Part of The Analyst’s FCS college football series called “By the Numbers,” which analyzes data to help tell the story of the Football Championship Subdivision.

The 2023 FCS college football season was a special one with a plethora of unique and talented individuals. The question is, after the NCAA transfer portal and graduation took some of that talent away, how many standouts are left heading into the 2024 season?

As it turns out, the cupboard is hardly dry.

Some of the FCS national statistical leaders last year are on spring rosters, getting ready for the upcoming season.

Who can we look forward to seeing this year?

Here’s a look at returning players who ranked No. 1 in different FCS national statistics last season:

Passing Efficiency: Mark Gronowski, South Dakota State, Sr.

Statistics: 179.67 passing efficiency (also 3,058 yards, 29 TDs)

Next Up: Cam Miller, North Dakota State (169.0 passing efficiency – No. 2 in the FCS)

The Skinny: Gronowski has been a big part of the Jackrabbits’ two consecutive national championships. The 2023 Stats Perform Walter Payton Award recipient (presented by FedEx Ground) rarely makes mistakes (13 career interceptions in 851 passing attempts) and he’s thrown for 7,590 yards and 70 touchdowns, while also rushing for 1,387 yards and 27 touchdowns. He appears set for another special season.

Completion Percentage: Kyle Wickersham, Richmond, Jr.

Statistics: 72.6% (138 of 190 passing)

Next Up: Cam Miller, North Dakota State (72.0%)

The Skinny: Wickersham was ranked as the No. 1 quarterback in his home state of Louisiana coming out of high school. He’s just getting started with his career, but if his father is any indication, Wickersham has a lot of success ahead of him. Jeff Wickersham threw for nearly 7,000 career yards at LSU, which led to him being drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 1986.

Lowest Interception Percentage: C.J. Montes, Fordham, Jr.

Statistics: 0.3% (only 1 INT in 376 pass attempts)

Next Up: Will McElvain, Central Arkansas (1.3% – 5 INTs in 376 pass attempts)

The Skinny: After transferring in from New Mexico, Montes’ 2023 season at Fordham was eye-popping. Throwing just one interception in 376 pass attempts is an incredible feat at any level, and he was especially impressive in the Rams’ win over FBS Buffalo, throwing for 309 yards and five touchdowns and – you guessed it – no interceptions.

Fordham quarterback CJ Montes. (Fordham Athletics Photo)

Receptions/Receptions Per Game: Chedon James, Idaho State, Jr.

Statistics: 102 catches for 9.3 receptions per game (1,045 receiving yards, 8 TDs)

Next Up: Efton Chism III, Eastern Washington (7.6 receptions per game)

The Skinny: James tested the waters of the transfer portal, but is on Idaho State’s spring roster. As a sophomore last year, this electric offensive threat out of California led the FCS in receptions just one season removed from a freshman campaign in which he caught just 28 balls.

Most Touchdowns: Jordan Fuller, Holy Cross, Sr.

Statistics: 19 TDs (18 rushing, 1 receiving)

Next Up: Marcus Yarns, Delaware (18 TDs)

The Skinny: Fuller was matched by South Dakota State’s Isaiah Davis for the most touchdowns in the FCS, but he played in five fewer games – 10 overall. The Crusaders’ 1,000-yard rusher had games with five and four TDs. Already the school’s career leader with 40 rushing touchdowns, Fuller’s 41 overall in three seasons are three shy of the school record, first set by the legendary Gordie Lockbaum and later matched by Joe Segreti with 44.

Total Interceptions: Cole Wisniewski, North Dakota State, Sr.

Statistics: 8 INTs (one TD return)

Next Up: Kaleb Lyons, Eastern Illinois (transfer from Morehead State this offseason), and Jihad McCall, Morehead State (6 INTs apiece)

The skinny: After three seasons and 33 games played at NDSU without intercepting a pass, Wisniewski exploded for the FCS high in interceptions with eight. But the first-team All-American wasn’t done there as he averaged 29.9 yards per interception return for the FCS semifinalist squad. The safety also had 92 tackles and 13 passes defensed in 2023.

Total Tackles: Micah Davey, McNeese, Jr.

Statistics: 152 tackles (82 solos as a sophomore)

Next Up: James Conway, Fordham, Sr. (129 tackles)

The Skinny: Davey, the son of former LSU star quarterback Rohan Davey, exploded onto the national scene last season. The junior-to-be could reach the school record for career tackles (524) with two more seasons at the pace of his sophomore campaign (he has 221 career tackles).

Fumbles Recovered: Sam Buerkle, Fordham, Jr.; Wyatt Pedigo, North Dakota, Sr.

Statistics: 4 fumbles recovered each

The Skinny: Buerkle was a beast on the defensive line for Fordham last season, and has been a key contributor since he stepped on campus as a freshman. Pedigo, a linebacker, finished with 72 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss to go with his fumble recoveries.

Field Goal Percentage: Will Leyland, South Dakota, Jr.

Statistics: 13 of 13, 100% (long of 50, also 38 of 38 on PATs)

Next Up: Kyle Ramsey, Abilene Christian (93.3% – 14 of 15)

The Skinny: Leyland has been on South Dakota’s roster since coming on board as a walk-on in 2020, but never saw action until last fall, when he ended up leading the FCS in field goal percentage. He hit a 50-yarder against North Dakota State and drilled two 41-yard kicks to help beat Youngstown State 34-31. Between field goals and PATs, he never missed a kick.

South Dakota place-kicker Will Leyland. (USD Athletics Photo)

Kick/Punt Return Touchdowns: Junior Bergen, Montana, Sr.

Statistics: 4 TD returns (3 punts, 1 kickoff – 863 total kick/punt return yards)

Next Up: Donovan Wadley, Merrimack (3 TD returns – all kickoffs)

The Skinny: Bergen was particularly electric on the national stage of the 2023 FCS postseason, when the Grizzlies advanced to the national championship game. After making such a loud splash nationally, it was thought he may leave via the transfer portal or possibly to become a pro, but he made it known pretty quickly he was returning to play for the Griz. He also caught 59 passes for 791 yards and five TDs last year.

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