(Editor's note: University of Montana athletics release)
MISSOULA -- After a second-straight season leading the FCS in tackles, record-breaking Montana linebacker Dante Olson has been invited to Frisco, Texas, for a second-straight year as one of the top-three vote-getters for the presentation of the STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award, which honors the outstanding defensive player in college football's Division I subdivision.
Olson returns to the FCS Awards Banquet to find out if he will become Montana's third national defensive player of the year award winner after finishing third in the voting as a junior in 2018.
Joining Olson in Texas as top-three finalists are senior defensive ends Ron'Dell Carter of James Madison and Sully Laiche of Nicholls, each of whom topped the voting out of 26 overall finalists.
The Buchanan, named for the Pro and College Football Hall-of-Famer and presented since 1995, will be handed out at the STATS FCS Awards Banquet on Jan. 10 - the eve of the national championship game
Now in its 25th year, Montana has had 13 finalists for the Award in program history, with Kroy Biermann winning in 2007 and Tyrone Holmes winning in 2015. Olson the fourth player in UM history to repeat as a finalist in consecutive seasons. Other two-time finalists include Biermann, Trumaine Johnson, and Jordan Tripp.
Olson, the co-Big Sky defensive player of the year, leads the FCS with 165 tackles and has 11 tackles for loss, 3½ sacks, two takeaways and two forced fumbles in 13 games. He is currently 11 tackles away from becoming Montana's all-time leading tackler in just two seasons as a starter.
Carter, the CAA Football defensive player of the year, has lived in opposing backfields, totaling 24 tackles for loss – tied for the second-most in the FCS – and 10½ sacks among his 56 tackles in 13 games. He also has 11 quarterback hurries for the No. 2-ranked and conference champion Dukes.
Laiche, the first defensive player since 2007 to be named the Southland's overall player of the year, helped Nicholls to a second straight conference title. After missing the first two games following offseason surgery, Laiche had 63 tackles, 22½ tackles for loss, 12 sacks and four forced fumbles in 12 games.
Olson will also find out if he's the winner of the 2019 STATS FCS Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete Award at the banquet in Frisco.
A national panel of 156 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries voted on the Buchanan Award following the regular season. Voters selected a Top 5 on their ballot.
The 2019 Buck Buchanan Award results for fourth through 26th place were as follows:
4. Zach Hall, LB, Southeast Missouri: 11-15-12-13-16-193
5. Derrek Tuszka, DE, North Dakota State: 7-16-14-11-5-168
6. Kordell Jackson, S, Austin Peay: 4-13-12-13-10-144
7. John Daka, DE, James Madison: 11-7-7-9-9-131
8. Brandon Easterling, S, Dayton: 10-8-3-3-10-107
9. Elerson Smith, DE, Northern Iowa: 3-3-13-9-8-92
10. Eli Mencer, LB, Albany: 3-4-4-8-10-69
11. Christian Rozeboom, LB, South Dakota State: 2-6-4-9-4-68
12. Anthony Adams, DB, Portland State: 3-4-7-2-5-61
13. Bryson Armstrong, LB, Kennesaw State: 3-1-5-9-3-55
14.(tie) Da'Jon Lee, LB, Saint Francis: 0-3-6-8-7-53
14.(tie) Bryce Sterk, DE, Montana State: 2-5-4-4-3-53
16. Greg Liggs Jr., CB, Elon: 1-3-3-8-5-47
17. Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois: 2-2-2-7-6-44
18. Cam Gill, LB, Wagner: 2-4-1-1-5-36
19. Willie Eubanks Jr., LB, The Citadel: 1-3-3-0-3-29
20. Isiah Swann, CB, Dartmouth: 1-1-2-3-4-25
21.(tie) Aaron Patrick, DE, Eastern Kentucky: 2-0-1-4-2-23
21.(tie) Keith Woetzel, LB, Lehigh: 0-3-3-1-0-23
23. Rico Kennedy, LB Morgan State: 1-0-2-2-1-16
24. Nick Wheeler, DE, Colgate: 2-0-0-0-1-11
25. Artevius Smith, S, ETSU: 0-1-1-1-1-10
26. Solomon Muhammad, LB, Alcorn State: 1-0-0-0-4-9
A first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote four points, a third-place vote three points, a fourth-place vote two points and a fifth-place vote one point.