Big Sky Conference

Hauck questions Buss’s availability during BSC Kickoff

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Editor’s note: the quotes from Montana head coach Bobby Hauck in this story come from an interview conducted by Ryan Tootell of ESPN Missoula at the Big Sky Kickoff in Spokane. Quotes from Hauck on his other linebackers come from an interview conducted in March by Colter Nuanez of Skyline Sports. 

SPOKANE, Washington — Bobby Hauck began his praise of Josh Buss with a quick-witted joke before making a somber revelation.

Hauck, back for his second stint at Montana nearly a decade after completing one of the most dominant seven-year stretches in Big Sky Conference history, has never been one to relish in preseason accolades. As he enters his first season at the helm for his alma mater since 2009, Hauck has among his charges the player the 55 voting media members believe to be the top defensive player in the league entering the 2018 season.

Buss, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound redshirt senior from Boise, Idaho, earned Big Sky preseason Defensive Player of the Year honors as voted on by the league’s affiliated media at the Big Sky Kickoff in Spokane on Monday. Buss notched 94 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks to earn second-team All-Big Sky honors last fall. As a sophomore, he notched 22 tackles for loss and earned third-team All-Big Sky accolades.

Montana linebacker Josh Buss/ by Jason Bacaj

“We can’t burn the preseason list otherwise we’ve have nothing to talk about,” Hauck quipped. “Great for Josh, great for our team to have somebody get some recognition. He’s had a really nice career at Montana so far.”

But Buss did not participate in the first spring under Hauck. He sat out all 15 practices, instead wearing a blue “injury” jersey after having off-season shoulder surgery. In late June, two independent sources told Skyline Sports Buss suffered a tore pectoral muscle while lifting weights during Montana’s summer workouts.

At the Big Sky Kickoff, Hauck kept talking after crediting Buss, not giving specifics on the health of his star but certainly questioning his availability for the upcoming season.

“The thing about Josh right now is he’s had some major health problems and we don’t know the degree he is going to be available to us,” Hauck said. “We will see how that goes. Hopefully, things come around for him but he has some health problems.”

During spring ball, senior Shayne Cochran and junior Dante Olson took the bulk of the reps at inside linebacker in the 4-2-5 alignments Montana most often lined up. Redshirt freshman Marcus Welnel also took some reps with the first and second defensive units.

Cochran, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound fifth-year senior from Culbertson, had 20 tackles and three tackles for loss last season while backing up seniors Connor Strahm and James Banks. Olson, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound fourth-year junior from Medford, Oregon, was a second-team All-Big Sky selection on special teams last season. He finished his sophomore year with 38 tackles and two tackles for loss, including a sack.

“I think Shayne has the right attitude, mentality and fits in with what we want,” Hauck said during spring football. “We are going to have some heated competition to get on the field at that spot.

“All those guys are getting a good look this spring and as we do some live drills, they get a chance to shine. That position in particular this spring, we’ve had a lot of movement up and down the depth chart. Sometimes, those guys are with the 1s and sometimes they are down the chart. It’s a results oriented business and performance dictates where you sit.”

Photos by Jason Bacaj and Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved. 

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 12 year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to founded Skyline Sports.

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