Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Defenses haven't slowed Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams and running backs Isaiah Crowell of Alabama State and Kyle Harbridge of Saint Francis (Pa.) this season.
Now there's no denying the trio from joining the 2013 Walter Payton Award Watch List.
Their stellar early season play led on Tuesday to Adams, Crowell and Harbridge becoming candidates for the 27th annual award, presented by The Sports Network to the outstanding player in the FCS.
This year's winner will join a list of Payton Award greats such as Steve McNair, John Friesz, Brian Westbrook, Tony Romo, Brian Finneran and Armanti Edwards.
Adams, a 6-foot, 180-pound sophomore, has continued the long line of terrific quarterbacks at Eastern Washington, including Payton Award winners Erik Meyer (2005) and Bo Levi Mitchell (2011). Adams opened the season in scintillating fashion, gaining a school-record 518 yards of total offense with six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) in the Eagles' 49-46 upset of nationally ranked Oregon State.
Through four games, the 2012 finalist for the Jerry Rice Award (which goes to the FCS freshman of the year) ranks second in the FCS in total offense per game (394.8 yards) and third in pass efficiency (189.9). He has completed 81-of-126 passes (64.3 percent) for 1,390 yards and 15 touchdowns with only four interceptions. He also has rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns on 41 carries.
Crowell, a 5-11, 190-pound junior, has built on his first season in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, when he was named its 2012 newcomer of the year. He has four 100-yard games in Alabama State's first five games and ranks first in the SWAC and fifth in the FCS in rushing yards per game (139). He's so done on only 91 carries for a 7.6 yards-per-carry average.
Since transferring from the University of Georgia, Crowell has scored 24 touchdowns in 16 career games with Alabama State, including nine this season.
Harbridge, a 5-10, 195-pound redshirt senior, has been a great success story at Saint Francis. He's a former walk-on who has overcome a knee injury that kept him from playing last year.
He's come back to lead the FCS in rushing yards per game (188.3) and all- purpose yards per game (236.3) through his first four games. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in each game, including a dominant effort against nationally ranked Fordham when Harbridge rushed for 291 yards and three touchdowns and gained 384 all-purpose yards.
Other nominees on the Watch List are quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, Brock Jensen of North Dakota State, Jeff Mathews of Cornell, Gavin McCarney of Colgate, DeNarius McGhee of Montana State, Jerick McKinnon of Georgia Southern, and Wynrick Smothers of Central Arkansas; running backs Zach Bauman of Northern Arizona, Shakir Bell of Indiana State, Timothy Flanders of Sam Houston State, David Johnson of Northern Iowa, Carlton Koonce of Fordham, Terrance West of Towson and Zach Zenner of South Dakota State; and wide receivers Jordan Harris of Bryant, Erik Lora of Eastern Illinois and Walter Powell of Murray State.
Bios of all 20 players can be found at http://tinyurl.com/yhv6oh8.
Other players considered for the Watch List: Lehigh quarterback Brandon Bialkowski and wide receiver Lee Kurfis; Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson; Appalachian State quarterback Jamal Londry-Jackson and wide receiver Sean Price; Delaware running back Andrew Pierce; Coastal Carolina running back Lorenzo Taliaferro; Fordham quarterback Michael Nebrich; and Southern quarterback Dray Joseph.
The Payton Award Watch List can undergo revision during the season. Ballots will be sent to a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season. The top three vote-getters will be invited to The Sports Network FCS Awards Presentation Dec. 16 in Philadelphia.
The Sports Network also presents the Buck Buchanan, Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson awards. The Buchanan Award honors the outstanding defensive player in the FCS, the Rice Award goes to the FCS freshman of the year and the Robinson Award honors the FCS coach of the year. The winners of those three awards also will be invited to the national banquet.