Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Two returning Walter Payton Award candidates, Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins and Elon wide receiver Terrell Hudgins, and two newcomers to the list, Southern quarterback Bryant Lee and Albany running back David McCarty, have been added to the watch list for the Payton Award, bestowed annually upon the top player in FCS.
Higgins led Weber State to a 10-3 record, a share of the Big Sky Conference title and the quarterfinals of the 1008 playoffs. He placed sixth in Payton Award balloting a season ago after piling up 4,383 yards of total offense.
Hudgins, making his third appearance on the watch list, has been an offensive force for a Phoenix team that fell just short of the playoffs with a 7-4 record in 2007 and an 8-4 mark last season. Hudgins, who has 203 catches for 2,509 yards and 28 TDs in the past two years, was 11th in the 2007 Payton Award voting and finished 15th last year.
“It is an honor to be named among some of the top college football players,” said Hudgins. “It really shows that hard work pays off. Even though this is an individual award, I still give credit to my entire team for my ability to be on this list.”
Lee, a threat as both a runner and a passer, established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in FCS last season, ranking eighth nationally in totaloffense with 292 yards per game.
McCarty is the top returning rusher in FCS this season after averaging 154 yards per game last year. He has been a model of consistency, with 100 or more yards rushing in 17 of his past 18 games spanning two seasons.
Higgins, Hudgins, Lee and McCarty join Appalachian State quarterback and 2008 Payton Award winner Armanti Edwards, Samford running back Chris Evans, South Carolina State running back William Ford and Northern Iowa quarterback Pat Grace on the Payton Award watch list.
A total of 20 candidates will be announced in alphabetical order prior to the start of the season, with four candidates being released each week. The watch list will be revised in October and again in November before the final ballot is announced.
Voting from a panel of FCS sports information directors, writers, broadcasters and other football experts will be conducted after the regular season ends. Three finalists will be announced on Nov. 30 and will be invited to the 23rd annual Sports Network Awards banquet on Dec. 17 in Chattanooga, TN, the night prior to the NCAA Division I championship game. The Eddie Robinson Award (top FCS Coach) and Buck Buchanan Award (top FCS Defensive Player) will also be presented that night.
Here are complete biographies of the latest four players to be named to the Payton watch list:
Cameron Higgins, Weber State, Junior, 6-2, 195, Quarterback
Higgins started every game at QB as a redshirt sophomore, setting school records with 4,460 passing yards and 36 touchdowns while completing 66% of his passes and throwing just 13 interceptions. For his efforts, he was named a Sports Network third team All-American. Higgins finished the campaign ranked third nationally in passing efficiency and fourth in total offense, also setting school records with 4,383 of total offense and 38 combined touchdowns. The then-sophomore tossed at least four touchdowns five times during the 2008 season, and in a 17-10 win over Northern Colorado, threw for a season-high 413 yards with two touchdowns. For his career, Higgins has thrown for 6,419 yards and 53 touchdowns. Higgins became a starter in the fourth game of the 2007 season and proceeded to pass for 1,959 yards and 17 TDs. He completed 56% of his passes and threw just nine interceptions that year.
Terrell Hudgins, Elon, Senior, 6-2, 234, Wide Receiver
After an electrifying 2007 campaign, Hudgins again put up solid numbers last year, catching 86 passes for 1,116 yards and 10 TDs. Hudgins finished fourth in the country in receptions per game (7.2) and 15th in receiving yards pergame (93) in 2008, including a season-high 13 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown in a 22-20 win over Georgia Southern. He now has 10 double-figure reception games during his career. In 2007, he caught 117 passes – just three catches off the NCAA single-season record of 120 by Brown’s Stephen Campbell (2000) – for 1,474 yards and 18 touchdowns, including 16 grabs each in contests against Liberty and Furman. Hudgins led FCS in receptions per game (10.7), receiving yards per game (134 yards), receiving yards and tied for the lead in TD receptions in that season. For his career, Hudgins has caught 272 passes for 3,617 and 36 touchdown, with six double-digit reception games to his credit. Hudgins finished 11th in Payton Award voting in 2007, and 15th in 2008. As a redshirt freshman, Hudgins grabbed 69 passes for 1,027 yards and eight scores.
Bryant Lee, Southern, Senior, 6-2, 200, Quarterback
Lee became the signal-caller for Southern University at the end of the 2006 season and hasn’t looked back. In 2008,the dual-threat threw for 2,682 yards and 20 TDs while completing 62% of his passes and also running for 534 yards and six touchdowns. Nationally, Lee ranked eighth nationally with 292 yards of total offense per game and was 28th in passing efficiency. For his efforts, he earned first-team All-SWAC honors. Top games for the then-junior included a career-high 407-yard effort against Florida A&M, and a 116-yard rushing performance in a 45-14 win over Texas Southern. In 2007, Lee completed 66% of his passes for 2,326 yards and 23 TDs, including an effort in a 56-7 win overArkansas-Pine Bluff in which he threw for 278 yards and four TDs, while rushing for two more scores. Lee made an impact in his first start as a redshirt freshman in 2006, rushing for 102 yards and two TDs and throwing for 138 yards and another score in a 34-17 victory against Texas Southern. In his first three seasons, the quarterback has piled up 5,579 yards and 61 totaltouchdowns.
David McCarty, Albany, Senior, 6-1, 190, Runningback
McCarty has established himself as one of the most consistent running backs at the FCS level over the course of the past two seasons. After rushing for 1,503 yards and 13 touchdowns in his sophomore season, McCarty exploded with 1,852 yards – a new school record – and 13 TDs as a junior in 2008 to help Albany win the NEC title before prevailing in the Gridiron Classic. He ranked second nationally in yards per game behind 2008 Payton Award finalist Herb Donaldson of Western Illinois. McCarty, who rushed for 100 or more yards in 11 of 12 games last season, including four 200-plus-yard performances, saved his best effort of the year for last, rushing for a career-high 271 yards and four touchdowns in a 28-0 win over Jacksonville in the Gridiron Classic. McCarty was also a solid receiver during the campaign, with 27 catches for 356 yards and four TDs as he earned third-team All-American honors. In 2007, the back earned honorable mention status on the Sports Network Division I FCS All-
America Team. For his career, McCarty has 3,353 yards rushing, good for first all-time at Albany and 26 touchdowns.