2014 Football Season Preview Series - Top Offensive ReturnersAugust 4, 2014
Top Defensive Returners – Top Special Teams Returners
The 2013 NJCAA football season was characterized by the tremendous offensive production of teams across the nation. Several individual records were tied or broken during the year, including the single-season rushing and touchdown marks. Leading the charge were numerous playmakers with the potential to do exceptional things at the four-year level and in the NFL.
Despite tremendous turnover and the departure of several of those playmakers, the NJCAA has many key stars returning for their sophomore campaign in 2014.
Over the past decade, the NJCAA has seen a colossal surge in numbers being put up throughthe air. However, one of the biggest areas of change for NJCAA football teams this season will
be at the quarterback position where only 12 players return with at least 100 pass attempts in 2013.
The top returning quarterback in the nation statistically is Copiah-Lincoln’s Daniel Fitzwater (right). Passing for 2,684 yards last season, Fitzwater led the Wolves to a 7-2 record and a third-place finish in the MACJC South Division. He completed 59.8 percent of passes – connecting on 186
of 311 attempts – while throwing for 19 touchdowns against just five interceptions. With the
return of wide receivers Koy McFarland and Courtney Foy, Fitzwater looks to be on the right path
to take the next step in his quest for a conference title. Ranked No. 92 overall among two-year prospects according to Rivals, the 6-foot-6-inch gun slinger has offers from several NCAA FBS programs including new Big Ten member Rutgers.
Other returning signal-callers of note include Jones County’s Steven Swindle, Rochester’s
Tanner Menke and Deondre Ford from Dodge City.
Click here for a complete list of top returning quarterbacks.
Despite the upward trend of passing over the last decade of NJCAA football, the ground game experienced a revival in 2013. This season, 36 running backs return with at least 50 carries intheir collegiate career – including a record-breaking star and 17 players that rushed for at least 500 yards.
One of the best running backs in the history of two-year college football returns for his
sophomore season after being named the Spalding® NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year as a freshman. Jovon Robinson (right) comes back to Georgia Military as the NJCAA’s single-season
rushing record holder, compiling 2,387 yards on the ground last year. Robinson tied two more single-season marks with 34 rushing touchdowns and 204 points scored. Despite falling to
East Mississippi in the NJCAA National Championship Game, Robinson carried the ball
34 times for 238 yards and three touchdowns. The top-rated two-year prospect in the land according to Rivals, Robinson pledged his commitment to Auburn this past spring.
Scottsdale’s Za’Quan Summers joins Robinson as the only returning running backs to surpass the 1,000-yard mark last season. Other ball carriers of note include Monroe College's Robert Jackson and Georgia commit Chris Carson at Butler.
Click here for a complete list of top returning running backs.
WIDE RECEIVERS / TIGHT ENDS
With the abundance of new quarterbacks under center this season, the NJCAA’s returning wide receivers and tight ends will play a vital role in 2014. In all, 56 players return on the outside that recorded at least 15 receptions during their freshman year.
The nation’s top receiver in 2013 will be back this season as Garden City’s Brandon Snell (right)
returns for the Broncbusters. Leading the country with 72 receptions last season, Snell accumulated 841 yards and 10 touchdowns as a freshman. He capped off the successful year with six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown in Garden City’s 47-21 loss to Tyler in the
Football Capital of Kansas Bowl. Although Snell will have a new quarterback under center this season, the adjustment shouldn’t be too steep as his performance last year came with two different passers splitting the reps. Rated by Rivals as the fourth-best two-year wide receiver prospect and No. 42 overall, Snell currently has offers from four FBS teams including Colorado and Utah out of the Pacific-12 Conference.
Georgia Military’s Zireycus Letman comes into the season as Rivals’ top-rated NJCAA wide receiver at No. 38 overall. Darrion Landry from Blinn joined Letman in the rankings at No. 64 overall.
Click here for a complete list of top returning wide receivers and tight ends.
With 17 players featured in Rivals’ Top 50 two-year prospect rankings, offensive linemen in the NJCAA appear to be a hot commodity once again in 2014. Across the map, 123 linemen return with at least five games under their belt – including 35 that started in at least 10 games last year.
The top-rated offensive lineman in this year’s class is Lackawanna’s Paris Palmer (right, #57) who was named the No. 8 rated prospect. Perhaps the best offensive lineman to suit up for the Falcons since Super Bowl champion Bryant McKinnie, Palmer was dominant in all 10 starts
of his freshman year at Lackawanna. Standing at 6 feet 8 inches tall, Palmer announced last spring that he is committed to South Carolina.
Continuing their storied tradition on the offensive front, Eastern Arizona will boast one of the
most experience offensive lines in the nation this year. Alfred Tukuafu, Khalil Hunter and Tyrece Ashmore return for the Gila Monsters after starting in all 11 games last season. Hunter is the
most highly touted player in the group as Rivals’ No. 41 overall two-year prospect. He currently
has offers from seven FBS teams, including power conference programs Georgia, Louisville
Also cracking Rivals’ list of the top 25 overall two-year prospects were No. 14 Jamal Danley
(right, #72) from East Mississippi and No. 23 Martinas Rankin from Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Click here for a complete list of top returning offensive linemen.