The 2022 season was the year of the breakout star in HBCU football’s lower division. Several players from the Division II to NAIA levels increased their profile with extraordinary performances.
From Virginia Union running back Jada Byers to Benedict defensive lineman Loobert Denelus, they put their names on the map.
We break down the players who have the best chance to follow suit in 2023.
Jadon Adams QB, Savannah State
In a disappointing year for Savannah State last season, quarterback Jadon Adams was a shining light providing production as a dual-threat under center.
As a freshman, Adams led the Tigers with 545 rushing yards scoring seven rushing touchdowns and eight passing touchdowns.
Adams’ 15 total offensive touchdowns ranked eighth in the SIAC, and was the only freshman to place in the top 10 in that category.
Entering his sophomore season with the Tigers, Adams could be on the fast track to winning the SIAC Offensive Player of the Year award.
Anthony Binyard DL, Fayetteville State
The Fayetteville State Broncos are coming into the 2023 season as the defending CIAA champions claiming their first title since 2009.
Last season, the Broncos led the CIAA recording 39 sacks. During the offseason, the team lost one of its top pass rushers Devin Cowan to the transfer portal.
While they were able to retain Cameron Merrell, who entered the transfer portal only to return, they will need other linemen to step up in relief of Cowan.
Insert Anthony Binyard, who will look to take his first big step to stardom entering his sophomore season.
Binyard posted 34 tackles, 11.0 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, and a fumble recovery in 2022.
Kevin Graham DB, Allen
As good as Allen’s offense was last season, filled with rising stars, all of whom are returning for the 2023 season, the defense is not too far behind.
The Yellow Jackets’ defensive unit has some promising prospects that could elevate the team’s profile in the future.
Leading the way is defensive back Kevin Graham who had an impressive freshman season showcasing a wide array of talent.
Not only did Graham lead the SIAC, recording four interceptions, but he was also a factor on special teams scoring a punt return touchdown and averaging 26.8 yards on six kickoff returns.
Don’t be surprised to see Allen’s defense take a massive leap with the rising star defensive back leading the charge.
Kendall Norman WR, Benedict
In what was the Benedict Tigers’ best season in school history, wide receiver Kendall Norman was a silent assassin on special teams providing explosive playmaking.
He scored two punt return touchdowns while averaging 20.3 yards on 14 kick returns. This included a 70-yard kick return in his first attempt of the season against Elizabeth City State.
Despite his credentials, including being named to the All-SIAC Second Team last year, Norman was not named to either of the 2023 All-SIAC preseason teams.
This will fuel the Tigers’ return specialist to cement himself among the top players in the SIAC this season.
Keith Williams DB, Bowie State
Keith Williams, who put forth an impressive performance in the 2022 season, will carry over his production in 2023 as the Bowie State Bulldogs look to return to championship contention.
Williams finished the year with three interceptions, six passes defended, 47 total tackles, and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Being snubbed from the CIAA’s preseason team will be a catalyst for the young defensive back’s rise to the top of the ladder this year.
He will pair in the secondary with All-CIAA preseason selection Jadon Carter who also had three interceptions in the 2022 season.