UC Davis’ Doss, Montana’s Buss earn preseason Big Sky MVP honors


SPOKANE, Washington — Keelan Doss had a chance to be the latest prolific pass catcher to jump from the Big Sky Conference. Instead, the UC Davis star senior wide receiver chose to return to wreak havoc on the league.

Monday, the Big Sky announced its preseason All-Big Sky team. As expected, Doss, the 2017 Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year and the third-place finisher in the Walter Payton Award voting, earned Big Sky preseason Offensive Player of the Year honors.

“I talked to people I trust the most and myself, I felt like one more year was best for me,” Doss said during an interview at the Big Sky Kickoff in Spokane on Monday. “I decided to get my degree, so I’m finishing that up in the fall as well. I knew coming back for another season would risk injury but I can play my cards. Production-wise, I know I can do better because there were a lot of opportunities I left on the field.”

Last season, Doss led all of college football by averaging 136.3 receiving yards per game. He caught 115 passes for 1,499 yards during Davis’ 5-6 campaign.

“Everybody sees the physical things, which there are many but I see the intangibles, how humble he is, how smart he is, how hard he works, what a good leader he is, what a good teammate he is, how tough he is,” UC Davis second-year head coach Dan Hawkins said. “That manifests itself in his physical abilities. He’s a big, strong, fast guy. You’ve seen him walking around here. He’s an NFL-looking dude. He’s legit. But he’s also a legit person. That to me is the biggest pleasure of having him.”

UC Davis wide receiver Keelan Doss/ Wayne Tilcock,

Despite missing spring football because of off-season shoulder surgery, Montana senior outside linebacker Josh Buss is the Big Sky preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

The fifth-year senior from Boise, Idaho led the Griz with 94 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks last season. He was a second-team All-Big Sky and third-team All-American selection last 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,” Montana head coach Bobby Hauck revealed. “We will see how that goes. Hopefully, things come around for him but he has some health problems.

Weber State, the defending league co-champion along with in-state rival Southern Utah, led the way with six preseason all-league selections, including three — sophomore kicker Trey Tuttle, sophomore return specialist Rashid Shaheed and senior special teams ace Brady May — on special teams. Senior offensive tackle Iosua Opeta, senior inside linebacker LeGrand Toia and junior defensive end Jonah Williams landed on the squad.

SUU placed five players on the team, including three — senior tackle Marquez Tucker, junior center Zach Larsen, junior guard P.J. Nu’usu — on the offensive line.

Eastern Washington, the preseason league favorite, Northern Arizona, a 2017 playoff team and Sac State, a 7-win squad last fall, each placed three players on the squad. Idaho, who returns to the league for the first time since 1996, also put three players on the team.

EWU senior Gage Gubrud got the nod in a talented quarterback field that also included All-American returnees Case Cookus of NAU and Jake Maier of UC Davis. EWU defensive tackle Jay-Tee Tiuli, a 2016 first-team All-Big Sky selection before missing last season with an injury, and senior running back Antoine Custer Jr. also earned recognition for the Eagles.

NAU wide receiver Emmanuel Butler (8)/by Brooks Nuanez

NAU landed wide receiver Emmanuel Butler, cornerback Khalil Dorsey and safety Wes Sutton on the list, while Sac State wide receiver Andre Lindsey, defensive end George Obinna and safety Mister Harriel earned recognition. Idaho guard Noah Johnson, outside linebacker Kaden Ellis and punter Cade Coffey all found spots despite Idaho being the new team in the league.

Doss was joined on the team by tight end Wesley Preece as the representatives from UC Davis. Buss was Montana’s lone representative on the team while Montana State senior defensive tackle Tucker Yates was the lone Bobcat on the squad.

Preseason All-Big Sky team

Big Sky Preseason Offensive Player of the Year — Keelan Doss, wide receiver, UC Davis

Big Sky Preseason Defensive Player of the Year — Josh Buss, outside linebacker, Montana

Quarterback — Gage Gubrud, Eastern Washington

Running Back — James Madison, Idaho State

Running Back — Antoine Custer Jr., Eastern Washington

Wide receiver — Keelan Doss, UC Davis

Wide receiver — Emmanuel Butler, Northern Arizona

Wide receiver — Andre Lindsey, Sacramento State

Wide receiver — Alex Wesley, Northern Colorado

Tight end — Wesley Preece, UC Davis

Tight End — Charlie Taumoepeau, Portland State

Offensive tackle — Iosua Opeta, Weber State

Offensive tackle — Marquez Tucker, Southern Utah

Offensive guard — P.J. Nu’usu, Southern Utah

Offensive guard — Noah Johnson, Idaho

Center — Zach Larsen, Southern Utah

Placekicker — Trey Tuttle, Weber State

Return specialist — Rashid Shaheed, Weber State

Montana State junior defensive tackle Tucker Yates/ by Brooks Nuanez


End — George Obinna, Sacramento State

End — Jonah Williams, Weber State

Tackle — Tucker Yates, Montana State

Tackle — Jay-Tee Tiuli, Eastern Washington

Outside linebacker — Josh Buss, Montana

Outside linebacker — Kaden Ellis, Idaho

Middle linebacker — LeGrand Toia, Weber State

Middle linebacker — Chinedu Ahononu, Southern Utah

Cornerback — Khalil Dorsey, Northern Arizona

Cornerback — Jalen Russell, Southern Utah

Safety — Wes Sutton, Northern Arizona

Safety — Mister Harriel, Sacramento State

Punter — Cade Coffey, So., Idaho

Special Teams — Brady May, Weber State

Photos by 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 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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