PHILADELPHIA -- South Dakota State senior running back Zach Zenner has set his sights on surpassing 2,000 rushing yards for the third consecutive season, which has never been done before on the FCS level. He enters the 2014 campaign as one of the favorites to win the 28th Walter Payton Award, and the only two-time finalist among the 20 players who were nominated to the Watch List for the FCS' outstanding player.
Returning as finalists to the Watch List besides Zenner, who finished seventh in 2012 and sixth last year, were five quarterbacks: Eastern Washington junior Vernon Adams, who was the runner-up to Garoppolo; Fordham senior Michael Nebrich, fifth; Southeastern Louisiana senior Bryan Bennett, eighth; Villanova junior John Robertson, ninth; and Princeton senior Quinn Epperly, 10th.
Also nominated to the Watch List were quarterbacks Jacob Huesman of Chattanooga, Jordan Johnson of Montana, Alex Ross of Coastal Carolina and Michael Strauss of Richmond; running backs Rob Hollomon of Central Connecticut State, DaMarcus James of Jacksonville State, David Johnson of Northern Iowa, Shepard Little of Eastern Illinois and Keshaudas Spence of Sacred Heart; wide receivers Sam Ajala of Fordham, Kenny Cook of Gardner-Webb, R.J. Harris of New Hampshire and Cooper Kupp of Eastern Washington; and tight end MyCole Pruitt of Southern Illinois.
All are seniors except Huesman, Robertson and Ross, who are juniors, and Kupp, a sophomore who was named the 2013 Jerry Rice Award winner as the FCS freshman of the year.
The breakdown by position: nine quarterbacks, six running backs, four wide receivers and one tight end.
Zenner, who is 6 feet, 215 pounds, rushed for an FCS-high 2,044 yards in 2012 and then 2,015 yards a year ago to join former Sacramento State tailback Charles Roberts as the second FCS player with a pair of 2,000-yard seasons. A two-time first-team FCS All-American, Zenner leads all active FCS players in rushing yards (4,529) and all-purpose yards (5,871), and is second in touchdowns (43).
• 2014 FCS Preseason All-America Team