Junior running back is one of five Big Sky Conference players selected to initial list of 20 candidates for the award given annually to the top player in FCS
Eastern Washington University junior running back Taiwan Jones, who averaged an impressive 7.5 yards per carry as a sophomore, has been named to the initial 2010 Walter Payton Award Watch List, The Sports Network has announced.
The Walter Payton Award is given annually to the top offensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Big Sky Conference players have captured the honor six times, most recently by Eastern Washington quarterback Erik Meyer in 2005. Eastern quarterback Matt Nichols finished fourth in the voting as a senior in 2009.
A cornerback as a freshman at Eastern in 2008, Jones scored on an 87-yard run on his first carry as an Eagle running back in 2009. Jones started and ended his season with a 100-yard game, finishing with a total of six for the season to earn first team All-Big Sky Conference honors. He was a third team selection on The Sports Network’s FCS All-America Football Team, and was a third team choice as an all-purpose back on the Associated Press All-America squad.
Jones, who is from Antioch, Calif., and graduated from Deer Valley High School in 2007, finished with 1,213 rushing yards in 2009 to rank as the sixth-most in school history. He ranked in the top 10 in FCS in rushing (ninth, 101.1 per game), scoring (sixth, 9.50 per game) and all-purpose yards per game (second, 195.4). His 2,345 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, returns) were the second-most in school history, and his 19 touchdowns and 114 total points both rank fourth.
In all, Jones had 14 plays (seven rushes, three receptions and four kickoff returns) of at least 38 yards in 2009, including nine of at least 50. Besides his 87-yard run, he had a school-record 96-yard touchdown run versus Idaho State and an 80-yard reception for a TD versus Northern Arizona.
His talent should also be augmented by the addition of a synthetic turf surface at Woodward Field, which will be re-named Roos Field upon project completion this September. The red turf is being installed this summer in time for the 2010 season.
Jones averaged 6.1 yards per carry at home on the grass surface of Woodward Field, but that was boosted to 8.2 in EWU’s other eight games on fields that featured seven artificial surfaces as well as one grass field at Sacramento State with excellent footing.
There are 20 players on the current Watch List, including five from the Big Sky Conference. Besides Jones, the list also includes Montana running back Chase Reynolds, Grizzly quarterback Andrew Selle, Northern Arizona quarterback Michael Herrick and Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins.
This year’s award is being sponsored by Fathead.com. The winner will be announced on the eve of the Division I National Championship game in Frisco, Texas.
The Sports Network also presents the Buck Buchanan and Eddie Robinson Awards, which are sponsored by Fathead. The Buchanan honors the FCS defensive player of the year and the Robinson goes to the FCS coach of the Year. Eastern’s Greg Peach won the Buchanan Award in 2008 and J.C. Sherritt was runner-up in 2009. Sherritt returns for his senior season in 2010 after earning six All-America honors and leading FCS in tackles with 170 last season.
2010 Walter Payton Award Watch List (July 12, 2010)
K.J. Black, QB, Prairie View A&M
Thomas DeMarco, QB, Old Dominion
Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware
Chris Evans, RB, Samford
Jonathan Grimes, RB, William & Mary
Michael Herrick, QB, Northern Arizona
Cameron Higgins, QB, Weber State
Ben Ijalana, OT, Villanova
Taiwan Jones, RB, E. Washington
Malcom Long, QB, South Carolina State
Kyle Minett, RB, South Dakota
Devon Moore, RB, Appalachian State
Jeremy Moses, QB, Stephen F. Austin
Chase Reynolds, RB, Montana
Scott Riddle, QB, Elon
Andrew Selle, QB, Montana
Matt Szczur, WR/Ret., Villanova
Tyson Poots, WR, Southern Utah
Steve Valentino, Sr., Dayton
Chris Whitney, QB, Villanova