Montana’s Buss named Big Sky Preseason Defensive Player of the Year

After becoming only the fourth player in Montana history to be named a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award as a junior, Josh Buss has been named the Big Sky Conference preseason Defensive Player of the Year heading into his senior campaign the league announced at its annual kickoff event in Spokane.

“We’re really excited for Josh and the recognition this award gives our program,” said Montana head coach Bobby Hauck.

“He’s been a terrific player for the Grizzlies, and we expect the same from him in his senior season.”

Buss, a 6-2, 220-pound linebacker from Boise, Idaho, has been one of the most decorated players in Grizzly history during his first two seasons as a starter.

“I’m really honored and thankful to get this recognition, but it’s something that could never happen without my teammates,” said Buss.

“I think it’s more a reflection of what the whole team has been able to achieve, and I’m just proud to be a part of it.”

The two-time Steve Carlson defensive team MVP burst onto the scene as a sophomore, leading the Big Sky with 20 tackles-for-loss and posting more total tackles than any other Grizzly that season (81). He earned the ROOT Sports Player of the Week award that year with a (then) career-high 10 tackles and 4.5 TFLs against Sacramento State.

Following the breakout year, he earned third-team All-Big Sky honors and was named to the Hero Sports first-team sophomore All-America squad.

As a junior, Buss was a finalist for the Buchanan Award, given annually to the national defensive player of the year. He set a pair of career-high marks with 14 tackles against North Dakota and 17 against Eastern Washington. He finished the year ranked fifth in the Big Sky in tackles with 94, and sixth in TFLs, all while being marked by offensive blockers as one of UM’s biggest threats.

Following the season he was named second-team All-Big Sky and was named to two different All-America teams.

With one season to play, Buss has amassed 198 career tackles, and currently sits at No. 8 on UM’s all-time TFL leader list with 36. He would need 18 more to surpass Zack Wagenmann as the Grizzlies’ all-time leader in tackles-for-loss.

The 2018 preseason team has at least one representative from every league school. Leading the way with five honorees each are the reigning co-champions, Southern Utah and Weber State. Tied with three players are Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona, and Sacramento State. The five teams mentioned above placed in the top five of the league standings in 2017. Nineteen seniors take up more than half of the spots on the preseason all-conference team. Eight juniors and four sophomores complete the team.

2018 Preseason All-Big Sky Honorees

Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, Keelan Doss, WR, UC Davis
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, Josh Buss, LB, Montana

Offense
Quarterback – Gage Gubrud, Sr., Eastern Washington
Running Back – James Madison, Sr., Idaho State
Running Back – Antoine Custer, Jr., Eastern Washington
Wide Receiver – Keelan Doss, Sr., UC Davis
Wide Receiver – Emmanuel Butler, Sr., Northern Arizona
Wide Receiver – Andre Lindsey, Sr., Sacramento State
Wider Receiver – Alex Wesley, Sr., Northern Colorado
Fullback – Joe Protheroe, Sr., Cal Poly
Tight End – Charlie Taumoepeau, Jr., Portland State
Tight End – Wes Preece, Jr., UC Davis
Offensive Tackle – Iosua Opeta, Sr., Weber State
Offensive Tackle – Marquez Tucker, Sr., Southern Utah
Offensive Guard – Noah Johnson, Jr., Idaho
Offensive Guard – PJ Nu’usa, Jr., Southern Utah
Center- Zach Larsen, Jr., Southern Utah
Placekicker – Trey Tuttle, So., Weber State
Return Specialist – Rashid Shaheed, So., Weber State

Defense
Defensive End – George Obinna, Sr., Sacramento State
Defensive End – Jonah Williams Jr., Weber State
Defensive Tackle – Jay-Tee Tiuli, Sr., Eastern Washington
Defensive Tackle – Tucker Yates, Sr., Montana State
Outside Linebacker – Josh Buss, Sr., Montana
Outside Linebacker – Kaden Ellis, Sr., Idaho
Inside Linebacker – LeGrand Toia, Sr., Weber State
Inside Linebacker – Chinedu Ahanonu, Sr., Southern Utah
Cornerback – Khalil Dorsey, Jr., Northern Arizona
Cornerback – Jalen Russell, So., Southern Utah
Safety – Wes Sutton, Sr., Northern Arizona
Safety – Mister Harriel, Sr., Sacramento State
Punter – Cade Coffey, So., Idaho
Special Teams – Brady May, Sr., Weber State

Preseason All-Conference Team breakdown
Weber State 6
Southern Utah 5
Eastern Washington 3
Idaho 3
Northern Arizona 3
Sacramento State 3
UC Davis 2*
Cal Poly 1
Idaho State 1
Montana 1*
Montana State 1
Northern Colorado 1
Portland State 1
* Player of the Year selection

More on Buss

2018: Montana’s leading returning tackler from 2018 with a career total of 198 tackles, 36 tackles-for-loss and 12 sacks … He now ranks among Montana’s top-10 in career TFLs and top-30 in career sacks

2017: Buck Buchanan Award Finalist … 2 x Steve Carlson Defensive MVP … College Sports Madness third-team All-American … Phil Steele FCS third-team All-American … Second-team All-Big Sky Conference … Buss once again ranked among the top defensive performers in the Big Sky Conference, ranked No. 5 in tackles (94), No. 9 in Sacks (5.5), and No. 6 in TFLs (13.5) … He had a career-high 17 tackles against Eastern Washington on 9/23 … Posted a career second-best with 14 tackles against North Dakota on 10/14 … Posted his career-high 2 sacks twice in 2017, picking up a pair against Savannah State and at Weber State … Returned one of two interceptions on the year 21 yards against Savannah State … Montana’s second-leading tackler with 94 on the year … Had 4 TFLs on just 9 tackles at Weber State … Broke-up a pass in five different games … Started all 11 games for the Griz … Ranked in the top-100 nationally in three different categories (tackles, sacks, TFLs).

2016: Named 2016 Steve Carlson Defensive MVP … Named to the HERO SPORTS FCS Sophomore Defensive All-America First Team … Named 3rd Team All-Big Sky at OLB … Named the ROOT Sports Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week after posting a (then) career-high 10 total tackles, another career-high 4.5 tackles-for-loss and a sack against Sacramento State on 10/5/16 … Buss led the Big Sky with 20 tackles-for-loss for 96 yards… Those 20 TFLs ties him at No. 10 in all of FCS football, the only sophomore in the national top-10… Led Montana in tackling as a sophomore … Recorded 81 tackles, 43 of which were solo … Second on the team with 5.5 sacks … Led the team with seven QB hits … Forced a fumble against UNI on Sep. 10 … Recorded at least four tackles in all 11 games … Season-high 11 tackles and a sack in final game of the season against Montana State … Registered a QB hit in the first five games … Recorded a tackle for loss in nine of Montana’s 11 games.

2015: Saw action in 12 games for the Griz … Posted 18 tackles (seven solo) and a single tackle for loss, resulting in a loss of seven yards.

2014: Buss was a redshirt.

HIGH SCHOOL: He rushed for a 5A Southern Idaho Conference-best 1,986 yards and 22 touchdowns his senior year … Senior team was 7-3 and reached the state quarterfinals … Earned three letters in football, four in lacrosse, and one in wrestling … All-Idaho “Player of the Year” as a senior … First team all-state running back as a junior and senior … Freshman and junior lacrosse teams won state titles, and he was tabbed an All-American in that sport as a junior and senior … Team MVP and captain in football as a senior and junior; and outstanding wide receiver as a sophomore … Career stats: 2,918 rushing yards for 32 touchdowns, and 88 catches for 1,289 yards and 13 TDs, breaking 11 school records … Also earned a letter in wrestling … Team captain in football for head coach Judd Benedick.

PERSONAL: Buss is majoring in economics. His parents are Kristi McCurry and Joe Buss of Meridian.