Caleb Kidder named preseason defensive player of year in Big Sky Conference. (SLIM KIMMEL/MTN Sports)

Montana senior defensive tackle Caleb Kidder was named to the 27-player Athlon Sports Preseason FCS All-America team Thursday, one day after the Grizzlies were ranked 16th in Athlon Sports’ Preseason FCS Top 25 poll.

Kidder, who was voted first-team All-Big Sky Conference last season, is one of two league players to make the preseason All-America team, joining Eastern Washington senior wide receiver Cooper Kupp, the 2015 Walter Payton Award winner and holder of eight Big Sky records.

Kidder totaled 82 tackles last season, fourth on the team, as Montana went 8-5, tied for second in the Big Sky at 6-2 and advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs. His 10 tackles for loss ranked second on the team behind Tyrone Holmes, the 2015 STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year.

In addition to facing Kupp and the Eagles in Cheney, Wash., this fall, Montana will face one other preseason All-American during the regular season, perhaps on the first play of the season when the Grizzlies host Saint Francis at Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Sept. 3.

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Red Flash senior Lorenzo Jerome made the team after leading the FCS last season with an average kick return of 31.2 yards, with a pair of touchdowns.

North Dakota State, which defeated Jacksonville State 37-10 in January to win its fifth straight FCS national championship, topped the preseason poll and was one of six Missouri Valley Football Conference teams in the top 25.

The Big Sky Conference had five teams in the top 25, led by Eastern Washington at No. 12. North Dakota is ranked 15th, Montana 16th, Portland State 21st and Northern Arizona 24th.

Montana will play three preseason top-25 teams this fall, all on the road. After hosting Saint Francis in their season opener, the Grizzlies will travel to Cedar Falls, Iowa, for a matchup at No. 3 Northern Iowa on Sept. 10.

Montana will play at Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington in back-to-back road games on Oct. 22 and 29.

Athlon Sports Preseason FCS All-America team

Offense

QB — Eli Jenkins, Jacksonville State

RB — Chase Edmonds, Fordham

RB — Kade Harrington, Lamar

FB — Tyler Renew, The Citadel

WR — Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington

WR — Jake Wienke, South Dakota State

TE — Jordan Powell, New Hampshire

C — Casey Dunn, Jacksonville State

G — Zack Johnson, North Dakota State

G — Corey Levin, Chattanooga

T — Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell

T — Mitch Kirsch, James Madison

Defense

DE — Keionta Davis, Chattanooga

DE — P.J. Hall, Sam Houston State

DT — Isaiah Golden, McNeese State

DT — Caleb Kidder, Montana

LB — Andrew Ankrah, James Madison

LB — Nick DeLuca, North Dakota State

LB — Christian Kuntz, Duquesne

CB — Casey DeAndrade, New Hampshire

CB — Dee Delaney, The Citadel

S — David Jones, Richmond

S — Donald Payne, Stetson

Specialists

K — Nick Dorka, William & Mary

P — Chris Fraser, Cornell

KR — Lorenzo Jerome, Saint Francis

PR — Khris Gardin, North Carolina A&T

Athlon Sports Preseason FCS Top 25 poll

  1. North Dakota State (13-2, 7-1 Missouri Valley)
  1. Sam Houston State (11-4, 7-2 Southland)
  1. Northern Iowa (9-5, 5-3 Missouri Valley)
  1. Richmond (10-4, 6-2 Colonial)
  1. Jacksonville State (13-2, 8-0 Ohio Valley)
  1. Charleston Southern (10-3, 6-0 Big South)
  1. Chattanooga (9-4, 6-1 Southern)
  1. South Dakota State (8-4, 5-3 Missouri Valley)
  1. Coastal Carolina (9-3, 4-2 Big South)
  1. The Citadel (9-4, 6-1 Southern)
  1. Illinois State (10-3, 7-1 Missouri Valley)
  1. Eastern Washington (6-5, 5-3 Big Sky)
  1. William & Mary (9-4, 6-2 Colonial)
  1. James Madison (9-3, 6-2 Colonial)
  1. North Dakota (7-4, 5-3 Big Sky)
  1. Montana (8-5, 6-2 Big Sky)
  1. McNeese State (10-1, 9-0 Southland)
  1. Towson (7-4, 5-3 Colonial)
  1. Western Illinois (7-6, 5-3 Missouri Valley)
  1. Villanova (6-5, 5-3 Colonial)
  1. Portland State (9-3, 6-2 Big Sky)
  1. Youngstown State (5-6, 3-5 Missouri Valley)
  1. Colgate (9-5, 6-0 Patriot)
  1. Northern Arizona (7-4, 5-3 Big Sky)
  1. Eastern Kentucky (6-5, 5-2 Ohio Valley)

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