(Editor's note: University of Montana athletics release)
MISSOULA -- After posting his own school record of 151 tackles for a second-straight season, Montana senior linebacker Dante Olson laid claim to what seemed like the one award that eluded him as a junior, earning the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year award, the conference announced Tuesday.
Sophomore running back Marcus Knight also won a marquee individual award as the league's Newcomer of the Year, and 12 total Grizzlies earned All-Big Sky honors, including four first-team selections. Olson was also the only unanimous first-team defensive All-Big Sky selection in the league, earning a spot on the team for a second-straight season. Gutsy quarterback Dalton Sneed also received an All-Big Sky honorable mention.
Olson, who started the year as the league's Preseason Defensive MVP, lived up to the hype in 2019 once again leading the FCS in total tackles. To get there, he posted double-digit tackles in eight of Montana's 12 games, including a season-high 18 stops against Montana State and Idaho State and a game-high 14 against the Oregon Ducks.
Not only were his 151 tackles the best in the league and FCS, they are the second-most in all of D-I football to date after California's Evan Weaver, who currently leads the nation with 164 stops.
Combined with his junior season total of 151, Olson now has 302 tackles in 23 games as a two-year starter (an average of 13.1 per game), bringing his career total to 369, just 25 shy of breaking Montana's all-time record of 393 set by Vince Huntsberger (1998-2001).
In the Big Sky record book, Olson is currently seventh on the league's top career tackler list and tied for sixth on the all-time single-season tackler list, needing just 26 more to claim the best season in conference history.
He has been a key component in Montana's rush defense that has held three of the conference's top five rushing teams to a combined average of just 71 yards per game and held the nation's leading rusher (Monmouth's Peter Guerriero) to only 41 yards rushing.
Olson is the first Grizzly to win Big Sky's Defensive Player of the Year award since 2014 when Zack Wagenmann earned the league's top honor. He is now the 13th Grizzly to win the award since UM joined the conference as a founding member in 1963.
He shares the award with Weber State defensive end Jonah Williams, who was named co-Defensive Player of the Year by the league on Tuesday as well. Williams helped the Wildcats to a share of their third-straight league title with 48 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks.
In addition to his numerous accolades on the field, Olson has been a star in the classroom as an NFF National Scholar-Athlete and William V. Campbell Trophy Finalist, and a force for good in the community as a member of the 2019 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
In his first year at Montana, Knight has not only solidified the Grizzly ground game, he's put together one of the best single-season rushing efforts in program history with a Big-Sky best 21 touchdowns to earn the league's Newcomer of the Year award.
With 930 yards rushing, Knight is one the cusp of becoming the first Grizzly to rush for over 1000 yards in a season since Jordan Canada ran for 1,207 in 2014.
Only the great Chase Reynolds has scored more points or ran for more touchdowns in a season than Knight in his first year as a Grizzly. Since arriving at UM from Citrus College in the spring, he's rushed for 20 TDs, needing just two more to break Reynolds' single-season record of 22 he set in both 2008 and 2009.
With one receiving TD added to his tally, Knight again follows only Reynolds in the Montana record book for total touchdowns in a season, chasing his 2008 total of 23 and his 2009 total of 24, and with 126, only Reynolds has scored more points than Knight in a season as well.
In addition to the Newcomer of the Year award, Knight also earned a spot on the third-team All-Big Sky list. This is the second-straight Newcomer of the Year award for the Grizzlies after Sneed won the award in 2018.
Receiver Samori Toure, linebacker Jace Lewis and punt returner Jerry Louie-McGee all joined Olson in earning first-team All-Big Sky Honors in the voting conducted by the league's coaches.
The four first-team selections are the most for the Grizzlies since 2015, when Jamaal Jones, Caleb Kidder, Tyrone Holmes and Herbert Gamboa earned a first-team nod.
Toure went on a tear in the second half of the 2019 season, scoring seven touchdowns and racking up 517 receiving yards in the last four games to bring his season total to 10 TDs. His season total of 1,107 is the seventh-highest single-season total in Grizzly history as he becomes the first Grizzly since Jamaal Jones in 2015 to cross the 1,000-yard mark. He posted a career-high 193 yards and three touchdowns against Weber State to earn his first Big Sky Player of the Week honors as well.
Lewis finished the regular season at the Big Sky's fourth-leading tackler with 116 stops to his name a top-20 finisher in sacks (4.0) and tackles for loss (9.5). He posted double-digit tackle totals in five of UM's last eight games, including a career-high 17 at Sacramento State and 16 to earn Big Sky Player of the Week honors against Weber State along with Toure.
Louie-McGee was Montana's only other unanimous first-team selection as a punt returner, and for good reason. "Mr. Electricity" led the league in punt return yards by more than 8 yards per attempt with a 17.1 yards per return average – the fourth-most in the FCS.
The senior also became Montana's all-time leader in pass receptions this season, bringing his record-setting total to 221 – currently tied for the 11th-most in Big Sky history.
A total of five Grizzlies earned a place on the second-team All-Big Sky list, including senior D-tackle Jesse Sims, junior receiver Samuel Akem, sophomore safety Robby Hauck and offensive linemen Cy Sirmon and Conlan Beaver.
Sims, the #37 legacy jersey bearer, led Montana's defensive line from the front as the Grizzlies' seventh-leading tackler with 46 stops, 4.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, and a forced fumble.
Akem was on pace for a 1,000-yard season before missing the final two games of the regular season due to injury with 848 total receiving yards – still the fourth-most in the conference. The junior also hauled in 59 catches, the fourth-most per-game in the conference. With 1,934 career yards and one year left to play, Akem is poised to become one of the top receivers in program history, currently sitting at No. 17 on UM's all-time list.
After receiving an all-conference honorable mention as a freshman, Hauck landed second-team honors after finishing third in the Big Sky in tackles with 120, good enough to place him thirteenth in the FCS in tackling and giving him the second-most tackles in the nation for a defensive back.
Hauck's career tackle total currently sits at 215, placing him among UM's top-40 all-time tacklers with two seasons yet to play.
With Montana's offense averaging 150.2 rushing yards-per-game, Sirmon and Beaver were big contributors to UM's improved ground game in 2019. Sirmon took over the starting center duties as a senior after playing four different positions in his career. Beaver has been a staple at left tackle since arriving in Missoula, 31 appearances and 22 starts.
Rounding out Montana's All-Big Sky selections on the third team were Knight, and seniors Angel Villanueva and Josh Sandry.
Villanueva battled injury all season to become a vital part of Montana's improved offensive line.
Sandry was a key component of UM's defensive backfield with eight passes defended this season, one of the top-20 totals in the league. The Bigfork native was the team's sixth-leading tackler with 47 stops, 5.5 TFLs, one sack, one interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
The Grizzlies are expected to return six of their 12 all-conference honorees in 2020.
2019 Big Sky Football All-Conference
Offensive Player of the Year: Kevin Thomson, QB, Sacramento State
Co-Defensive Players of the Year: Dante Olson, LB, Montana; Jonah Williams, DE, Weber State
Newcomer of the Year: Marcus Knight, RB, Montana
Freshman of the Year: Nick Eaton, LB, UC Davis
* - Unanimous All-First Team Selection
$ - Two-Time All-Big Sky First Team Selection
% - Three-Time All-Big Sky First Team Selection
First Team All-Big Sky
|FIRST TEAM OFFENSE||Player||Year||School|
|Quarterback||Kevin Thomson||Junior||Sacramento State|
|Wide Receiver||Samori Toure||Junior||Montana|
|Wide Receiver||J.J. Koski||Senior||Cal Poly|
|Wide Receiver||Pierre Williams||Sophomore||Sacramento State|
|Running Back||Josh Davis$||Sophomore||Weber State|
|Running Back||Elijah Dotson$||Junior||Sacramento State|
|Offensive Line||Zach Larsen*%||Senior||Southern Utah|
|Offensive Line||Mitch Brott||Senior||Montana State|
|Offensive Line||Wyatt Ming||Senior||Sacramento State|
|Offensive Line||Spencer Blackburn||Senior||Eastern Washington|
|Offensive Line||Chris Schlichting||Senior||Eastern Washington|
|Offensive Line||Ty Whitworth||Junior||Weber State|
|Offensive Line||Cole Habib||Senior||Northern Arizona|
|Tight End||Charlie Taumoepeau$||Senior||Portland State|
|Fullback||Clay Moss||Junior||Weber State|
|All-Purpose||Travis Jonsen||Senior||Montana State|
|Kicker||Luis Aguilar||Junior||Northern Arizona|
|Punt Returner||Jerry Louie-McGee*||Senior||Montana|
|Kick Returner||Nick Romano||Freshman||Idaho|
|FIRST TEAM DEFENSE|
|Tackle||Jared Schiess||Junior||Weber State|
|Tackle||Dariyn Choates||Senior||Sacramento State|
|End||George Obinna$||Senior||Sacramento State|
|End||Jonah Williams$||Senior||Weber State|
|Outside Linebacker||Troy Andersen$||Junior||Montana State|
|Outside Linebacker||Christian Ellis||Junior||Idaho|
|Inside Linebacker||Dante Olson*$||Senior||Montana|
|Inside Linebacker||Jace Lewis||Junior||Montana|
|Inside Linebacker||Josh Hill||Senior||Montana State|
|Defensive Back||Daron Bland||Junior||Sacramento State|
|Defensive Back||Brayden Konkol||Senior||Montana State|
|Defensive Back||Devon King||Sophomore||UC Davis|
|Defensive Back||Khalil Dorsey$||Senior||Northern Arizona|
|Defensive Back||Anthony Adams||Sophomore||Portland State|
|Punter||DJ Arnson||Junior||Northern Arizona|
|Special Teams||Emmanuel Daigbe||Junior||Portland State|
|SECOND TEAM OFFENSE|
|Quarterback||Case Cookus||Senior||Northern Arizona|
|Wide Receiver||Jeff Cotton||Senior||Idaho|
|Wide Receiver||Brandon Porter||Sophomore||Northern Arizona|
|Wide Receiver||Samuel Akem||Junior||Montana|
|Running Back||Ulonzo Gilliam||Sophomore||UC Davis|
|Running Back||Antoine Custer Jr.||Senior||Eastern Washington|
|Offensive Line||Nick Bianco||Seniors||Sacramento State|
|Offensive Line||Conlan Beaver||Junior||Montana|
|Offensive Line||Noah Johnson||Senior||Idaho|
|Offensive Line||Cy Sirmon||Senior||Montana|
|Offensive Line||Lewis Kidd||Junior||Montana State|
|Offensive Line||Tyler Whisenhunt||Senior||Cal Poly|
|Offensive Line||Tristen Taylor||Senior||Eastern Washington|
|Tight End||Marshel Martin||Freshman||Sacramento State|
|Tight End||Wes Preece||Senior||UC Davis|
|Fullback||Duy Tran-Sampson||Sophomore||Cal Poly|
|All-Purpose||Joe Logan||Senior||Northern Arizona|
|Kicker||Trey Tuttle||Junior||Weber State|
|Punt Returner||Cutrell Haywood||Sophomore||Idaho|
|Kick Returner||Wille Fairman||Senior||Northern Colorado|
|SECOND TEAM DEFENSE|
|Tackle||Derek Marks||Senior||Montana State|
|End||Bryce Sterk||Senior||Montana State|
|End||Adam Rodriguez||Senior||Weber State|
|Outside Linebacker||Marcus Bruce||Senior||Sacramento State|
|Outside Linebacker||Nick Eaton||Freshman||UC Davis|
|Outside Linebacker||Auston Tesch||Senior||Weber State|
|Inside Linebacker||Marcus Hawkins||Junior||Sacramento State|
|Inside Linebacker||Tre Walker||Sophomore||Idaho|
|Defensive Back||Michael Walker||Senior||Northern Colorado|
|Defensive Back||Adkin Aguirre||Seniors||Idaho State|
|Defensive Back||Eddie Heckard||Freshman||Weber State|
|Defensive Back||Caelan Barnes||Senior||Sacramento State|
|Defensive Back||Robby Hauck||Sophomore||Montana|
|Punter||Doug Lloyd||Senior||Weber State|
|THIRD TEAM OFFENSE|
|Quarterback||Eric Barriere||Junior||Eastern Washington|
|Wide Receiver||Emmanuel Daigbe||Junior||Portland State|
|Wide Receiver||Kevin Kassis||Senior||Montana State|
|Wide Receiver||Andrew Boston||Sophomore||Eastern Washington|
|Running Back||Marcus Knight||Sophomore||Montana|
|Running Back||Milo Hall||Senior||Northern Colorado|
|Running Back||Kevin Smith||Junior||Weber State|
|Offensive Line||Dallen Collins||Senior||Idaho State|
|Offensive Line||Angel Villanueva||Senior||Montana|
|Offensive Line||Kaleb Levao||Senior||Eastern Washington|
|Offensive Line||Braxton Jones||Sophomore||Southern Utah|
|Offensive Line||Ben Bos||Junior||Weber State|
|Offensive Line||Garrett Stauffer||Senior||Portland State|
|Offensive Line||Taylor Tuiasosopo||Junior||Montana State|
|Tight End||Jayce Gilder||Senior||Eastern Washington|
|Kicker||Cody Williams||Sophomore||Portland State|
|Kick Returner||Judd Cockett||Junior||Southern Utah|
|THIRD TEAM DEFENSE|
|Tackle||Elijah Chambers||Junior||Sacramento State|
|Tackle||Chase Benson||Junior||Montana State|
|End||George Tarlas||Sophomore||Weber State|
|End||Jim Townsend||Senior||Eastern Washington|
|Outside Linebacker||Amandre Williams||Junior||Montana State|
|Outside Linebacker||Luke Holloway||Senior||Idaho State|
|Inside Linebacker||Kody Graves||Senior||Idaho State|
|Inside Linebacker||Matt Shotwell||Junior||Cal Poly|
|Defensive Back||Lloyd Hightower||Senior||Idaho|
|Defensive Back||Josh Sandry||Senior||Montana|
|Defensive Back||Preston Smith||Junior||Weber State|
|Defensive Back||Dehonta Hayes||Senior||Eastern Washington|
|Defensive Back||Carlton Johnson||Freshman||Southern Utah|
|Punter||Daniel Whelan||Junior||UC Davis|
Quarterback: Dalton Sneed, Montana; Jake Maier, UC Davis; Mason Petrino, Idaho; Jacob Knipp, Northern Colorado.
Wide Receiver: Mitch Gueller, Idaho State; Tanner Conner, Idaho State; Lance Lawson, Southern Utah; Jayson Williams II, Eastern Washington; Khris Vaughn, UC Davis; Willie Fairman, Northern Colorado
Running Back: B.J. Perkinson, Sacramento State
Offensive Line: Jordan Ford, UC Davis
Kicker: Seth Harrison, Eastern Washington
Tackle: Bryce Rodgers, UC Davis; Dylan Ledbetter, Eastern Washington; Kenton Bartlett, Portland State; Anthony Del Toro, Portland State
End: Shawn Richard, Portland State; Josiah Erickson, Sacramento State; Myles Cecil, Cal Poly
Outside Linebacker: Alex Sims, Southern Utah
Inside Linebacker: Luke Nelson, Northern Colorado
Defensive Back: Kitu Humphrey, Cal Poly; Jerone Jackson, Northern Colorado; AJ Stanley, Southern Utah; Carter Nichols, Cal Poly
Punter: Jered Padmos, Montana State; Cade Coffey, Idaho