Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – The best trait of a Walter Payton Award
candidate tends to be the player’s ability to lift his team to a higher level.
The four players added to the Payton Watch List on Tuesday – quarterback Dakota
Prukop of Montana State, and running backs Marshaun Coprich of Illinois State,
Tyler Varga of Yale and Herb Walker Jr. of Morgan State – have been doing just
that this season while racking up remarkable statistics as well.
The 28th annual Payton Award, presented by The Sports Network, will be bestowed
on the outstanding player of the FCS level following the regular season.
The four new additions:
Marshaun Coprich, Illinois State, RB, Sr., 5-9, 205, Victorville, California
With a “Baby Bull” nickname, it’s easy to figure out why it often takes more
than one defender to bring down the physical Coprich. He ranks second in the
running back-rich Missouri Valley Football Conference and fourth in the FCS in
rushing yards per game (146), and he’s scored 11 touchdowns to rank second
nationally in points per game (13.2). Behind Coprich’s five straight games over
100 rushing yards, the Redbirds are one of only five unbeaten teams in the FCS
and they have been a surprise entrant into the Top 10.
Dakota Prukop, Montana State, QB, So., 6-2, 195, Austin, Texas
Prukop was named The Sports Network National Offensive Player of the Week a
week ago, and he easily could have been the choice this week. In his last two
Big Sky Conference games, he has accounted for 997 total yards and 14 total
touchdowns. The dual threat has been a revelation in following up four-time
Payton Award nominee DeNarius McGhee as the ninth-ranked Bobcats’ starting
quarterback. He ranks first in the FCS in points responsible for (168) and
fourth in total offense (352.4 yards per game).
Tyler Varga, Yale, RB, Sr., 5-11, 224, Kitchener, Ontario
Talk about lifting his team, Varga helped Yale to the first Ivy League win over
an FBS program since 1986 when he rushed for 185 yards and a school-record five
touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime, against Army on Sept. 27.
Eyed as an early round pick in the 2015 CFL Draft, he’s returned from an
injury last season to rank first in the Ivy League and ninth in the FCS with
131.3 rushing yards per game, and first nationally in points per game (13.5)
for a 3-1 Bulldogs squad ranked No. 1 nationally in total offense and No. 3 in
Herb Walker Jr., Morgan State, RB, So., 5-8, 180, Cleveland
Walker took over as the Bears’ No. 1 option after the first game, and he hasn’t
looked back. The small, elusive back has gone over 100 yards in five straight
games, including twice over 200 yards, while scoring nine total touchdowns.
Overall, he is averaging 152.5 rushing yards per game, ranking first in the
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and third in the nation. The Bears (3-3) have
won three of their last four games.
Other players on the Walter Payton Award Watch List are quarterbacks Vernon
Adams Jr. of Eastern Washington, Bryan Bennett of Southeastern Louisiana, Quinn
Epperly of Princeton, Jacob Huesman of Chattanooga, Michael Nebrich of Fordham,
John Robertson of Villanova, Alex Ross of Coastal Carolina and Michael Strauss
of Richmond; running backs Malcolm Cyrus of Alabama State, Khairi Dickson of
Saint Francis (Pa.), Rob Hollomon of Central Connecticut State, DaMarcus James
of Jacksonville State, David Johnson of Northern Iowa, Gus Johnson of Stephen
F. Austin, Keshaudas Spence of Sacred Heart and Zach Zenner of South Dakota
State; 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.
The Walter Payton Award Watch List can undergo revision during the 2014 season.
Ballots will be sent to a national panel of over 150 sports information and
media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries
following the regular season. The top three vote-getters will be invited to the
presentation of the award on Dec. 15 in Philadelphia.
The Sports Network also presents the Buck Buchanan, Jerry Rice and Eddie
Robinson awards. The Buchanan Award honors the outstanding defensive player in
the FCS, the Rice Award goes to the FCS freshman of the year and the Robinson
Award is bestowed upon the FCS coach of the year.
The 2014 FCS Awards package can be found at http://tinyurl.com/n5ysh8x.