played well in pass protection, allowing one sack in 625 regular-season snaps.

32. DL Devonnsha Maxwell | Chattanooga Chattanooga's Devonnsha Maxwell placed his name in the upper echelon of FCS defenders last season with his 12 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. About 40 percent of Maxwell's tackles in 2021 came behind the line of scrimmage as he paced the SoCon's best statistical defense.

33. RB Jaleel McLaughlin | Youngstown State Jaleel McLaughlin ran for 1,192 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2021, finishing in the top 10 in the former. McLaughlin earned All-American honors after his performance last fall and figures to be in the conversation among the best running backs in the FCS in 2022. 

34.QB Tommy Mellott | Montana State Tommy Mellott made his first start in the 2021 FCS playoffs. He then led Montana State to the FCS Championship game, displaying dual-threat abilities. Now, Mellott enters 2022 as the unquestioned starter under center with a full offseason under his belt. 

35. LB Patrick O'Connell | Montana Patrick O'Connell is a versatile do-it-all linebacker. O'Connell can rush the passer and set the edge, as shown by his 14 sacks and 22 tackles for loss. But his 105 tackles show he can play as a stand-up linebacker too. If that wasn't enough, O'Connell's four forced fumbles display his ability to make game-changing plays.

36. QB Shedeur Sanders | Jackson State Shedeur Sanders took the FCS by storm in 2021, winning the Jerry Rice Award and a SWAC championship as a freshman at Jackson State. Sanders went undefeated against FCS competition during his first regular season as a starter.

37. RB Jacob Saylors | ETSU In a backup role behind a Walter Payton Award finalist, Jacob Saylors ran for 1,019 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in 2021. He'll enter 2022 as the lead back, meaning more carries and opportunities for the playmaking fifth-year senior.

38. QB Trae Self | Stephen F. Austin In 2021, Trae Self quarterbacked Stephen F. Austin to its first playoff appearance in seven years. Self completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 3,201 yards and 28 touchdowns last year, the most of his career.

39. QB Jason Shelley | Missouri State In 2021, quarterback Jason Shelley won Missouri Valley Football Conference player of the year. In 2022, Shelley leads a national title-contending Missouri State team.

40. QB Xavier Shepherd | Kennesaw State Xavier Shepherd returns to Kennesaw State in 2022, coming off a season where he led the country with 23 rushing touchdowns, scoring 38 touchdowns total — the most of any returning FCS player. 

41. DE Josiah Silver | New Hampshire New Hampshire's Josiah Silver burst onto the scene as a freshman last year, making 12.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss while forcing six fumbles — second-most in the FCS — en route to CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

42. LB Stone Snyder | VMI VMI's Stone Snyder has long been one of the FCS's best defenders. Snyder is the back-to-back SoCon Defensive Player of the Year, earning consecutive All-American honors in each season.

43. S Michael Tutsie | North Dakota State Michael Tutsie is a playmaking strong safety for what's poised to be one of the best defenses in the country at North Dakota State. Tutsie has started 41 consecutive games, earning All-American honors last year. Expect to find Tutsie near the football on North Dakota State's defense; he led the defending national champions in solo tackles.

44. S Kedrick Whitehead | Delaware Delaware safety Kedrick Whitehead enters his fifth season for the Blue Hens with three consecutive All-American seasons behind him. He has over 223 career tackles, flying all around Delaware's defense.

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