UAlbany redshirt freshman quarterback Jeff Undercuffler and Richmond freshman linebacker Tristan Wheeler are among 24 players who have been named to the watch list for the STATS Jerry Rice Award, given annually to the top freshman in FCS football.
Undercuffler has completed 180-of-312 passes for 2,408 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. He has thrown for over 300 yards four times and has at least two passing touchdowns in all nine games. His 28 total TD passes are a UAlbany season record and he ranks second in FCS in passing touchdowns. Undercuffler is third in the CAA in passing yards (267.6 ypg) and pass efficiency (147.7).
Wheeler is second on the Spiders and second in the country among all freshmen with 76 total tackles, averaging 8.4 tackles per game. Wheeler, who did not start until the fourth game of the year, ranks seventh overall in the CAA in total tackles and is the top freshman tackler in the league. He has posted four games this season with at least 10 tackles, including a career-high 13 tackles against Fordham. Wheeler has also 3.0 tackles for loss and 1.0 sack on the season while forcing one fumble.
Three of the award's first four recipients of the Jerry Rice Award went on to play in the NFL: Terrence West (Towson), Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington) and Chase Edmonds (Fordham). Along with West, Villanova quarterback John Roberston received the award in 2012.
A national panel of more than 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will vote on the award following the regular season.
The 24 players nominated to the watch list, listed alphabetically by last name:
- John Bachus III, QB, UT Martin
- Omar Brown, CB, Northern Iowa
- Tyrese Chambers, WR, Sacred Heart
- Ian Corwin, QB, Drake
- Jacob Dobbs, LB, Holy Cross
- Nick Eaton, DE, UC Davis
- Metrius Fleming, WR/RS, Tennessee Tech
- Tra Fluellen, S, Houston Baptist
- Ailym Ford, RB, Chattanooga
- Xavier Gipson, WR/KR, Stephen F. Austin
- Devron Harper, WR/RS, Gardner-Webb
- Tyler Hudson, WR, Central Arkansas
- Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim, WR, Alabama A&M
- Hendrix Johnson, WR, Northern Arizona
- Kevin Johnson, RB/KR, Norfolk State
- Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
- Jalen Leary, RB, Stetson
- Will McElvain, QB, Northern Iowa
- Keegan Shoemaker, QB, Lafayette
- Jake Stebbins, LB, Cornell
- Jeff Undercuffler, QB, UAlbany
- Tristan Wheeler, LB, Richmond
- Javon Williams Jr., RB, Southern Illinois
- Hajj-Malik Williams, QB, Campbell