Griz linebacker Olson one of 3 finalists for Buck Buchanan Award

Dante Olson’s single-season tackle total of 151 were just 26-shy of breaking the Big Sky Conference record of 176 set by Eastern Washington’s J.C. Sherritt in 2010, who the Buchanan Award that season for his efforts. (GoGriz.com)

Record-breaking Montana linebacker Dante Olson is one of three top vote-getters for the Buck Buchanan Award, and will travel to Frisco, Texas, for the 32nd Annual STATS FCS Awards Banquet on January 4, the organization announced Tuesday.

The Grizzlies’ first-team All-Big Sky honoree finished the regular season as the nation’s top tackler with 151 total takedowns, averaging an FCS-bet 13.7 per game in his breakout junior season.

In November, he was named one of 25 finalists for the Buchanan Award, presented annually to the nation’s top defender. The other two finalists to make the trip to Frisco are Zach Hall of Southeast Missouri, the nation’s second-leading tackler behind Olson, and Sam Houston’s Derick Roberson, the nation’s leader in sacks. The award winner will be announced at the banquet in Texas on the eve of the FCS National Championship game.

Olson’s 151 total tackles shattered the Montana single-season record for stops, topping the previous record of 130 set by Kendrick Van Ackeren in 2015 by more than 20, with no playoff games to add to his total.

Olson also finished the regular season ranked second in the Big Sky in forced fumbles (three), fourth in the league in sacks (6 overall, 5.5/game), and eighth in tackles for loss (11 overall, 1/game).

The Medford, Oregon, native was named ROOT Sports Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week three times in the first five weeks of the season, and the STATS FCS National Defensive Player of the Week following the Sept. 8 game against Drake where he recorded 16 tackles, two sacks, 3.5 TFLs, a forced fumble, and a pass breakup.

He was also one tackle away from tying the UM single-game tackle record at Cal Poly, putting in 24 stops against the Mustangs, and totaled 10 tackles or more in nine of 11 games this year.

Following the season, he earned both defensive MVP and team MVP honors at the Grizzlies’ annual team awards banquet. He was also the only Grizzly to earn first-team all-conference honors.

“I had an incredible time playing football this season. It was a blast playing for a group of incredible coaches with awesome teammates,” said Olson. “There is nothing like playing in Washington-Grizzly Stadium in front of the best fanbase in the nation, and I am so blessed God allowed me to be a Griz.”

Not only was Olson productive on the field this season, he carried a 3.87 GPA in the classroom as a business management major, spent free time volunteering as a mentor pen-pal with a group of underprivileged third graders in Northern California, encouraging them to pursue a college education. He is also an active member of his church.

Montana has had 11 previous finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award since 2000, including two winners: Kroy Biermann (2007) and Tyrone Holmes (2015 – then called the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year).

Olson’s single-season tackle total of 151 were just 26-shy of breaking the Big Sky Conference record of 176 set by Eastern Washington’s J.C. Sherritt in 2010, who the Buchanan Award that season for his efforts.

However, Sherritt’s remarkable total included four playoff games during the Eagles’ run to the FCS national championship. In his 11 regular-season games, Sherritt accumulated 125 total tackles (64 solo, 61 assisted), as compared to Olson’s 218 total of 151 (57 solo, 94 assisted).

A national panel of 153 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries voted on the Buck Buchanan Award following the regular season. Voters selected a Top 5 on their ballot.

The FCS National Championship game is set for Saturday, Jan. 5 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Buchanan Award Finalists (Regular Season Stats)

Dante Olson, LB, Jr. – Montana

  • Leads the nation with a school-record 151 tackles – 57 solo and 94 assisted. Ranks fourth in the league in sacks (6.0) and eighth in tackles for loss (11.0)
  • Has 3 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions for 51 yards, 5 quarterback hurries, and 3 pass breakups
  • Has registered double-digit tackles in 9 out of 11 games. His top 9 tackling performances are as follows (24, 19, 18, 16, 15, 13, 13, 11, 10)
  • Has recorded at least 1.0 tackles for loss in six games with a season-high of 3.5 in a single game
  • Led the FBS and FCS in tackles for 10 of 11 weeks, and regained the No. 1 position on week 11 with 18 tackles against Montana State. Currently ranks first in the FCS in total tackles.
  • A part of a defense that has forced 21 turnovers.

Zach Hall, LB, Jr. – Southeast Missouri

  • Second in the FCS in tackles per game (13.6) and total tackles (150).
  • Had a season-high 22 tackles against Arkansas State (second-highest output by FCS player this season); five other times this season has registered 14 or more tackles in a game.
  • Ranks seventh nationally in forced fumbles (0.4/game), 16th in interceptions (0.4/game) and 54th in tackles-for-loss (1.2/game).
  • Part of a defensive unit that ranks first nationally in turnovers gained (29), turnover margin (+2.1/game) and passes intercepted (19); Hall has an interception in each of his last three games.
  • Has led team to 7-3 record (most wins since 2010) and a playoff berth.

Derick Roberson, LB, Sr. – Sam Houston State

  • Roberson’s 15 sacks are tied for the national high. The total is four more than any other Southland player. (Played one more game than other national leader).
  • The senior has racked up 20.5 tackles for a loss – good for a tie for sixth in the FCS.
  • The linebacker has recorded five forced fumbles, tied for second-most in the country.
  • Roberson has dominated for a month and a half, with 18 of his 20.5 TFL and all 15 of his sacks coming in the last seven games.

The 2018 Buck Buchanan Award results for fourth through 25th place were as follows:

4. Jabril Cox, LB, North Dakota State: 22-13-10-9-12–222
5. Isiah Swann, CB, Dartmouth: 5-22-17-10-18–202
6. Jimmy Moreland, CB, James Madison: 13-16-11-14-10–200
7. B.J. Blunt, LB, McNeese: 12-4-15-13-17–164
8. Nick Wheeler, DE, Colgate: 9-5-11-8-12–126
9. Robbie Grimsley, S, North Dakota State: 7-8-5-10-11–113
10. Anthony Gore Jr., LB, Kennesaw State: 2-5-5-6-4–61
11. Darryl Johnson Jr., DE, North Carolina A&T: 1-4-4-6-4–49
12. Mason Moe, LB, UC Davis: 2-4-0-8-2–44
13. (Tie) Khalen Saunders, DT, Western Illinois: 1-5-3-3-2–42
13. (Tie) Sterling Sheffield, LB, Maine: 1-1-6-5-5–42
15. Troy Reeder, LB, Delaware: 1-3-3-4-2–36
16. Cam Gill, LB, Wagner: 1-1-5-3-3–33
17. Isaiah Mack, DE, Chattanooga: 2-1-1-6-3–32
18. Will Warner, S, Drake: 1-0-2-3-5–22
19. Thomas Costigan, LB, Bryant: 1-2-1-0-3–19
20. (Tie) Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware: 0-1-2-1-3–15
20. (Tie) Darin Greenfield, DE, South Dakota: 0-2-1-2-0–15
22. Ahmad Gooden, DE, Samford: 0-1-2-0-4–14
23. De’Arius Christmas, LB, Grambling State: 0-1-1-2-1–12
24. (Tie) Nick Miller, LB, Penn: 0-1-0-0-2–6
25. (Tie) Nasir Player, DL, ETSU: 0-1-0-1-0–6

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.