Jul 9, 2012 5:24 PM by Scott Breen - Q2 Sports
BOZEMAN - Three Bobcats and on player from the University of Montana cracked The Sports Network's 2012 Preseason FCS All-America team, announced by the organization on Monday.
A pair of returning All-America and unanimous All-Big Sky choices headline MSU's entries. Defensive end Zach Minter earned First Team Preseason All-America honors, while linebacker Jody Owens was named to the second team. Both are seniors. Junior quarterback DeNarius McGhee, a returning second team all-conference selection who was named the league's top offensive player in 2010, lands on TSN's third team.
Minter and Owens lead a Bobcat defense featuring nine returning starters and at least one player who has started a game at every position. Five defensive positions line up two players with starting experience. Montana State's defensive depth chart lists eight players with some variety of all-conference credentials.
But Minter and Owens are the unquestioned leaders. Each earned second team All-America honors last fall while piling up impressive statistics. Owens led the Bobcats in tackles with 105, including 17 behind the line of scrimmage. Minter registered 10 tackles-for-loss, including 7.5 sacks. McGhee's pedigree is also well-known. While climbing MSU's career record lists during his first two seasons - he has thrown for 5,962 yards and 47 touchdowns through his sophomore campaign - he has led the Bobcats to a pair of Big Sky titles.
Minter and Owens are two of 35 returning 2011 Sports Network All-Americas, a list which includes 14 returning first team selections. Minter is among five Big Sky Conference players to land on the preseason first team, but a league newcomer makes the biggest splash.
Southern Utah, which became a full-fledged Big Sky member on July 1, lands two players on TSN's first team, and Minter and Owens are likely to come face-to-face with both when MSU visits Cedar City, UT, on Sept. 29. Brad Sorenson, a 6-5, 225 lb senior, is First Team Preseason All-America quarterback, while Gavin Farr (6-3, 300) is that unit's center. Two other Thunderbirds (DT Cody Larsen, second team, and OG Zach Brackus, third team) also earned TSN plaudits.
The University of Montana's Danny Kistler Jr. was named to the second team at offensive guard.
The 6-8, 315-pound junior from Seattle, Wash., started all 14 games at left guard last season, but was moved to right tackle this past spring.
A second team All-Big Sky Conference selection last season, Kistler is one of 14 players from the league named to The Sports Network's first, second, or third team preseason All-America unit.
"Danny started for us last year, and we look for him to be one of our leaders on the offensive line, and certainly he has the capability of doing some great things," said Griz head coach Mick Delaney. "I think that he is still at that stage in his career where he doesn't know how good he can be. He's put in the work to become a top notch football player. I think the sky is the limit for Danny."
In all, 15 Big Sky players earned mention on The Sports Network All-America teams. Southern Utah's four led the way, with Montana State just behind. Eastern Washington placed two on the team - interestingly, at the same position. Nicholas Edwards is a first team receiver, while fellow pass-catcher Brandon Kaufman lands on the third team. Portland State, Idaho State, Montana, Northern Colorado, and league newcomers UC Davis and North Dakota each boast one selection.
A handful of preseason All-Americas outside the Big Sky either are or soon will be familiar to Bobcat fans. Defending FCS runner-up Sam Houston State, the team that knocked MSU from the playoffs last December, landed five players on the preseason list, including three first team choices (safety Darnell Taylor, running back Timothy Flanders and all-purpose back Richard Sincere).
Two players from New Hampshire, which MSU defeated in a thrilling home playoff game last season, and three from Stephen F. Austin, who the Bobcats host on September 15, also earn preseason honors.
BREAKDOWN BY CONFERENCE
Colonial Athletic Association: 15 selections
Big Sky Conference: 14 selections
Southland Conference: 14 selections
Southern Conference: 13 selections