By ERIC TABER
Defensive end Tyrone Holmes and wide receiver Jamaal Jones have been named the University of Montana’s 2015 Steve Carlson Award co-winners for Griz football’s offensive and defensive Most Valuable Players.
Montana head coach Bob Stitt and his staff presented the team awards on Sunday (Dec. 6) at the squad’s annual awards banquet at the Doubletree Hotel.
Holmes, a senior from Eagle Point, Ore., is a finalist for the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year award (formally the Buck Buchanan award), and leads the nation in sacks this season with a whopping 18, just one shy of tying the school record for most sacks in a season. He finishes his stellar career as a four-year starter in second place on Montana’s all-time sack list with 34.5 sacks and second on the all-time tackle for loss list with 49.5 total.
Holmes was also presented with the 2015 Offseason MVP by UM strength and conditioning coach Matt Nicholson for his work ethic off the field. Fans will remember Holmes notably added three inches to his vertical leap last summer.
Holmes completed his award hat trick with the 2015 Larry Miller Award for best defensive lineman. Miller was an All-American for UM in 1969 and 1970 who died in an automobile accident in 1974.
Jamaal Jones, a first team All-Big Sky senior from Spanaway, Wash., finished his career as Montana’s second all-time leading receiver, with 3,011 receiving yards in just three seasons as a Grizzly. One of two team captains, Jones had the fifth best receiving season in Montana history as well, with 1,207 yards in 13 games this year.
Jones was also chosen as the recipient of the Terry Dillon Award for outstanding back or receiver. The award was established in 1964 following Dillon’s accidental death.
Devon Dietrich was recognized as Montana’s outstanding offensive lineman, receiving the Paul Weskamp Award. A two-year starter, Dietrich, a junior guard from Woodinville, Wash., received an All-Big Sky honorable mention in 2015, and was a leader on a much-improved offensive line.
Linebacker Connor Strahm, a sophomore from Eugene, Ore., was selected as the team’s hardest hitter as the recipient of the Golden Helmet Award, and was also recognized as the special teams player of the year with the Hauck Family Award. Strahm has played in every game thus far in his two years at UM, and finished 2015 as the team’s sixteenth leading tackler with 23 this season, five tackles for loss, a sack and a blocked kick.
The Tony Barbour Award, which goes to the player who “best exemplifies outstanding practice habits and makes an unselfish contribution to the betterment of the Grizzly football team,” was given to cornerback Nate Harris, a senior from Chino, California.
A four-year starter, Harris earned a place on the third-team All-Big Sky list in 2015. Harris was the Grizzlies’ seventh leading tackler this year with 54 total, had three tackles for loss, 11 pass breakups, 12 pass deflections and two forced fumbles.
Defensive end Derek Crittenden was voted the recipient of the Pat Norwood Award, which goes to the team’s “Most Inspirational Player”. The Whitefish native was not in attendance at the event. Instead, he was in New York City preparing for the William V. Campbell Trophy ceremony, known as the “Academic Heisman” for the nation’s most outstanding scholar athlete.
The Norwood Award is yet another accolade for the senior this season, which includes being a finalist for the world’s biggest academic prize, the Rhodes Scholarship, being named a first team Academic All-American and being voted captain by his teammates.
The “Scout Team Player of the Year” on offense was redshirt freshman receiver Colin Bingham, from Missoula (Big Sky High School). Bingham’s dad, Guy, was a standout player for the Griz from 1976-79, and inducted into the Grizzly sports Hall of Fame in September of 2003. Guy played for 13 seasons in the NFL and was drafted by the New York Jets.
The “Scout Team Player of the Year” on defense was redshirt freshman linebacker Dante Olson, from Medford, Oregon (Cascade Christian High School).