PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Sophomore running back Terrance West of Towson University, who was honored as the winner of the Jerry Rice Award which is presented to the top freshman in Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), is one of 20 nominees for the 2012 Walter Payton Award, presented to the top player in FCS by The Sports Network.
West, who rushed for 1,294 yards and scored 29 touchdowns last season, is one of 12 returning finalists who were named to The Sports Network’s Watch List.
West is a candidate for the 26th annual Payton Award which will be presented in January. He will be trying to join a star-studded list of winners that includes Steve McNair, John Friesz, Brian Westbrook, Tony Romo, Brian Finneran, Armanti Edwards and 2011 winner Bo Levi Mitchell.
Former Tiger running back David Meggett won the Walter Payton Award in 1988.
The 2011 finalists returning to the Watch List are quarterbacks Casey Brockman of Murray State, DeNarius McGhee of Montana State and Brad Sorensen of Southern Utah; running backs Shakir Bell of Indiana State, Jordan Brown of Bryant, Jamaine Cook of Youngstown State, Timothy Flanders of Sam Houston State, Andrew Pierce of Delaware and West. Fullback Eric Breitenstein of Wofford joins wide receivers Aaron Mellette of Elon and Rodrick Rumble of Idaho State as members of the Watch List.
Quarterbacks Taylor Heinicke of Old Dominion, Kurt Hess of Youngstown State and Jeff Mathews of Cornell are first-time members of the Watch List, along with running backs Zach Bauman of Northern Arizona, Matt Denham of Eastern Kentucky and Miguel Maysonet of Stony Brook. All-purpose player Richard Sincere of Sam Houston State and wide receiver Ryan Spadola of Lehigh complete the Watch List.
McGhee isn't just a returning finalist, he's the only two-time finalist on this year's Watch List, having finished seventh in the voting as a red-shirt freshman in 2010 and 13th last season when he helped Montana State earn a share of the Big Sky Conference title for the second straight year.
This year, McGhee will go head-to-head with Sorensen in the Big Sky now that Southern Utah has moved into the conference. Sorensen, who has thrown for over 3,100 yards in two straight seasons, is considered the leading NFL prospect among FCS senior quarterbacks.
Brockman is capable of throwing for staggering yardage totals. He has already had passing games of 497, 570 and 600 yards over the past two seasons.
Mathews was quite prolific, too, throwing for over 500 yards in each of his final two games last season to finish with an Ivy League single-season record 3,412 passing yards.
Hess ranked just behind Mathews as the fourth-most efficient quarterback in the FCS. Heinicke got a late start on his true freshman season, but wound up throwing for 25 touchdowns with only one interception to lead Old Dominion to a berth in the FCS playoffs in its first season of eligibility.
Among the running backs, no one wants to take the next step in the Payton voting more than Bell. He tied for second as a sophomore last year when he led the FCS in rushing. He ran for 1,670 yards, an average of 151.8 yards per game.
Brown actually outrushed Bell with 1,815 yards and a 165-yard average per game, but he was not recognized among the official FCS statistical leaders because Bryant was in its final season as a provisional school that was reclassifying to the FCS.
A two-time selection as the Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Week, West was 12th in the nation in rushing. On his way to a school record 29 touchdowns, he had three games in which he scored four TD’s. He was also named as the CAA Rookie of the Week four times and earned first team All-America honors from The Sports Network and the Walter Camp Foundation. While winning the Jerry Rice Award, he was sixth in the voting for the Walter Payton Award.
All 10 of the backs, including Breitenstein, rushed for over 100 yards per game last year. Denham ranked third in the FCS in rushing yards per game while Bauman was fourth. Cook was seventh and Maysonet finished eighth. Breitenstein ranked 10th while Pierce was 13th and Flanders finished 16th.
Mellette, Spadola, Rumble and Edwards finished 1-2-3-4 in receiving yards per game.
Few players mixed the offense together like Sincere. The wide receiver caught 26 passes for 485 yards and four touchdowns, but also ran Sam Houston State's Wild Bearkat formation, finishing with 979 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.
The Payton Award Watch List can undergo revision during the 2012 season. Ballots will be sent to a panel of about 175 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season on Nov. 19. The top three vote-getters will be invited to The Sports Network FCS Awards Presentation.
The Sports Network also presents the Buck Buchanan, Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson awards. The Buchanan Award honors the FCS defensive player of the year, the Rice Award goes to the FCS freshman of the year and the Robinson Award honors the FCS coach of the year. Those three winners will join the top three Payton finalists at the national awards banquet.
Last year, Rob Ambrose, the head coach of Towson, was the winner of the Robinson Award as the top coach in FCS football.