We're just about halfway through the 2022 FCS football season and there are players that have lived up to preseason expectations and players who have emerged as stars through the first half of the season.
After evaluating the season so far, I've determined the top players at every position in FCS football. Yet, rather than simply present the players one by one, I've decided to create an all-star roster with the best players in the FCS, right now.
Quarterback — Tim DeMorat, Fordham
The best quarterback so far came down to a battle between Fordham's Tim DeMorat and UIW's Lindsey Scott Jr. One can't go wrong with either player based on the two's early season performances. However, I chose Tim DeMorat because he's shown an ability to push the ball downfield to a multitude of wideouts. DeMorat currently has three wide receivers that could reach the 1,000-yard mark this season. For this all-star team, I'll take DeMorat's slight edge in passing distribution over Scott's dual-threat ability.
Running back — Jaden Shirden, Monmouth
When I first looked at Jaden Shirden's candidacy for the top running back, I wondered if he was even the best running back on his own team. Owen Wright does have more touchdowns after all. However, when I looked at Shirden's alarming 9.6 yards per carry this season, it became clear that Shirden has earned the top spot.
Shirden has carried the ball 97 times for 937 yards and seven touchdowns, leading the FCS in rushing yardage. He's the most explosive running back in the FCS, turning a simple handoff into a touchdown. His touchdowns of 95, 80, 75, 67 and 56 yards set him apart from the rest of the FCS running backs through the first half of the season.
Fullback — Hunter Luepke, North Dakota State
Hunter Luepke is making the fullback position exciting again, fresh off of one of the greatest string of playoff performances we've ever seen from his position. This year, Luepke has already scored 10 touchdowns. He has over 100 total yards in three games this season, contributing on the ground and through the air. Yet, like all fullbacks, Luepke's greatest impact may not show up on the stat sheet as he continues to excel as a lead blocker. Luepke's fantastic start to the season has him in Walter Payton Award conversations...as a fullback.
Wide Receivers — Jalen Coker, Holy Cross | Fotis Kokosioulis, Fordham | Xavier Smith, Florida A&M
I went with three wide receivers since most teams run spread offenses in today's college football. That said, let's get to the trio.
Holy Cross' Jalen Coker was the easiest pick to be added to this list. He's the clear No. 1 option on his team and has the third-most receiving yards (603) and fourth-most touchdowns (7) in the FCS. When Holy Cross needs a big play, it can always rely on Coker to show up, just look back to when the Crusaders beat Buffalo in an FCS-over-FBS upset.
Fordham's Fotis Kokosioulis gets the next wide receiver spot. Kokosioulis leads the nation in receptions (52), receiving yards (770) and receiving touchdowns (8). However, I debated his addition since he plays in the nation's top offense that has other two wide receivers near the top of receiving categories. Could Kokosioulis' production be a product of his offense? Maybe, but leading the nation in all three major receiving categories is no easy feat, and for that, he makes the list.
The final wide receiver to make the list is Florida A&M's Xavier Smith. Smith has the third-most receptions (48), fourth-most receiving touchdowns (7) and ninth-most receiving yards (551). He's one of two wide receivers — Kokosioulis being the other — to be among the top 10 in each category. If making an all-star team, I'd want Smith in the slot thanks to his route-running and yard-after-the-catch ability that's been on display all year long.
Tight end — Ryan Miller, Furman
Ryan Miller leads all tight ends in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. If that alone wasn't enough to show why Miller is the nation's top tight end at the midseason point, he also leads Furman in each receiving category, catching almost twice as many balls as the Paladins' second-leading wideout.
Tyler Huff 25 yard TD pass to Ryan Miller pic.twitter.com/o2t17wl2WU— Furman Football (@PaladinFootball) September 10, 2022
Offensive tackle — Cody Mauch, North Dakota State | Colby Sorsdal, William & Mary
Another year, another elite NFL draft prospect on the North Dakota State offensive line, and this year his name is Cody Mauch. Mauch anchors the Bison offensive line that is third in the nation in rushing offense and has allowed just five sacks. Listed at 6-foot-6, Mauch uses a combination of size and skill to handle his opponents.
Hunter Luepke is ELITE 🥶— The Transfer Portal CFB (@TPortalCFB) September 18, 2022
Cody Mauch with a dang good block on the edge 👀 pic.twitter.com/X49LH3n17n
Offensive tackle Colby Sorsdal leads a William & Mary offensive line that averages 5.4 yards per carry. Sorsdal continues to impress on the edge, helping pace the CAA's second-leading rushing offense.
Offensive Guards — Corey Bullock, North Carolina Central | Jake Kubas, North Dakota State
Corey Bullock is the premier offensive lineman on the best offensive line in HBCU football through the season's first half. Bullock plays his best at guard, but continues to show the versatility to play all over the North Carolina Central front. He's earned two MEAC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors already this season.
When an offensive line is as dominant as North Dakota State's has been in 2022, it's deserving of two spots on this all-star team. That's where Jake Kubas comes in. While he may not get the recognition as his teammate Cody Mauch, Kubas continues to impress on the interior for the Bison.
Center — Matthan Hatchie, UT Martin
Matthan Hatchie entered the season as one of the best linemen in the FCS and he's lived up to expectations. Hatchie leads a UT Martin offensive line that has allowed just two sacks all year, good for second in the nation.
INSTANT IMPACT: The top newcomers in FCS football halfway through the season
Interior defensive line - Thor Griffith, Harvard | Devonnsha Maxwell, Chattanooga | Sebastian Valdez, Montana State
Thor Griffith plays defensive tackle, but leads Harvard in total tackles through four games. If that wasn't impressive enough, Griffith has 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks from the interior of the defense. Griffith has been a force in the middle of Harvard's defense.
On this #FootballFriday, a look back at a few of our school-record nine sacks from last week. 👊— Harvard Football (@HarvardFootball) September 23, 2022
Looking to bring this type of pressure again in Week Two. 🤝#GoCrimson #OneCrimson pic.twitter.com/TNjmYgAKOt
Devonnsha Maxwell is one of the most consistent interior pass rushers in the FCS, making 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in his first five games. Maxwell's numbers stand out when considering the double-team blocks he faces. However, Maxwell's presence alone has helped Chattanooga notch 16 sacks so far this season, with him as the focal point of the pass rush.
Inside Chattanooga Football 🎬@GoMocsFB D-Line Coach Anthony Shakir and Devonnsha Maxwell break down key plays from Illinois.— Chattanooga Mocs (@GoMocs) September 29, 2022
Watch the full show ⬇️https://t.co/FQcG8G6k08@Coach_Shak @Devonnsha pic.twitter.com/Af36BXwvdL
Sebastian Valdez has eight tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks from the middle of Montana State's defense. He has the most sacks of any interior pass rusher this season and has the Bobcat defense poised for a run in the Big Sky.
Edge rusher — John Pius, William & Mary | Patrick O'Connell | Montana
William & Mary's John Pius takes the top edge rusher spot after leading the nation in sacks (9.5) and tackles for loss (14.5) after six games. Easy choice here as last year's Buck Buchanan Award winner did the same.
John Pius led a @wmTribefootball defense that held the Leopards to 240 total yards, including just 48 in the second half, recorded six sacks and didn’t allow a point over 54 minutes pic.twitter.com/xGANTdvlyM— CAA Football (@CAAFootball) September 19, 2022
Patrick O'Connell gets the next edge rusher spot thanks to his continued display of versatility. Off the edge, O'Connell has nine tackles for loss and seven sacks in five games. While there are other edge rushers this year with higher totals in both categories, O'Connell sets himself apart with his ability to drop back in coverage at times. O'Connell has an interception and four pass breakups on the season. O'Connell's versatility keeps defenses on their toes, a great element to have on this all-star team.
Linebacker — Johnny Buchanan, Delaware | BJ Davis, South Carolina State
Johnny Buchanan started the season on fire, making 23 tackles against Navy to lead Delaware to the FCS-over-FBS upset. Granted, Navy runs the triple-option offense which could boost tackling stats, but when looking at later performances down the road where Buchanan has made double-digit tackles three times, it's clear that he's been flying around the football. He's a captain on the nation's seventh-leading scoring and total defense, bringing intangibles like leadership week in and week out.
You know we've got some highlights from this impressive performance!— CAA Football (@CAAFootball) September 5, 2022
Johnny Buchanan's 23 stops tied a @delaware_fb record and were the most by any FCS or FBS player in Week 1 pic.twitter.com/jLuBNtJJtb
BJ Davis takes the final linebacker spot because he's been the best pass-coverage linebacker in the FCS this season. Davis has four interceptions this season, more than all but six defensive backs. Don't think Davis can't tackle either, as he has 45 tackles on the year.
South Carolina State University LB BJ Davis interception against Bethune-Cookmanpic.twitter.com/zx1gqnD2rS— HBCU Premier Sports & More (@HBCUSports1) September 14, 2022
Cornerback — Maxwell Anderson, Weber State | Alijah Huzzie, ETSU
The cornerback position features two defenders that love to take the ball away, Maxwell Anderson and Alijah Huzzie. Anderson leads the FCS with five interceptions and even has a blocked kick to his name. Huzzie has four interceptions of his own and leads the FCS with 13 passes defended. Both Anderson and Huzzie have proven that if targeted, a quarterback is playing with fire.
UPSETS: See every FCS-over-FBS upset
Safety — Kedrick Whitehead, Delaware | TaMuarion Wilson, Central Arkansas
Kedrick Whitehead entered the year as arguably the top safety in the FCS and has lived up to the billing early on. Whitehead has played as a deep safety more often than he did early in his career and he's making more plays on the ball. He has already made two interceptions and recovered a fumble this year. Whitehead remains one of the best tacklers at his position, but he's taken the next step with his coverage ability in 2022.
TaMuarion Wilson leads the nation with 40 solo tackles and his 60 total tackles are the most of any defensive back. Wilson's a physical safety that has been a jack-of-all-trades for Central Arkansas' defense. He has an interception, two sacks, three tackles for loss and two forced fumbles already this season. With safeties often being the last line of defense on defense, Wilson is someone who can be counted on to come up big when it matters most.
The Weekly 🏅 are out‼️— ASUN Football🏈 (@ASUN_Football) October 10, 2022
Our #ASUNFootball🏈 Defensive Player of the Week is @UCA_Football DB Tamuarion Wilson👏
Career high 1⃣3⃣ tackles with ☝️ sack ➕ an INT🚫
📰 | https://t.co/CPBpluxhJo#ASUNBuilt | #BearClawsUp🐻 | @WilsonTamuarion pic.twitter.com/TvC6KEEkcy
While specialists like kicker, punter, long snapper and returners are important, I didn't add any specialists to the list. Why? I think it's best to wait for more high-stakes moments to come during conference play to allow specialists to separate themselves from the pack.