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Big Rapids, Mich. - With the start of fall camp less than two weeks away, Ferris State University junior quarterback and Harlon Hill Trophy candidate Jason Vander Laan (Frankfort, Ill./Chicago Christian) has received yet another national honor by being chosen as one of the country's top 20 players to watch for 2014.
Vander Laan was tabbed ninth overall on the Beyond Sports Network (BSN) Top 20 Division II Players To Watch list announced this week. He previously received national acclaim this summer by being chosen to the 2014 BSN Preseason All-America First Team and was also listed as a USA Football Preseason All-American in addition to being named among the national nominees for the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team.
The Bulldog signal caller was among three quarterbacks chosen in the top 20 on the preseason watch list with BSN stating:
"What if I told you the country's seventh best rusher (1,607 yards) with 21 scores wasn't a running back? Would you also believe they were a sophomore at the time? Vander Laan's touchdown total tied for fifth in the nation and showed just how lethal he is on the ground. The 6'4″ QB is an absolute menace and accounted for 3,348 total yards. Tack on 15 TDs through the air and Vander Laan showed why he is a small school version of 2013′s Jordan Lynch."
A Beyond Sports Network Division II All-American last fall and Harlon Hill Trophy regional finalist, Vander Laan officially broke an NCAA Division II all-time single season record in the Bulldogs' season-ending 35-22 win over Northern Michigan last season (Nov. 16) at Top Taggart Field and also claimed All-GLIAC Second Team laurels on the gridiron for FSU. The Bulldog sophomore signal caller closed the season with 1,607 yards on the ground, which far surpassed the previous national record established by Wofford's Shawn Graves in 1989.
His totals helped the Bulldogs top the previous school record for most team rushing yards in a single-season. Last year marked the second consecutive year in which FSU broke the record under head coach Tony Annese as Ferris State finished the 2013 season with a program-best 3,491 yards on the ground.
Vander Laan's play in 2013 helped the Bulldogs finish with an 8-3 overall record along with a second-place 8-2 finish in the GLIAC North Division standings. FSU, which finished the year riding a four-game winning streak, narrowly missed receiving the school's first playoff bid in 17 years.
The Bulldogs' eight-win campaign was the school's first since 2006 and only the second in the program's last 16 seasons. In addition, FSU's eight league victories were its most since 1996 and the four-game winning streak to close the season was the longest to end a campaign since 2001.
Last season, Vander Laan ranked as the nation's top running quarterback with more rushing yards on the ground than any other signal caller in the country, regardless of level. His 1,607 total yards rushing finished tops among all quarterbacks in the regular-season at the NCAA Division I, II or III level, including both the FBS and FCS levels of competition.
Off the field, vander Laan also has impressive credentials. He was a recipient of the GLIAC Commissioner's Award for Excellence last fall based on his accomplishments on and off the field. In addition, the two-time team captain has also received GLIAC All-Academic laurels each of the last two years for his work in the classroom. A FSU Dean's Academic Award recipient, Vander Laan has also been active in the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) chapter and participated in numerous team community service award initiatives. This past spring, he spent his spring break on a mission trip to Florida as part of the "Hammers & Hearts" program in which he joined other campus student-athletes and individuals to help rebuild four homes destroyed by tropical storms and flooding.
Besides his season totals a year ago, Vander Laan's 279 total yards rushing versus Lake Erie last year ranked as NCAA Division II's sixth-highest single game performance of the regular-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 concluded his second season listed fifth all-time on the Bulldogs' career rushing list with 2,975 total yards. His performance against Northern Michigan in the season finale marked his fourth 200+ yard rushing performance of the season. Last year, he also 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 3,234 total yards and currently ranks seventh in school history with 6,179 career yards of total offense.
Overall, Vander Laan ranked fourth nationally in rushing touchdowns (21) along with seventh nationally in rushing yards (1,607) in 2013. Vander Laan was also eighth in the country in scoring (11.5 ppg.) and second in the GLIAC in points responsible for (216).
Behind Vander Laan's play at quarterback, the Bulldogs led the GLIAC and ranked sixth nationally in rushing offense with a school-record 317.4 yards per game. FSU was also the league leader and 12th nationally in total offense with an average of 492.5 yards per contest. Ferris State finished second in the country in third down conversion percentage (.497). The Bulldogs also ranked as the GLIAC's second-highest scoring offense (38.8 ppg.) and were among the top 30 in the nation.
The Bulldogs will begin their 106th season of varsity competition this coming fall with their sights set on competing for a potential GLIAC Championship and a NCAA Division II Playoff berth after posting only the program's second eight-win season in the last 16 years during the 2013 campaign. FSU opens the 2014 campaign with a non-league contest at McKendree (Ill.) on Thursday, Sept. 4, before visiting Northwood for their GLIAC opener on Sept. 13 in Midland.
FSU's 2014 home opener at Top Taggart Field will be on Sept. 20 as the Bulldogs entertain archrival Grand Valley State in the Anchor-Bone Classic with kickoff set for 7 p.m. (ET).
Both season and individual game tickets for all 2014 home contests are now on sale and can be purchased thru the FSU Athletics Ticket Office by calling (231) 591-2888 or online at StarTickets.com. For more information, please visit FerrisStateBulldogs.com.