The Jacksonville State Gamecocks jump to FBS, hoping for similar success to James Madison and Appalachian State, among other recent FCS-to-FBS transplants. A large group of effective returners should have the Gamecocks in position to win a few games this season, even if postseason play is off the table.
The Jacksonville State Top 10 Returning Players indicate where their strengths are.
Jacksonville State Top 10 Returners in 2023
Analyzing the returning players at every school is a difficult task in the transfer portal area. As such, we’ve included transfer-portal athletes that were included on each team’s roster page to open fall camp in addition to the rostered players from last year.
1) Chris Hardie, Bandit
Jacksonville State’s biggest strength as a team is its defensive line, which returns multiple starters who had strong years in 2022. Leading the line is Bandit Chris Hardie, who will look to continue his strong play in FBS.
Hardie led the team last season with seven sacks off the edge. He doesn’t have the greatest height, but at 270 pounds, he’s a load off the edge.
2) Kolbie Fuqua, Safety
Kolbie Fuqua did a little bit of everything for the Gamecocks last season, racking up 30 run stops, 23 pressures, and leading the defense in both forced fumbles and interceptions.
Fuqua is listed as the starter at nickel this season but will play all over the field. The redshirt senior logged triple digits in snaps on the defensive line, as a box safety, and at slot corner in 2022.
3) Jaylen Swain, Defensive End
Swain makes a perfect 1-2 with Hardie on the edge. Swain lines up on the outside more than anywhere else, but the Gamecock coaching staff will also move him around elsewhere on the defensive line.
Swain picked up 24 pressures and 26 run stops last season after an All-ASUN season in 2021 as a sophomore. This year, he should be among the team leaders in snaps and should be able to translate to the FBS level.
4) Zion Webb, Quarterback
Players like Webb are rare in today’s version of college football. A sixth-year senior, Webb has been at Jacksonville State since 2017, eventually winning the starting quarterback job in 2021.
Webb had a strong year in 2022, passing for over 1700 yards and rushing for 635 yards and 13 touchdowns in 12 games.
5) Clay Webb, Offensive Guard
It seems like the former Georgia offensive lineman has finally found a permanent home. Last season, he helped the Gamecocks lead the ASUN with 252 rushing yards a game. Webb excels as a pass protector and caught his stride after Week 1 in 2022.
Webb should elevate his play this year as the competition takes a step up. For the Gamecocks to have success, they’ll need to continue their dominance on the offensive line.
6) Anwar Lewis, Running Back
Lewis was Jacksonville State’s most efficient rusher last year, averaging 7.3 yards a carry, including 4.3 yards after contact. This season, he’ll be competing with Louisiana-Monroe transfer Malik Jackson for touches on a team that wants to pound the rock early and often.
Despite his slim stature, Lewis will be counted upon to get tough yards this season as the Gamecocks run the ball more than the average CUSA team.
7) Sean Brown, Tight End
Brown is key for a team that doesn’t often air it out. The redshirt junior transferred from Tennessee two seasons ago and immediately made his mark, making the All-ASUN team in 2021.
Last season, he finished second on the team with 18 catches for 331 yards. Brown is terrific in all facets as well, rare for a college tight end nowadays.
8) Sterling Galban, Wide Receiver
Galban spent four years at Texas Tech, struggling to see the field due to injury and depth, before transferring to Jacksonville State last season and making an immediate impact. He was a big-play threat out of the slot, averaging nearly 16 yards a catch.
Galban will be counted upon even more this season as the Gamecocks will look to become more balanced in the second year of Rich Rodriguez’s tenure.
9) Jeremiah Harris, Safety
Harris played outside of the box for the Gamecocks last season but made a huge impact in the running game. He led the team with 55 solo tackles and was a force at and around the line of scrimmage.
He was solid in coverage, leading the team with five pass breakups, and will be important for the Gamecocks in a league full of teams that love to air it out.
10) Brock Robey, Offensive Guard
Jacksonville State is a bit thin on the interior of the offensive line beyond its top three starters and can ill-afford any injury issues. Brock Robey emerged as an impact starter late in the season last year and will be key to any success this season.
The Gamecocks want to move the ball consistently on the ground, and Robey is a strong run blocker. He’s a bit on the small side but should be able to hold his own this year.