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Stan Becton | NCAA.com | October 10, 2022

The top newcomers in FCS football halfway through the season

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Six weeks of FCS football (seven counting Week 0) have provided thrilling action highlighted by electrifying 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 the ones that stand out at the season's midpoint.

Freshmen

Ryan Butler | Princeton

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Running back Ryan Butler has earned multiple Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors to begin his Princeton career. Butler has quickly made an impact for the Tigers, rushing for six touchdowns despite having just 42 rushing attempts over four games. Butler figures to be a key part of the Princeton offense as the Tigers look to win their first outright Ivy League title since 2018.

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Mason Gudger | Georgetown 

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Running back Mason Gudger is only a freshman but has already made his mark on Georgetown's special teams' units. Gudger became the second player in Patriot League history to return two kickoffs for a touchdown in the same game against Penn, taking back kicks of 94 and 89 yards. Gudger is tied for the national lead in kickoff return touchdowns, and every kickoff is now must-watch TV for the Hoyas.

Makai Jackson | Saint Francis (Pa.)

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There hasn't been a more impressive freshman in the first half of the season than wide receiver Makai Jackson. Jackson has 39 catches for 452 yards and five touchdowns, scoring against every FCS opponent. Jackson has had three 100-plus yard receiving games and even scored on a kickoff return for a touchdown. Jackson has proven himself as a big-play threat early in his career.

RANKINGS: See the latest FCS Coaches Poll

Jalen Jones | William & Mary

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When a cornerback makes his first career start, many offenses try to pick on the new starter, especially if it's a freshman. However, when William & Mary cornerback Jalen Jones made his first start against Campbell, he showed that attacking him was a bad idea. Jones intercepted three passes in his first start, including a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown. No player has intercepted more passes in a game this season.

Gevani McCoy | Idaho

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Idaho quarterback Gevani McCoy has Idaho undefeated against FCS opponents after five games. McCoy has been efficient through the air completing 81.4 percent of his passes against the FCS, highlighted by a 298-yard, four-touchdown performance against Northern Colorado.

Reese Poffenbarger | Albany

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Quarterback Reese Poffenbarger already owns Albany's single-game passing yards record and has earned three CAA Rookie of the Week honors in his first season with the Great Danes. Poffenbarger has yet to throw an interception this season through five games. While Albany hasn't found much success in the win column this year, the Great Danes appear to have found their quarterback of the future.

UPSETS: See every FCS-over-FBS upset

Top transfers

Jarveon Howard | Alcorn State

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Jarveon Howard has Alcorn State atop the SWAC West and has been one of the nation's best running backs. Howard has rushed for 646 and eight touchdowns, scoring a touchdown against every FCS opponent he's played. He had arguably the best performance of any running back all season when he ran for a dominant 299 yards and four touchdowns against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. In his first year with the Braves, Howard has already established himself as one of HBCU football's best.

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Caylin Newton | William & Mary

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Caylin Newton has finally found a home at William & Mary after beginning his career as a quarterback at Howard and making a brief stop at Auburn. Newton now plays wide receiver for the Tribe and leads the team in receiving yards. In his new offense, Newton has emerged as a weapon on the outside for a William & Mary team that is a contender for the CAA crown.

Chris Whittaker | UIW

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Defensive lineman Chris Whittaker ranks fourth in the nation in sacks (7.5) after transferring to UIW from Florida International. Against FBS opponent Nevada, Whittaker made four tackles for loss and four sacks, forcing a fumble in the FCS-over-FBS upset. Whittaker has quickly impacted UIW's defense which sits second in the Southland conference.

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Sy'Veon Wilkerson | Jackson State

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Running back Sy'Veon Wilkerson made his presence known in HBCU football last year at Delaware State, earning All-MEAC honors and finishing as a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award. This year, Wilkerson has brought a new element to Jackson State's offense. 

Wilkerson has 411 rushing yards and three touchdowns, averaging 5.48 yards per carry. Wilkerson's gives Jackson State a weapon in the rushing game, forcing opposing defenses to prepare for more than quarterback Shedeur Sanders throwing the ball to his litany of wideouts. With Wilkerson in the backfield, Jackson State finally has balance in its offense.

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Transfer quarterbacks

One can't mention top transfers without talking about the impact transfer quarterbacks have had on the FCS this season. Take a look at some of the transfer quarterbacks from ranked teams that have their teams rolling halfway through the season:

  • Sean Chambers | Montana State
  • Paxton DeLaurent | Southeast Missouri State
  • Mike DiLello | Austin Peay
  • Michael Hiers | Samford
  • Lucas Johnson | Montana
  • Matthew McKay | Elon
  • Lindsey Scott Jr. | UIW

And that's a short list. Transfer quarterbacks have taken the FCS by storm and are turning teams into title contenders, both conference and nationally.

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