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Wayne Cavadi | | October 25, 2019

The 15 best DII football players you (maybe) haven't heard of, but should

DII Football plays of the week

Week in and week out, we take a look at the best DII football performances from the players who stuffed the stat sheets. While it's easy to find the Jaleel McLaughlins and Roland Rivers IIIs — two student-athletes that are leading top 10 teams to big seasons — there are quite a few that slip under the radar. 

Let's take a look at a few of the best DII football players 2019 has to offer that may not be getting the attention they deserve. We looked specifically at student-athletes whose teams have not spent any time in the top 25 this season. 

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Tyson Bagent, QB, Shepherd

Shepherd Athletics Shepherd's Tyson Bagent is one of DII football's best quarterbacks.

Bagent's Rams are outside the top 25, but his name should be familiar to DII football fans. He made our preseason Harlon Hill Award watchlist and has certainly delivered, most recently leading Shepherd to an upset over then-No. 12 West Chester. Bagent is currently second in DII football in passing yards with 2,325, but what is more remarkable about that feat is that he missed an entire week and has played one less game than the rest of the top 10.

Tariq Bitson, WR, Adams State

Bitson is playing for a 4-3 Grizzlies team that is often overshadowed by some of the ranked Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference programs. Let's rephrase that: Bitson is playing out of his mind, so far. He leads DII in receiving yards by a landslide with 1,147 yards while reeling in 11 touchdowns. He's eclipsed the 200-yard mark three times this season and is 729 yards shy of the single-season record. With only four games left, it will be tough to set the mark, but not impossible, so be sure to keep all eyes on Bitson down the stretch. 

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Cade Brister, QB, Lindenwood

Brister set program records in 2018 and is on pace to crush his career-highs with a big season already for the Lions. He's already thrown for 2,059 yards — just 397 shy of his total from last year — while already surpassing his career-best 21 touchdowns from last year by one. With All-American candidate Erik Henneman at tight end — plus having some wheels on him for a QB — Brister should finish strong.

Josh Cornell, WR, Oklahoma Baptist

Oklahoma Baptist Athletics Josh Cornell, DII football wide receiver.

Cornell has become a regular on our weekly top performers rundown and is now third in DII football with 844 yards while pulling in nine touchdown receptions. He's running particularly hot right now with three-straight games with seven or more receptions, 143 or more yards and at least one touchdown.

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Ontario Douglas, RB, East Central

The Tigers are 1-6, but that hasn't slowed down their star running back. Douglas was the Great American Conference freshman of the year in 2017 before missing all of last season to injury. He's eighth in DII football in rushing (853 yards) and tied for second with 12 rushing touchdowns.

Hosea Franklin, RB, Lincoln (MO)

Lincoln (Mo.) Athletics Hosea Franklin is one of DII football's best running backs.

Lincoln is another 1-6 team, and while the Blue Tigers may have trouble finding the win column, Franklin has had little trouble finding the end zone. He's tied with Douglas for second with 12 rushing touchdowns and is third in DII football with 1,059 rushing yards. You can add two 200-yard rushing games to his impressive 2019 resume.

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Brant Grisel, QB and Mike Strachan, WR, Charleston (WV)

Charleston (W. Va.) Athletics Brant Grisel is one of DII football's best quarterbacks.

Grisel and Strachan have gelled to form one of the best combinations in DII football this season. Grisel struggled for the first time this season in Week 7 but has been a machine over the other six weeks. He's eclipsed the 400-yard mark twice and his 2,219 yards are third-best in DII. His favorite target Strachan has reaped the benefits, second in DII with 885 yards while catching 11 touchdowns.

Stevie Green, RB, Fayetteville State

Green is coming off his best performance of the season in which he ran for 183 yards and four touchdowns while catching two passes for 24 yards. He's 13th in DII in rushing but amongst the best with a nose for the end zone, scoring 11 rushing touchdowns so far.

Demetrius Harris, DL, Fort Valley State

We've seen some big-time sack artists the past few seasons in DII football, and Harris is doing his best to continue the trend. The senior leads DII with 10 solo sacks and 11.5 total. Nine have come in the past three games with two four-sack performances during the span. 

Stanley Jackson, WR, Tiffin

Tiffin Athletics Stanley Jackson is one of DII football's top receivers.

The Dragons are a team itself that should be getting more attention, now 6-1 and receiving four votes in last week's poll. Jackson is sixth in DII football with 782 yards, but second overall in averaging 130.3 yards per game. He's yet to pull in fewer than 83 yards in any of his six games this season with a stretch of four 100-yard games in a row. 

Chris Jefferson, DB, Findlay

How about we get a little secondary action on the list? Not only does Jefferson lead DII in interceptions — he has eight of them in just seven games. He's picked off at least one pass in four-straight games with a three-interception day on Oct. 5 followed by a two-interception game on Oct. 12. If you're not watching him, opposing quarterbacks better be. 

Jacob Park, Missouri Southern

Missouri Southern Athletics Jacob Park leads DII football in passing.

The name may sound familiar because Park has been well-traveled in his collegiate career. The Georgia recruit transferred to Iowa State where he became the Cyclones' starter and has now resurfaced with Missouri Southern. Now the Lions' quarterback is leading DII in passing with 2,498 yards and looks really comfortable of late with a 400-yard and 500-yard day amongst his last three games played.

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Paul Terry, RB, Eastern New Mexico

The Greyhounds love to run, and Terry is leading the way. The senior back had a career season last year and has already crushed those numbers. He has yet to rush for fewer than 100 yards in any game this season — not even something DII's leading rusher Jaleel McLaughlin can say — and has piled up 1,167 yards, the second most in DII.

Emanuel Wilson, RB, Johnson C. Smith

Last week was a good one as Wilson and Stevie Green went head-to-head. Wilson piled up 195 yards and three touchdowns in the premier running back showdown, the fifth time he's eclipsed the 100-yard mark and third multi-touchdown performance of the season. Altogether, he's rushed for 992 yards and 10 touchdowns, so far.

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