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Two coaches from the state – Samford’s Chris Hatcher and Jacksonville State’s Rich Rodriguez – are finalists for the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year Award. Also, Samford quarterback Michael Hiers and UNA running back ShunDerrick Powell are finalists for the Walter Payton Award, which is given to the nation’s top FCS offensive player.

Hatcher and Rodriguez each led their team to conference championships. Hatcher’s Samford team finished 10-1 overall with the lone loss coming to Georgia. Rodriguez finished 9-2 in his first season at Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks were the lone undefeated team in ASUN play, but are not eligible for the FCS playoffs because the program is transitioning into the FBS.

A national media panel will select the winner and the announcement will be made on December 8.

Hiers was sensational in his first regular season as the Samford quarterback. The Birmingham native was 329-of-428 for 3,290 yards with 35 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also was fourth in the country in passing efficiency and total offense (313.7 ypg). He led the Bulldogs to a No. 6 national seed in the FCS playoffs.

Powell set a school record for single season rushing yards with 1,509. He is fourth in the country in rushing yards and third in rushing touchdowns (18).

The Walter Payton Award winner will be announced on January 7.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

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