December 4, 2022

Photo Cred: North Dakota State Athletics

The inaugural Bluebloods Preseason FCS Top-25 is officially here. The 2021 season saw North Dakota State claim their 9th FCS National Championship with a huge win over Montana State in Frisco. Multiple FCS programs (Jacksonville State & Sam Houston State) are in the process of moving to the FBS next season and were not eligible for these rankings. The MVFC leads all conferences with 6 ranked programs, while the Big Sky follows closely behind with 5 ranked programs.

25. Monmouth

Monmouth makes the move to the CAA in 2022 and could be a sleeper team in their first season in the conference. The offense will be led by Preseason CAA All-Americans quarterback Tony Muskett and running back Juwon Farri. The defense will receive a huge boost from linebacker Da’Quan Grimes being fully healthy and All-American defensive back Eddie Morales III returning for a 5th season. 

24. Weber State

The Wildcats won four straight Big Sky titles from 2017-2020, but had to overcome multiple injuries and a loaded Big Sky conference last season. Quarterback Bronson Barron, leading rusher Dontae McMillan, and wide receiver Ty MacPherson all return on the offensive side of the ball. The defense will be led by defensive back Eddie Heckard and linebacker Winston Reid. The Wildcats will have a brutal three game stretch as they face Montana State, Montana, and Sacramento State back-to-back. 

23. Northern Iowa

The Panthers are looking to compete in the loaded MVFC and potentially win their first conference championship since 2011. The defense will be the strength of the team again behind All-American Benny Sapp III and linebacker Spencer Cuvelier. The offense will be led by gunslinger Theo Day, while Dom Williams will look to build upon his 700-yard season and lead the Panthers in rushing in back-to-back seasons.

22. South Dakota

The Coyotes look to continue the positive momentum from last season and make back-to-back appearances in the FCS playoffs. The offense was young last season, but return both leading rushers in Nate Thomas and Travis Theis. Carson Camp looks to take the next step at the quarterback spot after being named to the MVFC Newcomer Team in the spring season. Defensive lineman Nick Gaes and linebacker Brock Mogensen will lead a strong defensive unit into the 2022 season. 

21. Eastern Kentucky

Eastern Kentucky will look to contend for their first conference title since 2011. The Colonels will have one of the best defenses in the ASUN going into next season behind All-Americans Matthew Jackson, Kelton Dawson, and Joseph Sayles. The offense will be led by multi-year starter Parker McKinney and two of his top targets in wide receiver Jaden Smith and tight end Dakota Allen returns at the wide receiver position. 

20. Southeastern Louisiana

The Lions must replace Cole Kelley, but former South Alabama transfer Cephus Johnson III will be the guy tasked with leading Southeastern Louisiana back to the top of the Southland. The strength of the team will be the secondary for the Lions that returns senior leaders Ferlando Jordan and Brandon Barbee, while FCS All-American Zy Alexander will return after his 9 interception season as a freshman. The defensive line will be led by Southland All-American Garrett Crawford after leading the Lions in sacks last season. 

19. Eastern Washington

The loss of Eric Barriere will be extremely tough to overcome, but the roster for Eastern Washington is still one of the best in the Big Sky going into the 2022 season. The Eagles return Big Sky All-American Freddie Roberson, wide receiver Efton Chism III, and running back Justice Jackson on the offensive side of the ball. The defense could take a huge step forward in 2022 behind Big Sky All-American defensive linemen Mitchell Johnson and Joshua Jerome

18. Mercer

Mercer is primed to compete for their first SoCon title since joining the conference in 2014. The Bears return quarterback Fred Payton and Freshman All-American Fred Davis on the offensive side of the ball. The defense was extremely young last season, which is why the Bears return almost the entire defense from the 2021 season. The Bears return three All-SoCon selections on the defensive side of the ball, which will be led by FCS All-American safety Lance Wise.

17. Holy Cross

Holy Cross will look to claim their 4th consecutive Patriot League title this season. The Crusaders will return multiple top contributors on both sides of the ball including Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year LB Jacob Dobbs. Matthew Sluka returns at the QB spot after his 2,500-yard season in 2021 and will still have both his top targets from last season in Ayir Asante and Jalen Coker. The Crusaders defense will look to lead the Patriot League in total defense again as Liam Anderson and Liam Doran return to aid Dobbs on the defensive side of the ball.

16. UT Martin

UT Martin is coming off their first OVC title since 2006 and will look to repeat as conference champions for the first time since 1935-36 when the Skyhawks were in the Mississippi Valley Conference. The Skyhawks defense will be one of the best in the conference as top contributors Eyabi Anoma, Oshae Baker, and John Ford II all return for the 2022 season. The offense will lean on All-American running back Zak Wallace as the Skyhawks look to replace Keon Howard at the quarterback spot. 

15. Incarnate Word

The defending Southland champions have decided to return to the conference instead of leaving for the WAC and new head coach G.J. Kinne will look to win back-to-back conference titles. Nicholls State transfer Lindsey Scott Jr. steps into the QB1 spot after Cameron Ward’s transfer to Washington State and wide receiver Taylor Grimes will look to repeat his All-American production from 2021. The defense returns most of the top talent from the 2021 season including Southland All-Americans Kelechi Anyalebechi and Kaleb Culp. 

14. Jackson State

The Tigers are fresh off their first SWAC Championship since 2007. Head coach Deion Sanders landed his 2nd straight top ranked FCS recruiting class this offseason including 5-star Travis Hunter. Jerry Rice Award winner Shedeur Sanders returns at the quarterback spot and the rushing attack received a major boost from MEAC All-American Sy’Veon Wilkerson. The defense will be led by returning starters All-American Aubrey Miller Jr. and defensive back De’Jahn Warren. 

13. Chattanooga

The Mocs will look to make their first playoff run since 2016 and will be one of the favorites to win the SoCon title for the first time since 2015. The defense ranked #1 in the SoCon last season and All-American Devonnsha Maxwell might be one of the most feared defensive ends in the country. Ailym Ford returns after his 1,000-yard rushing season and Eastern Michigan transfer Preston Hutchinson could be a huge addition at the quarterback spot for the Mocs. 

12. Delaware

Delaware had to overcome multiple injuries and an unexpected coaching change last season, but now is primed to compete for the CAA title after winning the conference in the spring season. The defense has a chance to be special behind CAA All-Americans Artis Hemmingway, Chase McGowan, and Kedrick Whitehead. Nolan Henderson comes into the season healthy and will have a major target in Freshman All-American Jalyn Witcher coming off a 1,000-yard receiving season as a true freshman.  

11. East Tennessee State

ETSU will look to defend their 2021 SoCon title as new head coach George Quarles takes over for Randy Sanders after his retirement this offseason. Tyler Riddell returns at the quarterback spot for the Buccaneers as 1,000-yard rusher Jacob Sayers steps into the lead running back role after the departure of All-American Quay Holmes. The defense will have to replace multiple top contributors, but will be led by Freshman All-American Alijah Huzzie and SoCon All-American Jalen Porter.

10. Villanova 

Villanova enters the 2022 season as the defending CAA champions, but must replace Daniel Smith at the quarterback position. Connor Watkins looks primed to be the new QB for the Wildcats and will have two major targets at the WR spot returning in CAA All-American Rayjoun Pringle and Jaaron Hayek. The defense may have lost multiple starters this offseason, but the Wildcats were extremely active in the transfer portal to fill those holes. Transfer portal additions Jonnie Pitman (Marshall), Danny Damico (UAlbany), and Antonio Montero (Rice) will be names to watch on the defensive side of the ball for the Wildcats.

9. Southern Illinois

Southern Illinois will have one of the most explosive offenses going into the 2022 season behind returning quarterback Nic Baker after his 3,000-yard passing season in 2021. The Salukis also return leading receiver Avante Cox and three of the top-4 leading rushers from the 2021 season led by Javon Williams. The defensive side of the ball will be led by returning starters defensive back PJ Jules and linebacker Makel Calhoun. 

8. Stephen F. Austin

Stephen F. Austin made their first playoff appearance since 2014 and returns most of the top contributors from last season. The Lumberjacks return 10 WAC All-Americans from last season and will be led by arguably the best wide receiver in the country in Xaver Gipson. Trae Self returns at the QB spot and leading rusher Miles Reed will join him in the backfield. The defense returns 9 starters including All-Americans BJ Thompson, Brevin Handle, and Myles Heard. The Lumberjacks look primed for a deep run in the FCS playoffs this season.

7. Kennesaw State

Kennesaw State joins the ASUN as the defending Big South champions and will be the favorite to win the conference in their 1st season. FCS All-American Xavier Shepherd returns after leading the country with 23 rushing touchdowns last season and will be a key part to the Owls making another run in the FCS Playoffs. The defense returns 8 starters from a unit in 2021 that ranked Top-20 in total defense, but will have to replace All-American Evan Thompson at the linebacker spot. 

6. Sacramento State

Sacramento State is coming off back-to-back Big Sky titles and return 9 starters on the offensive side of the ball. The receiving core will be the strength of this offense as All-Americans Pierre Williams and Marshel Martin both return as top targets for quarterbacks Asher O’Hara and Jake Dunniway. The defense lost multiple top contributors, but utilized the transfer portal to land multiple impact players this offseason. 

5. Missouri State

The Bears enter the season with back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 1989-90. The offense will be led by MVFC Offensive Player of the Year Jason Shelley and leading wide receiver Tyrone Scott is now joined by SoCon All-American AJ Toney. The Bears have landed multiple FBS transfers to fill holes on the defensive side of the ball and return one of the best defensive backs in the country in Montrae Braswell. Missouri State avoids the top ranked Bison, but will face multiple other Top-25 programs including UT-Martin in a highly anticipated rematch from last season.

4. Montana State

The Bobcats made a spectacular run to the FCS National Championship last season behind a stout defense and freshman sensation Tommy Mellott. All-American Isaiah Ifanse returns and Willie Patterson looks to step into the lead wide receiver role after Lance McCutcheon graduated this offseason. The defense is young on the defensive line, but All-Americans Ty Okada and Callahan O’Reilly will look to be the leaders of the defense next season. 

3. Montana

Montana is coming off back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in the FCS Playoffs and return one of the best defenses in the country coming into the 2022 season. All-Americans Justin Ford and Patrick O’Connell will be the leaders on the defensive side of the ball after the Grizzlies allowed less than 17 points per game last season. The offense will be led by San Diego State transfer Lucas Johnson and former All-American running back Marcus Knight returns after missing last season due to injury. 

2. South Dakota State

If there is a team that should strike some fear into the top-ranked Bison then it will be South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits will be led by MVFC Offensive Player of the Year Mark Gronowski who missed the fall season due to an injury suffered late in the spring season. Isaiah Davis is primed to take over the RB1 spot for Pierre Strong Jr. and will have an experienced offensive line led by FCS All-American Mason McCormick blocking for him. Tucker Kraft and Jaxon & Jadon Janke also return as leading pass catchers for the Jackrabbits. The defense will be led by All-American Adam Bock and the defensive line returns multiple top contributors including Caleb Sanders and Reece Winkelman. The Jackrabbits will have to be road warriors this season as they must travel to face Iowa, North Dakota State, Missouri State, and Northern Iowa. 

1. North Dakota State

The Bison are coming off their 9th FCS National Championship in the last 11 seasons and return a majority of their top contributors from the 2021 season. The powerful rushing attack should be stronger than ever as the Bison return the entire running back room, including Hunter Luepke and TaMerik Williams. The offensive line returns 4 out of 5 starters and the wide receiving core all returns outside of All-American Christian Watson. The defense returns multiple All-Americans including Michael Tutsie and Spencer Waege after leading the country in scoring defense last season. 

Honorable Mentions: Richmond, Murray State, Tennessee State, Elon, Florida A&M

2 thoughts on “The Bluebloods’ 2022 Preseason FCS Top-25

  1. Trying to understand how Jackson State is starting the season ranked in the Top 15. They were an unworthy playoff participant last year and that was proven when they were buried by Southeastern Louisiana. The Tigers’ schedule is weak, just like last season and even if they were to go undefeated, it’s not really proving anything. Should they be in consideration for the Top 25? Of course, but not in the Top 15.

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