Montana’s Olson among seven added to Buck Buchanan Award Watch List


CHICAGO – Oct. 18, 2018 –– Seven players who have been dominating in the first half of the college football season were nominated to the STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award Watch List on Thursday.

The Buchanan Award, presented to the national defensive player of the year in the subdivision of Division I, has sent past winners such as Dexter Coakley, Rashean Mathis, Jared Allen, Arthur Moats and Kyle Emanuel on to NFL careers.

One player from the Big Sky Conference is among the newest additions.

Montana junior linebacker Dante Olson/ by Brooks Nuanez

After a stellar start to the season, Montana linebacker Dante Olson joined his teammate Josh Buss on the Buck Buchanan Award watch list Thursday

Olson played mostly special teams for the Griz last year, but has burst onto the scene early in 2018 and should be considered one of the favorites for the award, if not the frontrunner.
He announced himself as a star with 13 tackles, an interception, and a sack in a season-opening win over Northern Iowa, and has since been one of the most impactful defensive players in the FCS.
Olson has recorded double-digit in six of his seven games, with a high of 24 against Cal Poly.
He leads the nation with 106 total tackles in seven games, 15.1 per contest. Olson has also recorded five sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and two interceptions, all of which lead the Grizzlies.
Buss was on the preseason watchlist for the award and, despite some early-season injury concerns, has performed well, with 52 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries, one of which he returned 80 yards for a touchdown against Cal Poly.

Olson is the only addition from the Big Sky Conference. In his first year as a starter, the junior linebacker has been nothing short of superb for the Grizzlies as he’s worked his way to becoming the leading tackler in all of Division-I football.

“We’re happy for Dante. He’s had a terrific season so far, and I think this recognition is well deserved. If he continues to play like he has, I think he might be able to win the award,” said UM head coach Bobby Hauck. “It’s also a good thing for our whole team when one of us gets recognized on the national level.”

The junior from Medford, Ore., needs just 25 tackles over the next four regular-season games to break the school single-season record of 130 set by linebacker Kendrick Van Ackeren in 2015. He’s also now 71 tackles shy of breaking JC Sherritt’s Big Sky Conference record of 176 tackles in a season.

Olson has been named the ROOT Sports Big Sky Player of the Week three times in the first month of the season, and was named the STATS FCS National Player of the Week following the Drake game where he posted 16 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.

Olson says he attributes his success to his teammates, and the defensive structure coordinator Kent Baer has in place, but knows there is more work to be done.

“It’s been a lot of fun playing in our defense and playing with the guys. It’s been a great ride so far,” says Olson.

“This is obviously a huge honor and a blessing, but it’s also motivation to keep working hard. We have four games left in the season, and we’ve got to take it week by week, and as a team come together and win those games and finish the season out strong.”

Despite 2018 being his first year as a starter, Olson has hauled in several awards during his time as a Grizzly. He was named the Defensive Scout team Player of the Year during his redshirt season in 2015, and was named the Hauck Family Special Teams Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017, in addition to being named second-team All-Big Sky on special teams last season as well.As much as he is a menace to opposing offenses, off the field, Olson is equally as humble and hard-working.

Montana linebackers Dante Olson (left) and Josh Buss/ by Brooks Nuanez

As a management major in the University of Montana’s College of Business, Olson carries a 4.0 GPA and is a two-time Academic All-Big Sky Performer. Over the summer, he also began mentoring a class of third graders in an underprivileged area of Northern California as part of the No Excuses University program, encouraging kids to earn a college degree.

Olson now becomes the second UM player this season to earn his way onto the Buchanan Award Watch List this season, following fellow linebacker Josh Buss who was named to the list after receiving the Big Sky’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year award. Buss was also a finalist for the Buchanan Award after his junior season.

Together, Buss and Olson make a total of 14 players in Montana history who have been named to the Buchanan Award Watch List. But only two Grizzlies have ever taken home the top prize for a defensive player in FCS football.

Kroy Biermann was a two-time finalist for the Buchanan Award under Hauck in 2006 and 2007 and became UM’s first-ever winner following his senior season in ’07.

Tyrone Holmes was named the 2015 Buchanan Award winner following a senior season where he totaled a national-best 18 sacks.

A national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will select the Buchanan Award and Rice Award winners following the regular season.

B.J. Blunt, McNeese, LB, Sr., 6-1, 220, New Orleans

Statistics: 56 tackles (35 solo), 11.5 TFL, 7 sacks, 3 PBU, 4 QBH, 2 FR (6 games)


Cam Gill, Wagner, LB, 6-3, 230, Douglasville, Georgia

Statistics: 36 tackles (24 solo), 13.5 TFL, 8 sacks, 1 PBU, 7 QBH, 2 FF, 1 BK; 1 punt return TD (7 games)


Andrew Gray, South Dakota, S, R-Sr., 6-2, 215, New Lenox, Illinois

Statistics: 51 tackles (26 solo), 1 TFL, 2 INTs, 3 PBU, 2 FF (6 games)


Jimmy Moreland, James Madison, CB, R-Sr., 5-11, 175, Royal Palm Beach, Florida

Statistics: 25 tackles (12 solo), 3 TFL, 1 Sack, 4 INTs (3 TD returns), 1 QBH, 1 FF, 1 BK (7 games)


Dante Olson, Montana, LB, R-Jr., 6-3, 237, Medford, Oregon

Statistics: 106 tackles (42 solo), 9.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 INTs, 3 PBU, 3 QBH, 3 FF (7 games)

Hauck not surprised by Olson’s hot start


Nasir Player, ETSU, DE, R-Jr., 6-5, 271, Columbia, South Carolina

Statistics: 28 tackles (13 solo), 9 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 PBU, 10 QBH, 2 FF (7 games)


Isiah Swann, Dartmouth, CB, Jr., 6-0, 190, Queen Creek, Arizona

Statistics: 18 tackles (15 solo), 5 INTs (1 TD return), 7 PBU (5 games)

Preseason nominees were defensive linemen Miles Brown of Wofford, Andrew Clyde of Richmond, Ahmad Gooden of Samford, Darin Greenfield of South Dakota, Darryl Johnson Jr. of North Carolina A&T, Greg Menard of North Dakota State, Khalen Saunders of Western Illinois, Chris Stewart of Sam Houston State, Chris Terrell of Central Arkansas and Jaison Williams of Austin Peay; linebackers Bryson Armstrong of Kennesaw State, Willie Barrett of Marist, Josh Buss of Montana, De’Arius Christmas of Grambling State, Thomas Costigan of Bryant, Warren Messer of Elon, Nick Miller of Penn, Christian Rozeboom of South Dakota State and Nick Wheeler of Colgate; and defensive backs Nasir Adderley of Delaware, Marlon Bridges of Jacksonville State, Robbie Grimsley of North Dakota State, Davanta Reynolds of North Carolina Central, Rashad Robinson of James Madison and Marvin Tillman of Western Carolina.

The Buchanan Award, presented since 1995, has watch list updates during the season. A national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will select the winner following the regular season.

Also this season, STATS will present the Walter Payton Award (FCS offensive player of the year), Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman player of the year), Eddie Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) and Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

About Andrew Houghton

Andrew Houghton grew up in Washington, DC. He graduated from the University of Montana journalism school in December 2015 and spent time working on the sports desk at the Daily Tribune News in Cartersville, Georgia, before moving back to Missoula and becoming a part of Skyline Sports in early 2018.

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