Here’s a look at the some of the players that could make a big impact for their teams in 2021:
Valley City State, LB, Sr.
Avila recorded at least 70 tackles for the second straight season, but in 2020-2021, he did it in just seven games. The Vikings’ leader in tackles, he also had 4.5 tackles-for-loss, two of which were sacks and recovered a fumble on the way to being named the North Star Defensive Player of the Year.
Minot State, DB, So.
Bigby’s first season at Minot State was solid. He led the Beavers in tackles with 66, had 4.5 tackles-for-loss, including two sacks and had three pass breakups to go with two interceptions and a blocked kick.
Dickinson State, WR, Sr.
The senior is back for one more season, earning honorable mention All-American in the spring. With the departure of last season’s Offensive Player of the Year, and fellow wide receiver, Jaret Lee graduating, Frye may see his workload increase. In 2020-2021, Frye led the Blue Hawks in receptions with 58 and recorded 685 yards receiving, as well as nine touchdowns.
UMary, QB, Sr.
Nelson has dealt with injuries throughout his collegiate career, but getting a year off (due to the pandemic) may have been what he needed. The sixth-year senior was named an NSCA All-American for what he has done during the season and in the offseason in the weight room. A healthy and mobile Nelson at the helm, along with a receiving corps that includes a versatile Danny Kittner, could mean good things for the Marauders.
Jamestown, DL, Jr.
A local product playing for the home team, Vandal is starting to make his presence felt. As a sophomore in a shortened season, he had 15 tackles as well as 3.5 tackles-for-loss, 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble and recovery. The Jimmies need a strong defensive presence with a tough GPAC schedule.
Mayville State, LB, Sr.
Wherever the ball is, that’s where No. 44 will be. Walker led the Comets in tackles last season, and made himself at home in opponents’ backfields, notching an impressive 14.5 tackles-for-loss for 234 yards, including 2.5 sacks. He also picked off a pass and forced four fumbles, recovering one.
North Dakota State, WR, Sr.
The senior led the Bison in receptions and receiving yards in each of the last two seasons. But he also makes noise with his special teams play. Watson led the FCS in the spring with two kickoff returns that went for touchdowns.
North Dakota, RB, Jr.
In its first year in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, the Fighting Hawks grabbed the league’s attention. UND won the conference title and Weah was at the top of nearly every rushing category, including yards per game (114.0), yards per carry (7.5) and touchdowns scored (7). It will be a quick turnaround for Weah to try to lead his team further into a playoff run, as the Fighting Hawks were playing real football just two months ago.