Five Griz Named to Preseason All-Big Sky Team

Photo Courtesy of Grizzly Athletics

The Montana Grizzlies landed five players on the 30-man Big Sky Preseason All-Conference Team, the league announced Monday at the annual football kickoff event in Spokane.

With two offensive, two defensive, and one specialist selection, the Griz earned the second-most picks in the league, with voting conducted by around the conference.

Senior receiver Samuel Akem and senior tackle Conlan Beaver earned offensive team selections for UM. Jace Lewis, who earned Preseason Defensive MVP honors ahead of the since-canceled 2020 season, was one of two inside linebackers named to the team, while safety Robby Hauck earned a place on the team as well. All-America long snapper Matthew O’Donoghue was UM’s lone special teams selection.

AKEM is set to enter his senior season as one of top-20 receivers in Montana history with 2,022 career yards to-date. He also enters the season among UM’s top-20 in career receptions (142), and will serve as an anchor on one of the premiere receiving corps in FCS football. The senior from Oklahoma was a 2020 preseason all-league pick as well as a HERO Sports Preseason All-American in 2019 when he finished the season with second-team all-conference honors.

BEAVER repeats as a preseason all-conference selection after making the team in 2020. The 6-5, 316 tackle was also named a preseason All-American by Phil Steele Magazine in 2020 and landed a spot on the 2020 HERO Sports preseason all-conference team. HERO Sports also named the Fredericksburg, Virginia, native “The best player in the FCS who wears No. 78” two years running. One of the most experienced players on the team, he enters the year with 36 appearances and 26 career starts.

Lewis enters the 2021 season as one of the top-40 all-time tacklers in Montana history with 219 stops to his name. As a junior in 2019, he was one of the top five tacklers in the Big Sky and a top-25 tackler in FCS football with 131 stops that year. Following that breakout year, he earned first-team all-conference honors and was named the Big Sky Preseason Defensive Player of the Year heading into the 2020/21 season.

Hauck has started every game of his career at Montana. His 236 career tackles currently place him at No. 31 on UM’s all-time leading tackler list. Ahead of the 2020-21 season, Hauck earned preseason All-Big Sky honors from the conference and preseason All-America and all-league selections from HERO Sports and Phil Steele Magazine. With 12 stops, he was UM’s top overall tackler during the two-game 2021 season.

O’Donoghue Was a consensus All-American after his junior season in 2019 and is expected handle UM’s snapping duties for a fourth-straight year. That season he earned All-America honors from Stats Perform, Athlon Sports, and Phil Steele Magazine after putting in 144 attempts on the punt team, field goal team, and PAT team without a bad snap. He also caught a pass for a two-point conversion at Sac State.

2021 spring conference champions Weber State led the league in preseason all-league selections with seven, while Eastern Washington came in third with four picks.

Montana enters the 2021 fall season coming off a 2-0 spring campaign that saw the Grizzlies dismantle Central Washington and Portland State by a combined score of 107-10.

UM opens the season Sept. 4 against the University of Washington in Seattle, with the home opener against Western Illinois set for Sept. 11 in Missoula. Season tickets as well as home and away single-game tickets are on sale now at

2021 Big Sky Preseason All-Conference Team

Eric Barriere – Eastern Washington*

Running Backs
Elijah Dotson – Sac State*
Josh Davis – Weber State*

Logan Kendall – Idaho

Wide Receivers
Samuel Akem – Montana*
Talolo Limu-Jones – Eastern Washington
Tanner Conner – Idaho State

Tight Ends
Marshel Martin – Sac State*

Tristen Taylor – Eastern Washington*
Conlan Beaver – Montana*

Ty Whitworth – Weber State*
Taylor Tuiasosopo – Montana State*

Connor Pettek – UC Davis

Luis Aguilar – Northern Arizona*

Return Specialist
Rashid Shaheed – Weber State*

Defensive Tackles
Jared Schiess – Weber State*
Bryce Rodgers – UC Davis*

Defensive Ends
Mitchell Johnson – Eastern Washington
George Tarlas – Weber State*

Outside Linebackers
La’akea Kaho’ohanohano-Davis – Southern Utah
Troy Andersen – Montana State/Conner Mortensen – Weber State (tie)

Middle Linebackers
Tre Walker – Idaho*
Jace Lewis – Montana*

Anthony Adams – Portland State*
Eddie Heckard – Weber State*

Morgan Vest – Northern Arizona
Robby Hauck – Montana*

Daniel Whelan – UC Davis­­

Matthew O’Donoghue – Montana

* – Denotes repeat preseason honoree from 2020