Eastern Washington

Seven Big Sky players earn first-team All-America honors


An FCS-best 17 players from the Big Sky Conference were chose to the STATS FCS All-America team, released on Tuesday morning.

The Big Sky’s total number of selections were the best in the country and included seven first-team All-America selections.

All three of the finalists for each the FCS Offensive Player of the Year (formerly the Walter Payton Award) and the FCS Defensive Player of the Year (formerly the Buck Buchanan Award) were named to the first teams.

The three finalists for the Defensive MVP are Montana senior defensive end Tyrone Holmes, Southern Utah defensive end James Cowser and Portland State defensive end Patrick Onwuasor. Eastern Washington junior wide receiver Cooper Kupp is a finalist for the offensive award. All four, along with Eastern Washington senior left tackle Clay DeBord, Montana senior senior wide receiver Jamaal Jones and Sacramento State middle linebacker Darnell Sankey earned first-team All-America recognition.

Montana defensive end Tyrone Holmes leads the nation with 17 sacks/ by Brooks Nuanez

Montana defensive end Tyrone Holmes leads the nation with 18 sacks/ by Brooks Nuanez

The Big Sky’s 17 Alll-Americas and seven first-team selections were both national highs. The Missouri Valley Football Conference was second with six first-team selections and 13 overall, and Colonial Athletic Association had three first-teamers and 12 selections overall.

Holmes, Onwuasor and Cowser each produced standout final seasons to lead their respective teams to playoff berths. Holmes, a 6-foot-4, 245-pounder from Eagle Point, Oregon, piled up an FCS-best 18 sacks during Montana’s 8-5 campaign that ended in the second round of the playoffs. Holmes finished his career with 34.5 sacks, the second-most in school history. Cowser, the Big Sky Defensive MVP, notched 13 sacks and 19 tackles for loss, propelling the 6-foot-4, 258-pounder to becoming the FCS all-time leader with 80 TFLs and 43.5 sacks as the Thunderbirds won the Big Sky title for the first time ins school history. Onwuasor, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound former Arizona transfer, snared an FCS-best nine interceptions as Portland State went from 3-9 in 2014 to 9-3 in 2015. PSU qualified for the FCS playoffs for the second time in school history.

Kupp earned first-team All-America honors for the third straight year. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder from Yakima, Washington caught a Big Sky-record 114 balls for 1,642 yards and 19 touchdowns. For his career, he has caught 311 passes for 4,764 yards and 56 touchdowns. Last month, he announced he will return for his senior season. Kupp needs 84 catches, 486 yards and two touchdowns to break all the FCS’ all-time marks. He holds the Big Sky record in each of the three major receiving categories.

DeBord played in 52 games in his EWU career and started a school record 51, breaking the previous record of 50 set by linebacker Ronnie Hamlin (2011-14). The Eagles have now had 24 offensive linemen earn All-America accolades in the last 23 years (1993-2015) while winning 26 first team All-Big Sky Conference honors (1993-2015). In 2014, Neary joined tackle Jake Rodgers as All-America and first team All-Big Sky selections. Rodgers is now on the practice squad with the New York Giants of the National Football League after getting drafted in the seventh round (225th pick overall) by the Atlanta Falcons.

DeBord will play in the National Football League Player’s Association (NFLPA) Collegiate Bowl. The all-star game will be played on January 23 in Carson, California.

UM wide receiver Jamaal Jones runs after a catch vs. NDSU

UM wide receiver Jamaal Jones runs after a catch vs. NDSU

Jones, a former Washington transfer, caught 74 passes for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns. After a revision of official statistics, Jones was credited with 10 more yards during a win over UC Davis, giving him 3,021 yards in his career, the most in Montana history.

For the second straight season, Sankey led the Big Sky in tackles and earned first-team All-America honors. The 6-foot-2, 252-pound battering ram piled up 153 tackles, including 57 solo tackles, nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

Northern Arizona sophomore wide receiver Emmanuel Butler, Montana State senior tight end Beau Sandland, Southern Utah senior safety Miles Killebrew, Northern Arizona senior punter Ryan Hawkins, Northern Colorado sophomore punt returner Ellis Onic and North Dakota freshman all-purpose back John Santiago earned second-team All-America honors from STATS.

Butler had a breakout season his second campaign in Flagstaff. The true sophomore caught 64 passes for 1,208 yards, averaging a league-best 18.9 yards per catch. He caught 15 touchdowns.

Sandland, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound  specimen who formerly played at Miami, was a big-play threat for the league’s top scoring offense. Sandland caught 37 passes for an MSU-best 632 yards and nine touchdowns.

Killebrew, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound NFL prospect, led Southern Utah with 133 tackles. He had 75 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, seven pass breakups and a forced fumble. He is currently ranked as a top three safety in the country by several scouting outlets for next spring’s NFL Draft.

Hawkins averaged 46.3 yards per punt on 52 kicks. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder had a long punt of 71 yards, notched four touchbacks, pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 12 times and totaled 17 punts of more than 50 yards.

Onic returned two punts for touchdowns and averaged 24.5 yards on 10 returns. The 5-foot-6, 163-pound sophomore also averaged 19.7 yards on nine kick returns. Onic’s 75-yard punt return touchdown gave UNC a 21-19 lead midway through the third quarter in a 43-41loss to Eastern Washington. He also had a 71-yard return for a touchdown in UNC’s 34-10 win over Houston Baptist.

Santiago, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound true freshman, led the Big Sky in rushing with 1,459 yards. He scored 16 touchdowns and surpassed 100 yards rushing in nine games. He also broke UND’s single-season record for all-purpose yards, finishing his first collegiate season with 2,159 yards and his average of 196.3 all-purpose yards per game was third best in the FCS and tops in the Big Sky. Eight of his 100-yard games came in Big Sky play. Santiago was the only back in the country to eclipse 100 yards rushing in each of his league games. He averaged 27.7 yards per kickoff return, which was second best in the Big Sky and 12th best in the FCS.

Northern Arizona freshman quarterback Case Cookus, Cal Poly sophomore fullback Joe Protheroe, North Dakota senior offensive lineman Sean Meehan and Portland State senior long snapper Kameron Canaday earned STATS third-team All-America honors.

Meehan helped pave the way for Santiago’s record-breaking season. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound is the first UND offensive lineman at the DI level to garner All-America honors. Meehan and company helped UND’s ground attack finish 12th in the FCS with an average of 238.6 yards per game and set a DI program record with 2,625 total rushing yards.

Cookus, a 6-foot-4, 200-pounder from Thousand Oaks, California, completed 69 percent of his passes for 3,111 yards and an FCS-best 37 touchdowns. His passer efficiency rating of 184.9 led the country as he earned first-team All-Big Sky honors in his first season as a starter.

Despite being worn down early, Protheroe proved to be one of the nation’s most productive fullbacks. He rushed for 779 yards and six touchdowns on 169 carries as the dive back in Cal Poly’s triple-option attack.

After the Big Sky, Missouri Valley and CAA, the breakdown of All-Americans among conferences saw the Big South with nine, Southern and Southland with eight each, the Ohio Valley with seven, the Ivy and Patriot with six apiece. The Mid-Eastern Athletic and Northeast had five each, and the Pioneer and Southwestern Athletic three apiece.

The offensive players of the year in nine conferences and defensive players of the year in 13 conferences made the All-America team.




QB – Eli Jenkins, junior, 6-2, 205, Jacksonville State.

RB – Marshaun Coprich, senior, 5-9, 205, Illinois State; Chase Edmonds, sophomore, 5-9, 196, Fordham; Kade Harrington, junior, 5-8, 190, Lamar.

FB – Tyler Renew, junior, 5-11, 217, The Citadel.

WR – Jamaal Jones, senior, 6-1, 192, Montana; Cooper Kupp, junior, 6-2, 195, Eastern Washington; Jake Wieneke, sophomore, 6-4, 210, South Dakota State.

TE – Ben Braunecker, senior, 6-4, 240, Harvard.

OL – Clay DeBord, senior, 6-6, 305, Eastern Washington; Joe Haeg, senior, 6-6, 310, North Dakota State; Donald Jackson III, senior, 6-2, 290, Sam Houston State; Corey Levin, junior, 6-5, 305, Chattanooga; Cole Toner, senior, 6-7, 300, Harvard.

AP – Johnta’ Hebert, senior, 5-10, 195, Prairie View A&M.


DL – James Cowser, graduate, 6-4, 258, Southern Utah; Javon Hargrave, senior, 6-2, 295, South Carolina State; Tyrone Holmes, senior, 6-4, 245, Montana; Victor Ochi, senior, 6-2, 255, Stony Brook; Noah Spence, junior, 6-3, 261, Eastern Kentucky.

LB – Deon King, senior, 6-1, 220, Norfolk State; Christian Kuntz, junior, 6-1, 210, Duquesne; Darnell Sankey, senior, 6-2, 250, Sacramento State; Myke Tavarres, senior, 6-3, 230, Incarnate Word.

DB – Dee Delaney, sophomore, 6-1, 191, The Citadel; Deiondre’ Hall, senior, 6-2, 190, Northern Iowa; DeAndre Houston-Carson, senior, 6-2, 195, William & Mary; Patrick Onwuasor, senior, 6-2, 225, Portland State.


PK – Nick Dorka, sophomore, 6-0, 180, William & Mary.

P – Ben LeCompte, senior, 5-10, 196, North Dakota State.

KR – Willie Quinn, senior, 5-5, 145, Southern.

PR – Khris Gardin, sophomore, 5-7, 158, North Carolina A&T.

LS – Joshua Appel, junior, 6-2, 250, Indiana State.



QB – Jacob Huesman, senior, 6-2, 220, Chattanooga.

RB – Jacobi Green, senior, 5-9, 192, Richmond; De’Angelo Henderson, junior, 5-8, 205, Coastal Carolina.

FB – Andrew Bonnet, senior, 6-3, 250, North Dakota State.

WR – Emmanuel Butler, sophomore, 6-3, 210, Northern Arizona; Tyler Dube, graduate, 6-0, 170, Sacred Heart; Brendan Flaherty, junior, 6-2, 200, Holy Cross.

TE – Beau Sandland, senior, 6-5, 250, Montana State.

OL – Erik Austell, junior, 6-3, 285, Charleston Southern; Jonathan Burgess, senior, 6-2, 305, Liberty; Julie’n Davenport, junior, 6-7, 315, Bucknell; Casey Dunn, junior, 6-3, 285, Jacksonville State; Mitch Kirsch, junior, 6-6, 300, James Madison.

AP – John Santiago, freshman, 5-9, 170, North Dakota.


DL – Keionta Davis, junior, 6-4, 260, Chattanooga; Dino Fanti, senior, 6-1, 265, Eastern Illinois; P.J. Hall, sophomore, 6-1, 270, Sam Houston State; Karter Schult, junior, 6-2, 265, Northern Iowa; Chima Uzowihe, senior, 6-2, 250, Liberty.

LB – Andrew Ankrah, sophomore, 6-4, 234, James Madison; Kourtney Berry, junior, 6-0, 215, Alabama State; Don Cherry, senior, 6-1, 240, Villanova; Stephen Hodge, graduate, 6-2, 196, Fordham; Brett McMakin, junior, 6-4, 232, Northern Iowa.

DB – David Jones, junior, 6-1, 187, Richmond; Miles Killebrew, senior, 6-3, 230, Southern Utah; Harlan Miller, senior, 6-1, 180, SoutheasternLouisiana; Donald Payne, junior, 6-1, 215, Stetson; Wallace Scott, senior, 6-1, 211, McNeese State.


PK – John Lunsford, senior, 6-1, 180, Liberty.

P – Ryan Hawkins, senior, 5-11, 185, Northern Arizona.

KR – Lorenzo Jerome, junior, 5-11, 185, Saint Francis.

PR – Ellis Onic II, sophomore, 5-6, 163, Northern Colorado.

LS – Joseph Smith, junior, 6-3, 200, Charleston Southern.



QB – Case Cookus, freshman, 6-4, 200, Northern Arizona; Vad Lee, senior, 6-1, 225, James Madison.

RB – Tarik Cohen, junior, 5-6, 173, North Carolina A&T; Troymaine Pope, senior, 5-9, 205, Jacksonville State.

FB – Joe Protheroe, sophomore, 6-0, 230, Cal Poly.

WR – Brian Brown, junior, 6-1, 198, Richmond; Anthony Warrum, junior, 6-2, 190, Illinois State; Justin Watson, sophomore, 6-3, 210, Penn.

TE – Eric Saubert, senior, 6-4, 242, Drake.

OL – Quinton Marsh, senior, 6-3, 310, McNeese State; Garrick Mayweather, senior, 6-3, 319, Fordham; Sean Meehan, senior, 6-5, 300, North Dakota; Brandon Parker, sophomore, 6-7, 279, North Carolina A&T; Nick Ritcher, senior, 6-6, 304, Richmond.

AP – Justice Shelton-Mosley, freshman, 5-10, 170, Harvard.


DL – Mitchell Jeter, senior, 6-0, 275, The Citadel; Chris Landrum, graduate, 6-3, 260, Jacksonville State; O.J. Mau, senior, 6-2, 319, Gardner-Webb; Greg Menard, sophomore, 6-2, 239, North Dakota State; Derek Rivers, junior, 6-5, 255, Youngstown State.

LB – Aaron Brown, senior, 6-0, 220, Charleston Southern; Tyler Drake, senior, 6-2, 220, Penn; John Hugunin, 5-11, 232, Drake; Cory Magwood, senior, 6-2, 232, Furman; James Rentz, junior, 6-1, 230, Sacred Heart.

DB – James Bradberry, senior, 6-1, 213, Samford; Casey DeAndrade, junior, 5-11, 212, New Hampshire; Jermaine Hough, senior, 5-10, 185, Jacksonville State; Jevon Elmore, Central Connecticut State, junior, 5-10, 185; Clayton Ewell, senior, 6-1, 195, Bucknell.


PK – Chris Moore, senior, 6-0, 215, Northwestern State.

P – Chris Fraser, junior, 6-2, 211, Cornell.

KR – Devin Brown, junior, 5-8, 155, Coastal Carolina.

PR – Makinton Dorleant, senior, 5-11, 185, Northern Iowa.

LS – Kameron Canaday, senior, 6-4, 230, Portland State.


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 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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