SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Furman linebacker Reynard Ellis and Mercer quarterback Kaelan Riley are among the 17 student-athletes on the initial watch list for the STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award, STATS announced Wednesday.
Named for former San Francisco 49ers great and NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver and presented by STATS LLC, The Jerry Rice Award is awarded annually to the most outstanding freshman player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) of college football as chosen by a nationwide panel of media and college sports information directors.
Ellis, a 6-foot-1, 227-pound true freshman inside linebacker, ranks second on Furman’s squad with 47 tackles, including two for-loss, and has a sack, an interception and pass deflection this season.
The Birmingham, Alabama, native did not play in Furman’s season opener and saw limited duty in the following two games before earning his first career start against Colgate on Sept. 23. In that contest, he racked up a game-high 16 tackles and a sack in helping key Furman to a 45-14 win – the first of five consecutive victories for the Paladins with him in the starting lineup. This past Saturday, he registered eight stops in Furman’s 28-21 Southern Conference triumph over Mercer.
Furman (5-3, 4-1 SoCon) plays at 19th-ranked Western Carolina (6-2, 4-1 SoCon) on Saturday in a 3:30 p.m. ESPN3 broadcast contest.
Riley, a redshirt freshman from Calhoun, Georgia, has excelled in his first season of action, having passed for 1,726 yards and 13 touchdowns through eight games. His completion percentage (63.8) ranks 19th nationally and second in the SoCon, while his 145.3 passing efficiency rating is 30th nationally. A capable runner, as well, Riley has 172 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Riley is the fifth Bear since 2013 to be recognized on the watch list, joining Payton Usher (2013), John Russ (2013), Alex Lakes (2014) and Chandler Curtis (2014).
Mercer (4-4, 3-3 SoCon) is in the midst of its bye week and will host Samford, ranked eighth nationally this week, at 3 p.m. on Nov. 4 in the home finale at Five Star Stadium.