June 1, 2011
Center Valley, Pa. - Heading into the 2011 season as one of the top contenders for the Walter Payton Award, Colgate senior running back Nate Eachus earned his first of what should be many preseason accolades as he was named among the best returning running backs in the Football Championship Subdivision by The Sports Network recently.
The Sports Network compiled a list of the top 10 returning players at each position, and a pair of players from defending Patriot League champion Lehigh also received mention. Junior wide receiver Ryan Spadola and senior linebacker Mike Groome were each regarded as top 10 players at their position by Craig Haley, The Sports Network's FCS Editor. The positional rankings were part of a series in Haley's "In the FCS Huddle" column.
Eachus earned consensus first-team FCS All-America honors for his stellar 2010 campaign. The 2010 Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, Eachus had one of the best seasons for a running back in school and Patriot League history. He carried 317 times for 1,871 yards and 21 touchdowns for the season, and also caught 17 passes for 160 yards and a score. The 1,871 rushing yards stood third in a single-season in Patriot League history, just four yards behind former teammate Jordan Scott (2007). Eachus averaged 170.1 rushing yards per game, which led the FCS by nearly 25 yards per contest. It was the second-best mark in Patriot League annals, just behind Scott's 170.5 average in 2007.
Eachus was the main focus of the running backs column, with Haley stating: "Eachus will be a leading candidate for the Walter Payton Award, which honors the outstanding player in the FCS, is presented by The Sports Network and sponsored by Fathead.com. He finished sixth in the voting last year. The 5-foot-10, 216-pounder sits seventh in Patriot League history with 3,722 rushing yards, is destined to pass former Colgate star and 2003 Payton Award winner Jamaal Branch (4,108) and would become No. 1 if he reaches a potential goal of 2,000 yards this season. His former teammate, Jordan Scott, rushed for 5,621 yards at Colgate from 2005-08."
Spadola received third-team All-America honors from The Sports Network/Fathead.com in 2010 as he caught 78 passes for 1,130 yards and nine touchdowns. He was Lehigh's first 1,000-yard receiver since Josh Snyder in 2001.
On Spadola, Haley writes: "If the Mountain Hawks arrived a year ahead of schedule last season, Spadola was one of the difference-makers. Spadola is both fast and athletic. He finished last season in a big way, catching touchdowns against arch-rival Lafayette and then in FCS playoff games against Northern Iowa and Delaware.
Groome was Lehigh's leading tackler in 2010 with 131 tackles including 73 solo stops. He finished with seven tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. Groome made the fourth-team defense on Phil Steele's FCS All-America team.
On the 6-foot-3, 245-pound linebacker, Haley commented: "Groome is the biggest of the linebackers on this list. He's a downhill player who added great range to his play last season, and it lifted him to an All-Patriot League level. He is particularly strong in pass coverage."
To read all of the positional ranking articles and more coverage on the Football Championship Subdivision, go to Haley's "In the FCS Huddle" column archives here
The Patriot League football season will kick off on Sept. 1, with League play set to open up on Sept. 10 when Colgate visits Holy Cross and Lafayette travels to Georgetown. For the complete 2011 schedule, go here
The Patriot League will also celebrate its 25th Anniversary season in 2011, which will include a 25th Anniversary team to be released during the summer. The "unofficial" start to the season comes at Patriot League Football Media Day on August 2, right before the start of fall practice.