NEC Football’s Reese’s Senior Bowl Prospects

Julius Chestnut totaled 189 scrimmage yards in the #NECFB Spring Championship Game

It’s the ultimate pre-draft all-star game and it has eyes on Northeast Conference football.

On an annual basis, the Reese’s Senior Bowl provides an opportunity for elite draft prospects from around the country to showcase their talent and connect with coaches and decision-makers from all 32 NFL teams.

Sacred Heart running back Julius Chestnut and Merrimack cornerback Darion McKenzie may earn the chance to attend the week-long festivities in Mobile, AL this coming February. The two players appear on the official Reese’s Senior Bowl Watch List heading into the 2021 fall season.

Chestnut comes off a spring season that saw him finish third overall in the Stats Perform Walter Payton Award voting. He totaled 888 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns in four games against NEC opponents. In a NCAA FCS playoff game, the 6-foot-1 do-it-all running back rushed for 138 yards and one touchdown against No. 5 Delaware.

Chestnut will enter his fourth collegiate season with 3,063 career rush yards over a 28-game span. He averages 5.75 yards per carry.

McKenzie made Merrimack’s lone interception in a game against Sacred heart this past spring. In 2019, the 6-foot-2 cornerback appeared in nine games and totaled 11 pass break-ups.

Should Chestnut and/or McKenzie impress enough to earn an official invitation, they would join a short list of NEC invitees.

In 2017, Saint Francis safety Lorenzo Jerome became the first-ever NEC athlete to earn a spot in the Senior Bowl.

Jerome, a four-time all-NEC first team honoree, performed exceptionally well during the all-star game, intercepting two passes and forcing a fumble. He went on to sign a post-draft contract with the San Francisco 49ers, and he currently competes for the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.

During the 2020 NFL Draft process, Wagner’s Cam Gill (LB) and Chris Williams (DL) were invited to the East-West Shrine Game. Gill went onto sign an undrafted free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played in Super Bowl 55. Williams spent the 2020 NFL season on the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad and is battling for a spot on the 53-man roster this summer.

TWEET SHEET

Septet Represents #NECFB on STATS Legacy Awards Ballots

They are the most prestigious individual honors in FCS football and seven of the STATS Legacy Awards finalists hail from the Northeast Conference.

Central Connecticut QB Aaron Winchester and Sacred Heart RB Julius Chestnut are up for the Walter Payton Award, presented annually to the top offensive performer in the FCS.

Wagner LB Cam Gill and Saint Francis LB Da’Jon Lee are two of 26 national finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award, which goes to the top defensive performer in the FCS.

Sacred Heart redshirt freshman WR Tyrese Chambers joined 19 others on the ballot for the Jerry Rice Award, which annually honors the top freshman performer in the FCS.

One of only two conference with multiple finalists for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, the NEC has placed Robert Morris’ Bernard Clark, Jr. and Central Connecticut’s Ryan McCarthy on the ballot.

On Monday, December 9, the voting results will begin to trickle out starting with the top-three vote-getters from the Walter Payton Award balloting. STATS will present the honors at its pre-championship game banquet in Frisco, TX on January 10, 2020.

Entering its 33rd season, the FCS legacy awards program continues to celebrate the high quality of play in the Football Championship Subdivision as well as some of the sport’s most-recognizable historical figures. The recipients of four major awards will be chosen by a voting panel that consists of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries.

Here are plenty of reasons why the NEC’s finalists deserve to WIN (only regular season statistics/accomplishments are shown)…

 

PAYTON AWARD

Aaron Winchester, QB (CCSU)

  • The Unanimous NEC Offensive POTY’s 3,204 yards of total offense rank in third in league history
  • Ranked fourth amongst national FCS leaders in pass efficiency (170.7)
  • NEC pass completion pct. (67.1) leader ranked third amongst league leaders in rush yards (782)
  • The dual-threat QB has eight rushing touchdowns and averaged 5.3 yards per carry for the NEC champions
  • Threw at least one touchdown pass in all 12 games, including a 68-yard go-ahead score w/ 2:05 left at FBS member Eastern Michigan
  • Contributing to first 11-win season in program history, he has 19 TD passes to only 4 interceptions
  • More than 90 rush yards in four different games, including 108 in season-opening win at Fordham and 161 in a NEC win over Bryant
  • 4 TD rushes in title-clinching Week 12 win over Robert Morris

 

Julius Chestnut, RB (Sacred Heart)

  • The former NEC Offensive ROTY ranked second overall amongst FCS leaders in rush yards (1,495)
  • More than 110 rush yards in nine different games
  • 366 rush yards and 5 TD rushes in three wins over Patriot League members (Lehigh, Lafayette, Bucknell)
  • Led NEC in rush attempts (293) and rushing touchdowns (11)
  • Made at least one reception in eight games; two TD receptions in win over Bucknell
  • More than 50 rush yards in all 12 games
  • Set NEC single-game season high with 203 rush yards in win over Bryant on Nov. 2
  • 128 scrimmage yards (111 rush, 17 rec) vs. NEC champion CCSU (FCS leader in rushing defense)

 

BUCHANAN AWARD

Cam Gill, LB (Wagner)

  • Two-time NEC Defensive POTY (2019, 2018)
  • Unanimous All-NEC First Team
  • Led circuit with 9.5 sacks
  • Tied for second amongst active FCS careers sacks leaders (34.0)
  • Tied for fifth overall amongst national FCS season leaders in tackles-for-loss (20.0)
  • At least 1.0 TFL in 11 consecutive games, including 2.5 TFL at FBS member UConn
  • Three forced fumbles are second most in NEC
  • Set NEC career sacks record with his first of two QB takedowns against NEC champion Central Connecticut in Week 10
  • Team-leading eight QB hurries to go with two fumble recoveries and two pass break-ups
  • At least 1.0 sack in seven of last eight games

Da’Jon Lee, LB (Saint Francis)

  • Led all FCS players w/ 24.5 tackles-for-loss
  • Made 4+ tackles in nine games, including double-digit totals against James Madison, Sacred Heart and Wagner
  • His team-leading 93 total tackles are fifth most amongst NEC leaders
  • Second amongst FCS active career leaders with nine forced fumbles
  • At least 3.0 TFL in five different games, including a season-high 4.5 hits behind the line in a win over Wagner
  • 5 TFL, including 1.0 sack, and one fumble recovery at No. 2 James Madison in Week 2
  • At least 0.5 TFL in all seven NEC games this season

 

 

RICE AWARD

Tyrese Chambers, WR (Sacred Heart)

  • The four-time NEC Rookie of the Week owns team highs in receptions (50), receiving yards (811) and TD receptions (8) in 11 games
  • His 73.7 receiving yards per game are fourth most amongst NEC overall leaders
  • At least 33 receiving yards in each of his last 10 appearances
  • Made a TD reception against six different opponents
  • Eclipsed 130-yard receiving mark three times in a four-week span
  • Made season-high 9 catches for 133 yards and 2 TD in road win over Patriot League member Lafayette
  • Went for 139 yards on 7 catches at Ivy League member Penn
  • Rushed seven times for 32 yards this season

 

 

ROBINSON AWARD

Bernard Clark, Jr. (Robert Morris)

  • Former Miami Hurricanes linebacker (and Orange Bowl MVP) has led a renaissance at RMU with a second-place NEC finish
  • Robert Morris increased its win total by five (5) during his second season at the helm
  • Picked next-to-last in the NEC Preseason Poll, RMU won its first five conference games before falling to nationally-ranked Central Connecticut
  • The team’s seven DI wins are its most in a single season since 2010 when it made the FCS playoffs
  • Colonials captured team’s first road win since the 2015 season when they posted a 31-21 victory over SoCon member VMI in Week 4
  • RMU has six conference wins this season after only one NEC victory in the prior three seasons combined

 

Ryan McCarthy (CCSU)

  • First-year head coach has presided over first 11-win season in program history
  • Secured NEC’s automatic FCS Playoffs bid by dealing Robert Morris its first league loss in Week 12
  • Blue Devils have been ranked in Top 25 for seven weeks – longest stretch by a NEC team in league history
  • CCSU owned 11-0 record vs. FCS teams; lone loss came in the final seconds at FBS member Eastern Michigan
  • 8 yards per play are fifth most in FCS; Pass Efficiency Rating is nation’s fifth highest
  • 3 rushing defense (71.3 ypg) in the FCS
  • FCS’ No. 2 total defense (273.3 ypg)