Three Griz Named to Buchanan Award Preseason Watch List

Montana has a long history of producing some of the top defensive players in the FCS, with nine finalists and three Buck Buchanan Award winners since the turn of the century, including two in the last six seasons.

This year, three more Grizzlies are favored to join that list of the nation’s elite defenders, with Patrick O’ConnellJustin Ford, and Robby Hauck each being named to the Buchanan Award preseason watch list, FCS news outlet Stats Perform announced Thursday.

The Montana standouts are three of 35 players named to the list for the national defensive player of the year. The Grizzlies tied North Dakota State with the most players on the watch list, and had the most selections in the Big Sky.

O’Connell led the Big Sky in sacks last season, finished third in the voting for the Buchanan Award as a junior and was on hand at the awards banquet in Frisco, Texas, on the eve of the national championship game.

Ford intercepted the most passes in D-I football in 2021, finished right behind him at No. 4 in Buchanan Award voting.

Hauck was a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award that goes to the nation’s top freshman in his first year at UM and has consistently ranked as one of the leading tacklers in the FCS ever since.

All 15 FCS conferences are represented on the watch list, which includes 2021 Buchanan Award recipient Isaiah Land of Florida A&M, 2020 Buchanan Award recipient Jordan Lewis of Southern and 13 other past finalists.

More players can join the watch list during the regular season, and afterwards a national media panel will select the winner. First awarded in 1995, Grizzlies Kroy Biermann (2007), Tyrone Holmes (2015), and Dante Olson (2019) have each won the Buchanan.

O’Connell earned preseason All-America honors earlier in the summer after a stellar junior year. The former walk-on posted 105 tackles and was the Big Sky regular season leader in sacks as a junior with 14. For his efforts, the Kalispell native finished third in the voting for the Buck Buchanan Award that goes to the top defender in FCS football.

A consensus All-American, he was a first-team All-Big Sky pick and was named the team’s Steve Carlson MVP and co-recipient of the Doug Betters Golden Helmet Award.

Ford earned preseason All-America honors as well after leading all divisions of college football in interceptions with nine in 2021, going on an unprecedented streak of eight-straight games with a pick. He also logged a pair of touchdowns on interception returns and a fumble return for a touchdown against Montana State.

His nine interceptions were the most in a single season ever by a UM cornerback and were tied for the third-most single-season INTs in program history. He was one of three defenders to be named Defensive team MVP by the UM coaches after the season.

In addition to his prolific haul of INTs, Ford posted 41 tackles (29 solo), a pair of TFLs, a sack, 11 pass breakups, and led the team in pass deflections with 20.

Another preseason All-American, Hauck is poised to shatter the all-time tackles record at Montana, entering his senior year sitting at No. 3 on UM’s career tackles list with 364 and chasing former Grizzly Dante Olson’s school record of 398 stops. He’s also on track to break EWU’s Ronnie Hamlin’s Big Sky record of 473 tackles.

He earned All-America honors in 2021 after posting his second-straight season with over 125 tackles, missing his 2019 career-high of 129 by a single stop last year at 128. A star in the classroom and on the field, he is poised to become just the third, three-time Academic All-American in program history.

Montana opens fall camp with its first official practice on Monday, Aug. 8, at Dornblaser Field.

Stats Perform Buck Buchanan Award Preseason Watch List:

Kelechi Anyalebechi, UIW, Gr., 6-0, 240 (2021 Finalist)
Adam Bock, South Dakota State, Jr., 6-1, 215 (2021 Finalist)
Spencer Cuvelier, Northern Iowa, R-Sr., 6-3, 245
Jacob Dobbs, Holy Cross, Sr., 6-0, 232 (2021 Finalist)
John Ford II, UT Martin, LB, Gr., 6-3, 230
Ryan Greenhagen, Fordham, Gr., 6-1, 245 (2020 Finalist)
David Hoage, Northern Colorado, Jr., 6-3, 250
Matthew Jackson, Eastern Kentucky, R-Sr., 6-2, 205 (2021 Finalist)
James Kaczor, North Dakota State, Sr., 6-0, 212
Isaiah Land, Florida A&M, Sr., 6-4, 215 (2021 Buck Buchanan Award recipient)
Patrick O’Connell, Montana, R-Sr., 6-2, 225 (2021 Finalist)
Stone Snyder, VMI, Sr., 6-3, 240 (2020 and 2021 Finalist)
Tristan Wheeler, Richmond, R-Jr., 6-2, 228

Defensive Backs
Anthony Adams, Portland, State, Sr., 6-0, 185 (2019 Finalist)
Montrae Braswell, Missouri State, Jr., 6-0, 190
Justin Ford, Montana, R-Sr., 6-2, 190 (2021 Finalist)
Robby Hauck, Montana, R-Sr., 5-10, 185
Ferlando Jordan, Southeastern Louisiana, R-Sr., 6-0, 180
Michael Tutsie, North Dakota State, Sr., 5-11, 193
Kedrick Whitehead, Delaware, Sr., 5-11, 195

Defensive Linemen
Brevin Allen, Campbell, Sr., 6-4, 265 (2021 Finalist)
Ty French, Gardner-Webb, Jr., 6-3, 230
Jeblonski Green, South Carolina State, R-Jr., 6-3, 265
Malik Hamm, Lafayette, Sr., 6-3, 260
Jonathan Hammond, Davidson, Jr., 6-2, 227
Titus Leo, Wagner, Gr., 6-4, 245 (2020 and 2021 Finalist)
Jordan Lewis, Southern, Jr., 6-3, 195 (2020 Buck Buchanan Award recipient)
Nate Lynn, William & Mary, Jr., 6-3, 265 (2021 Finalist)
Devonnsha Maxwell, Chattanooga, Sr., 6-3, 296 (2021 Finalist)
Clay Patterson, Yale, Jr., 6-3, 267
Kevin Peprah, Sacred Heart, Sr., 6-2, 235
Markel Perry, Sam Houston, R-Sr., 6-2, 220
Josiah Silver, New Hampshire, So., 6-2, 232
B.J. Thompson, Stephen F. Austin, Sr., 6-6, 210
Spencer Waege, North Dakota State, Sr., 6-5, 278