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Dante Olson shares Big Sky defender of year honor; 13 Griz honored

Posted: 4:16 PM, Nov 26, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-26 18:16:41-05
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(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
Tackle
Jesse Sims
Senior
Montana
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

Honorable Mention
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