10. Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech, DE
One of the best defensive performers in all of college football resides in Ruston, LA. Jaylon Ferguson’s 15 sacks on the season rank first in CUSA and second in FBS play. Three times in 2016 Ferguson had 2.5 sacks – Massachusetts (10/15), North Texas (11/5), and Southern Miss (11/25). Ferguson had four forced fumbles on the season and finished with 49 total tackles.
9. Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech, WR
Taylor hauled in 136 catches this season for 1,803 receiving yards (1st in CUSA, 1st in FBS) and 12 touchdowns (T-4th in CUSA, T-17th in FBS). The senior from Shreveport, LA capped back-to-back seasons of 1,000+ yards receiving (1,282 yards in 2015). Taylor averaged almost 129 yards receiving per game, and finished with triple-digit receiving yards in all but three games this season. Taylor saved his best performance of 2016 (12 catches, 233 yards, 2 touchdowns) for his last game of the season against Navy. The Bulldogs defeated the Midshipmen 48-45 in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.
8. Richie James, Middle Tennessee, WR
Richie James can do it all. James is one of the versatile playmakers in all of college football. Middle Tennessee’s coaching staff made it a point to get James the ball in space, and it led to 105 receptions, 1,625 receiving yards, 12 receiving touchdowns, 339 rushing yards, and four rushing touchdowns. That’s a season total of 1,964 yards and 16 touchdowns. In a game carried live right here on beIN SPORTS, James torched Florida Atlantic for 120 receiving yards, a receiving touchdown, 207 rushing yards, and three rushing touchdowns. In his last game of the season, James put up 201 total yards and a touchdown against Hawai’i in the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl.
7. Ito Smith, Southern Miss, RB
Ito Smith was a Swiss Army Knife for the Southern Miss offense in 2016. The junior finished the season with 1,459 rushing yards (4th in CUSA, 15th in FBS), 17 rushing touchdowns (T-2nd in CUSA, T-10th in FBS), 459 yards receiving, and two receiving touchdowns. Smith totaled 1,918 yards and 19 touchdowns on the season. For the second year in a row, Smith ran for over 1,000 yards rushing on the ground (1,128 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in 2015). In his first game of the season, Smith racked up 213 total yards and a rushing touchdown against SEC foe Kentucky.
6. I’Tavius Mathers, Middle Tennessee, RB
Richie James wasn’t the only multitalented offensive weapon for the Blue Raiders this season. I’Tavius Mathers ran for 1,561 rushing yards (3rd in CUSA, 10th in FBS), and 17 rushing touchdowns (2nd in CUSA, T-10th in FBS). The senior also caught 66 passes for 633 yards and three touchdowns. The Ole Miss transfer totaled 2,194 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns. In a 51-45 win against SEC opponent Missouri on Oct. 22, Mathers posted 263 total yards and a touchdown.