PHILADELPHIA — The University of Montana’s Zack Wagenmann is one of 20 players who has been named to the 2014 Buck Buchanan Award (Football Championship Subdivision’s defensive player of the year) Watch List, The Sports Network announced today.
Last season Wagenmann was ranked among the Big Sky Conference’s leaders in sacks (third, with 8.5) and tackles for loss (tied for third with 16.5). He was ranked 27th in the FCS in tackles for loss, averaging 1.3 per game. He was fifth on the team with 64 tackles. He was a first team all-league selection for the second straight season.
“It’s a awesome,” said Wagenmann. “It’s an incredibly prestigious award, so to be even nominated for it in the preseason is an immense honor, and I just feel thankful that I was recognized for it. I am also very thankful to my teammates and coaches for getting me in the position for something like this.
“We are still trying to wrap up our summer stuff (workouts), so we’re trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves,” Wagenmann said when asked about his personal and team goals going into the 2014 season. “We have another few weeks of our summer conditioning and then we’ll start fall camp. The immediate thing is to get ready for that Wyoming game (UM season opener on August 30) and try to start the season off right by getting a ‘W’ in Laramie.”
Wagenmann, a 6-foot-3 ½, 255-pound senior defensive end from Missoula, is currently ranked eighth in career sacks at UM with 20, and he’s tied for ninth in career tackles for loss with 29.5.
He will be starting for the third season in a row this year and has played in 38 straight games. He is Montana’s second leading returning tackler.
“Wags” was chosen by his teammates to serve as a co-captain on defense this season, sharing that honor with senior nose tackle Tonga Takai. In 2013, for the second season in a row, Wagenmann was named UM’s Larry Miller Award winner following his junior year, which is given annually to the team’s outstanding defensive lineman.
Two-time defending Big Sky champion Eastern Washington features a returning finalist in senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, who finished 12th a year ago. Five of the Big Sky winners have been defensive ends, and this year the conference has two nominees at the position in Southern Utah junior James Cowser and Wagenmann.
Five other nominees were finalists last season: Coastal Carolina linebacker Quinn Backus, who was seventh; Norfolk State linebacker Lynden Trail, eighth; Chattanooga defensive end Davis Tull, 13th; Missouri State safety Caleb Schaffitzel, 15th; and Harvard defensive end Zach Hodges, 16th. Each is a senior this season.
Also nominated to the Watch List were defensive tackles O.J. Mau of Gardner-Webb and Troy Moore of Sacred Heart, defensive ends Mike Reilly of William & Mary and Jonathan Woodard of Central Arkansas, linebackers Tony Bell of UT Martin and Stephen Hodge of Fordham, cornerbacks Harlan Miller of Southeastern Louisiana and Tye Smith of Towson, and safeties Daniel Fitzpatrick of Tennessee State, Jacob Hagen of Liberty, Colten Heagle of three-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State and Jaquiski Tartt of Samford. Each is a senior except Mau, Miller and Woodard, who are juniors.
The list includes six defensive ends, five linebackers, five safeties, two defensive tackles and two cornerbacks. The Big South Conference, like the Big Sky, has the most nominees with three (Backus, Hagen and Mau).
Wags add 1-1-1
Among the returnees, Backus plays bigger than his 5-foot-10, 215-pound size, having already captured Big South defensive player of the year honors after both his sophomore (2012) and junior (2013) seasons.
A year ago, Trail, 6-7, 260, had 12.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, eight pass breakups, 10 quarterback hurries and five forced fumbles. Hamlin is ranked third in EWU history with 361 tackles. Last season Tull became the first player to repeat as Southern Conference defensive player of the year since Coakley won three straight from 1994-96. Schaffitzel racked up 110 tackles last season. Hodges has 18.5 career sacks.
The Buck Buchanan Award Watch List can undergo revision during the 2014 season. Ballots will be sent to a national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season.
The Buchanan will celebrate its 20th anniversary this season and be presented by The Sports Network at the FCS national awards banquet on Dec. 15. Past recipients include two-time winner Dexter Coakley, Jared Allen (the first Big Sky winner in 2003), Rashean Mathis, Kroy Biermann and Montana State’s back- to-back winners Caleb Schreibeis in 2012 and Brad Daly last season.
Montana’s only recipient of the Buchanan Award winner is Biermann, a defensive end from Hardin, who won it in 2007. The Griz have had two runner-ups for the award: end Andy Petek from Helena in 2000, and safety Vince Huntsberger from Libby in 2001.
The Sports Network also presents the Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson awards. The Payton Award honors the outstanding offensive player in the FCS, the Rice Award goes to the FCS freshman of the year and the Robinson Award is bestowed upon the FCS coach of the year.
Earlier this week Griz senior quarterback Jordan Johnson was named to the 2014 Payton Award Watch List.
— Montana Sports Information