PHILADELPHIA – In the midst of a remarkable season through the first five weeks of his inaugural collegiate campaign, redshirt freshman Payton Usher has been named to a watch list for the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in the country at the FCS level.
On Wednesday, The Sports Network announced its initial 20-player watch list for the 2013 Rice Award. Named for the legendary wide receiver, who played in the FCS (then Division I-AA) at Mississippi Valley State, the Rice Award will be voted on by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season.
Usher ranks second in the Pioneer Football League with 483 total rushing yards after posting two 100-yard games in his first three collegiate contests, and rushing for 90 yards or more in each of his first four games.
"This is a great honor for Payton to be on the radar as one of the top freshmen in the country," said head coach Bobby Lamb. "He has been the heart and soul of our program and represents the tireless work ethic of every player on our team."
He ranks atop the PFL and No. 32 nationally at 129.0 all-purpose yards per game, including a career-high 202 yards in the season opener against Reinhardt. Usher has been the workhorse in the backfield for the Bears, getting his number called 77 times and averaging 6.3 yards per carry to lead a rushing attack that ranks No. 12 in the country.
The initial position breakdown is five quarterbacks, five linebackers, three running backs, two wide receivers, two defensive ends, one cornerback, one safety and one punter.
Towson running back Terrance West won the inaugural Rice Award in the 2011 season and Villanova quarterback John Robertson received the honor last season.
The Rice Award Watch List can undergo revision during the season. The winner will be announced at The Sports Network FCS Awards Presentation Dec. 16 in Philadelphia.
Usher and the Bears return to action this Saturday, welcoming Valparaiso to town for another PFL contest. Kickoff is slated for noon at Mercer University Stadium.