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Rocco and Jennings Up for Top National Honors

November 24, 2008  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Head coach Danny Rocco (left) and running back Rashad Jennings are both up for consideration for two of the more prestigious awards in NCAA FCS football.

Head coach Danny Rocco (left) and running back Rashad Jennings are both up for consideration for two of the more prestigious awards in NCAA FCS football.

Following the most successful season in program history, Liberty's head coach Danny Rocco and running back Rashad Jennings are one of 16 candidates being considered for two of the most prestigious awards at the NCAA FCS level.

Jennings (Sr., RB, Forest, Va.) was named to the final 16-player Walter Payton Award voting list, last Friday, following a season where he was ranked as one of the best running backs in the country.

The senior broke school and program records, when he rushed for 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns, leading the Flames to their second straight Big South title. The season yardage total enabled Jennings to finish his career as the most prolific running back in Big South history with 3,633 career rushing yards to go along with 42 rushing touchdowns.

Jennings, who rushed for 100 or more yards in 10 out of 11 games in 2008, currently ranks No. 5 nationally in rushing yards per game (135.36), tied for No. 5 in scoring (10.36 points per game) and No. 16 in all-purpose yards (153.64 per game).

Jennings was on the Walter Payton Award watch list the entire year, after the Sports Network, who runs voting for the nation's top FCS player honor, named him the nation's No. 1 running back going into the season.

The senior is the second player in Big South history to be named to the final Walter Payton Award watch list, as former Coastal Carolina quarterback Tyler Thipgen also did so in 2006. The hurler, who is now the starting quarterback for the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, finished seventh in the voting that year.

Following the first-ever 10-win season in program history, Rocco was named to the Sports Network's Eddie Robinson Award ballot, which honors the nation's top FCS head coach.

Since taking over the program in 2006, Rocco has reversed the course of the Flames football program. In 2005, Liberty finished the year with a 1-10 mark and in last place of the Big South Conference standings.

During his first year, Rocco guided the Flames to a 6-5 record, marking the nation's best turnaround from the previous year. In 2007, the head coach continued the upward climb, as Rocco guided Liberty to its first-ever Big South championship and an 8-3 record.

This year, the Flames finished the regular season with its highest national ranking since 1990, when Liberty capped of its 10-2 record with a 26-3 victory over No. 12/14 Elon to climb to No. 14 in the Sports Network poll and No. 15 in the FCS Coaches weekly listing.

Voting commenced today on both awards and will continue all week. The Sports Network will release its top three vote getters next week, while the organization will honor this year's recipients at a banquet on Dec. 18, the evening before the NCAA FCS National Championship game in Chattanooga, Tenn.

2008 Walter Payton Award Candidates
Ramses Barden, Cal Poly, Senior, WR
Rhett Bomar, Sam Houston State, Senior, QB
Nathan Brown, Central Arkansas, Senior, QB
Herb Donaldson, Western Illinois, Senior, RB
Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State, Junior, QB
William Ford, South Carolina State, Junior, RB
Cameron Higgins, Weber State, Sophomore, QB
Terrell Hudgins, Elon, Junior, WR
Rashad Jennings, Liberty, Senior, RB
Rodney Landers, James Madison, Senior, QB
John Matthews, San Diego, Senior, WR
Chris Pizzotti, Harvard, Senior, QB
Dominic Randolph, Holy Cross, Senior, QB
Andre Roberts, The Citadel, Junior, WR
David Sinisi, Monmouth, Senior, RB
Larry Warner, Southern Illinois, Senior, RB
For more informaiton about the candidates, click here.

2008 Eddie Robinson Award Candidates
Mike Ayers, Wofford
Kerwin Bell, Jacksonville
Dick Biddle, Colgate
Clint Conque, Central Arkansas
Jack Cosgrove, Maine
Rich Ellerson, Cal Poly
Phil Estes, Brown
Mark Farley, Northern Iowa
Bob Ford, Albany
Henry Frazier, Prairie View
Bobby Hauck, Montana
Dean Hood, Eastern Kentucky
Dale Lennon, Southern Illinois
Mickey Matthews, James Madison
Ron McBride, Weber State
Jerry Moore, Appalachian State
Buddy Pough, South Carolina State
Danny Rocco, Liberty
Andy Talley, Villanova
Joe Taylor, Florida A&M
For more informaiton about the candidates, click here.