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Stan Becton | NCAA.com | October 19, 2021

Here are the top 9 newcomers in FCS football halfway through the season

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There have been seven weeks of FCS football and we've seen exciting action every week led by fantastic player performances. While many returning players have lived up to expectations, there have also been some newcomers, be it freshmen or transfers, that have made an impact right away.

Here are nine newcomers that have stood out at the season's midpoint.

Freshmen

Freshmen do not include players who played in last spring's shortened season.

QB Shedeur Sanders, Jackson State

Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders has been electrifying in his true freshman season. With Sanders at the helm, the Tigers are undefeated against FCS opponents and are ranked in both national polls entering the latter half of the season. Sanders's best performance came against Alabama A&M in Week 6; he completed 70 percent of his passes for 249 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 58 yards and a touchdown.

EVERYTHING HBCU: Keep up with scores and updates from the HBCU football season

WR Jalyn Witcher, Presbyterian

Freshman wide receiver Jalyn Witcher burst onto the scene, tying the Presbyterian single-game touchdown reception record (three) in his first game. Since then, Witcher has caught 43 passes for 622 yards and nine touchdowns. He leads the FCS in receiving touchdowns and ranks ninth in reception yards. Despite Witcher's 5'10'' 170-pound frame, he's made big plays throughout the season.

LB James Conway, Fordham

To open the season, linebacker James Conway was often overshadowed amongst the Fordham linebacking corps by linebacker Ryan Greenhagen, who was on a record pace accumulating tackles. However, when Greenhagen went down with a season-ending injury, Conway picked up the pace, now sitting as the seventh-leading tackler in the FCS. Conway has already been named Patriot League Rookie of the Week on multiple occasions and has Fordham at the top of the conference heading down the stretch.

MORE: Fordham LB Ryan Greenhagen sets new FCS single-game record with 31 tackles

Top Transfers

S Jeremiah Josephs, Duquesne

Duquesne safety Jeremiah Josephs has been an impact player for the Dukes since transferring from Miami (OH). Through five games, Josephs leads the NEC in interceptions and has helped Duquesne to first place in the conference. When Duquesne landed one of 10 FCS-over-FBS upsets this season, Josephs led the Dukes in tackles.

UPSET TRACKER: Track every FCS-over-FBS upset all-time

QB Quincy Patterson, North Dakota State

Carson Wentz, Easton Stick, and Trey Lance are the last three North Dakota State quarterbacks to go from Fargo to the NFL.  Virginia Tech transfer quarterback Quincy Patterson hopes to be next in line. Patterson has the Bison undefeated through six games, bouncing back from a two-loss spring regular season. With 11 total touchdowns in the first half of the season, Patterson has found success as a dual-threat for North Dakota State. 

QB Ren Hefley, Presbyterian

In quarterback Ren Hefley's first game at quarterback for Presbyterian, he broke the FCS single-game passing touchdown record with 10. A Michigan transfer, Hefley ranks third in FCS passing yards at the season's midpoint and has Presbyterian with the fourth-best scoring offense. Despite the Blue Hose losing four straight games, Hefley continues to stuff the stat sheet in his first season.

RELATED: Presbyterian QB Ren Hefley throws 10 touchdown passes, sets FCS record in win

TE Kemari Averett, Bethune-Cookman

Bethune-Cookman tight end Kemari Averett is fourth in the nation in receiving yards and tenth in touchdown receptions in his inaugural season in Daytona. The Louisville transfer has been a bright spot for the winless Wildcats, averaging 18.7 yards per catch. Averett has scored a touchdown in every game except one, highlighted by his nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown against Alabama State.

RANKINGS: See every FCS poll

Aubrey Miller Jr. & James Houston, Jackson State

The final two newcomers are Jackson State linebackers Aubrey Miller Jr. and James Houston. Miller, a Missouri transfer, and Houston, a Florida transfer, are a part of the nation's fourth-leading scoring defense through Week 7.

With 62 tackles, Miller is the 11th leading tackler in the FCS. Miller has stuffed the stat sheet this fall, adding 8.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. Meanwhile, Houston has been a pass-rush extraordinaire, sacking opposing quarterbacks 8.5 times, good for third-best in the country. Houston also has 11.5 tackles for loss, making a living in the backfield.

Together, Miller and Houston have combined for 16.5 of Jackson State's 28 sacks; the Tigers lead the FCS in the category by eight sacks. The transfer tandem is a large part of why Jackson State is at the top of the SWAC heading into the second half of 2021.

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