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Big Rapids, Mich. - A stellar sophomore season has led Ferris State University starting quarterback Jason Vander Laan (Frankfort, Ill./Chicago Christian) to being named a national candidate and regional finalist for the 2013 Harlon Hill Trophy as the NCAA Division II College Football Player of the Year.
Vander Laan, who has engineered the Bulldogs to a 7-3 overall record and a second-place 7-2 ledger in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) North Division to date, is among 28 national candidates for the nation's most prestigous on the field award and one of only three sophomores from across the country in the mix.
The list of candidates was announced Thursday morning by the National Harlon Hill Award Committee. The listing includes seven players from each of the four NCAA Division II Super Regions. Along with Vander Laan, the other Super Region four nominees include Colorado State-Pueblo quarterback Chris Bonner, Chadron State tailback Glen Clinton, running back Daiquone Ford of Findlay, tailback Keidrick Jackson of Midwestern State (Texas), quarterback Jonathon Jennings of Saginaw Valley State along with West Texas A&M quarterback Dustin Vaughan.
Vander Laan joins an elite list of former Bulldog players who have been candidates for the Harlon Hill Award. The list includes four national finalists in Dave DenBraber (1987), Monty Brown (1992), Bill Love (1995) and Clarence Coleman (2001) along with regional candidates Matt McCarthy (1999) and Jake Visser (2008).
Players are nominated and voted on by the sports information directors at the 168 NCAA Division II football-playing institutions. The 28 initial candidates will be placed on regional ballots and the top two players from each of the four NCAA regions will advance to the national ballot when regional voting concludes on November 22.
The winner of the 2013 award, which is presented by the National Harlon Hill Award Committee, will be announced at the 28th annual Harlon Hill Trophy Presentation Banquet on Friday, December 20, at the Florence Conference Center at 6:30 p.m. This year's Hill Trophy Banquet will also include the 15th induction into the Division II Football Hall of Fame.
The NCAA Division II Championship Game is scheduled for December 21 at Florence's Braly Municipal Stadium at noon.
The Hill Trophy is sponsored by the City of Florence, Ala., Florence-Lauderdale Tourism, Opti-Net, the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa and Herff Jones.
Candidates were initially nominated by the sports information directors at their respective schools and those nominations were then reviewed by the Hill Regional Advisory Committees, which trimmed the list of candidates.
The group of 28 candidates includes 17 quarterbacks, seven running backs, three receivers and a linebacker. There are 20 seniors, five juniors and three sophomores.
Vander Laan currently needs only 87 yards in this week's regular-season finale to match the NCAA Division II All-Time Single-Season record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a campaign. He currently has 1,396 total yards this season and is 87 away from tying and 88 from breaking the all-time seasonal mark originally set by Shawn Graves of Wofford in 1989. Vander Laan's current total is the most-ever for a GLIAC quarterback in a season, breaking his own mark established a year ago.
In addition, Vander Laan currently ranks as the nation's top running quarterback this year as has totaled more rushing yards on the ground this season than any other signal caller in the country, regardless of level. His 1,396 total yards rushing to date this year is tops among all quarterbacks at the NCAA Division I, II or III level, including both the FBS and FCS levels of competition.
This year, Vander Laan's 279 total yards rushing versus Lake Erie remains ranked as NCAA Division II's sixth-highest single game performance of the season. His 279 total yards on the ground versus Lake Erie were the most by a Bulldog rusher since Andrew Terry established a NCAA record with 410 yards rushing on 38 carries against Findlay in 2004 (10/2/04) at Top Taggart Field.
The Bulldog signal caller presently is now fifth all-time on the Bulldogs' career rushing list with 2,764 total yards. He totaled 218 yards at Michigan Tech (Oct. 26), which was his third 200+ yard rushing performance of the season. Earlier this eyar, he surpassed C.J. Van Wieren (2004-07) to become the school's all-time career leader in rushing yardage by a quarterback. Vander Laan also ranks ninth in school history in passing yards with 3,082 total yards. He also currently ranks seventh in school history with 5,816 career yards of total offense.
Overall, Vander Laan ranks sixth nationally in rushing touchdowns (18) along with ninth nationally in rushing yards (1,396) to date this eyar. Vander Laan is also 11th in the country in scoring (10.8 ppg.) and second in the GLIAC in points responsible for (192).
Behind Vander Laan's play at quarterback, the Bulldogs presently lead the GLIAC and are ranked sixth nationally in rushing offense this week at 310.7 yards per game. FSU is also 20th nationally in total offense with an average of 488.1 yards per contest while ranking second in the country in third down conversion percentage (.500) along with 11th in fewest penalty yards per game (39.0 ypg.). The Bulldogs are second in the GLIAC in scoring offense (39.2 ppg.) and are among the top 25 in the nation.
The Bulldogs are riding a three-game winning streak and still have playoff aspirations as FSU is ranked 10th this week in the NCAA Super Region Four rankings with the top six teams at the end of the season earning NCAA Division II playoff berths.
Ferris State hosts the Northern Michigan Wildcats in the 2013 GLIAC regular-season finale on Saturday (Nov. 16) at FSU's Top Taggart Field. Kickoff for the "Senior Day" game is set for 12 p.m. (ET).
A Ferris State victory on Saturday would give the Bulldogs their eighth win of the year, which would be the school's first such showing since 2006. Overall, the Bulldogs have achieved eight wins in a single-season only once (2006) in the last 16 seasons dating back to the school's last playoff appearance in 1996. FSU has also not closed a regular-season by winning four games in a row since 2001 or won eight conference games in a single-campaign since 1996.