Cats, Griz land on Preseason All-Big Sky team. - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Cats, Griz land on Preseason All-Big Sky team.

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Eastern Washington receiver Cooper Kupp and Montana defensive end Caleb Kidder lead the 2016 Big Sky Conference Preseason All-Conference Football Team.

Kupp, who is the reigning FCS Offensive Player of the Year, was selected as the Big Sky’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. Kidder was selected as the Big Sky Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, after registering 82 tackles and 3.5 sacks for the Griz in 2015.

Eastern Washington’s Kupp was a consensus All-American in 2015, earning the Big Sky’s Offensive Player of the Year award. Kupp caught 114 passes for 1,642 yards, and 19 touchdowns. The incoming senior also earned the FCS ADA Offensive Player of the Year award. 

Defending Big Sky champion Southern Utah led all teams by placing five players on the list, including linebacker Mike Needham, wide receiver Mike Sharp and punter Tate Lewis. Also representing the Thunderbirds were tight end Steven Wroblewski and defensive tackle Chance Bearnson.

Northern Arizona and Weber State each had four selections on the team led by the reigning FCS Freshman of the Year, NAU quarterback Case Cookus. Cookus, who was the Big Sky Co-Freshman of the Year in 2015, is joined by wide receiver Emmanuel Butler, center Blake Porter and offensive tackle Jacob Julian.

Two Wildcats offensive linemen, and a pair of defensive standouts, made the list for Weber State, including guard Cameron Young, tackle Calvin Steyn, inside linebacker Emmett Tela and cornerback Taron Johnson. 

North Dakota running back John Santiago was one of three unanimous selections on the team, along with Kupp and Cal Poly fullback Joe Protheroe.

A summer after providing one of college football’s feel-good seasons, the Portland State Vikings had three players earn preseason nods, including cornerback Xavier Coleman, defensive end Davond Dade and placekicker Jonathan Gonzales. All three were all-conference selections at the end of the 2015 season.

Northern Colorado’s special teams duo of Hakeem Deggs and Ellis Onic II were selected as the preseason special teams player, and return specialist, respectively. Both earned first-team All-Big Sky honors in 2015.

The Bears also placed defensive tackle Chuntony Johnson on the list, a season after Johnson made 50 tackles.

Besides Kidder, Montana placed safety Yamen Sanders on the preseason list. North Dakota’s second mention came via safety Cole Reyes. 

Montana State placed three players on the team, with running back Chad Newell, guard J.P. Flynn and outside linebacker Mac Bignell all being selected. Newell and Flynn earned All-Big Sky honors after the 2015 season. 

Sacramento State’s Manoah Pearson was named as an inside linebacker preseason selection, after making 77 tackles in 2015.

The 54th season of Big Sky Conference football kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 1, with four games. Conference play begins the weekend of Sept. 24.

Courtesy: Big Sky Conference

2016 Big Sky Preseason All-Conference Football Team
Special Awards
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Caleb Kidder, Montana
Position Player
Quarterback Case Cookus, Northern Arizona
Running Back John Santiago, North Dakota (Unanimous)
Running Back Chad Newell, Montana State
Fullback Joe Protheroe, Cal Poly (Unanimous)
Tight End Steven Wroblewski, Southern Utah
Offensive Guard Cameron Young, Weber State
Offensive Guard J.P. Flynn, Montana State
Center Blake Porter, Northern Arizona
Offensive Tackle Jacob Julian, Northern Arizona
Offensive Tackle Calvin Steyn, Weber State
Wide Receiver Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington (Unanimous)
Wide Receiver Mike Sharp, Southern Utah
Wide Receiver Emmanuel Butler, Northern Arizona
Placekicker Jonathan Gonzales, Portland State
Return Specialist Ellis Onic II, Northern Colorado
Defensive End Caleb Kidder, Montana
Defensive End Davond Dade, Portland State
Defensive Tackle Chance Bearnson, Southern Utah
Defensive Tackle Chuntony Johnson, Northern Colorado
Outside Linebacker Mike Needham, Southern Utah
Outside Linebacker Mac Bignell, Montana State
Inside Linebacker Emmett Tela, Weber State
Inside Linebacker Manoah Pearson, Sacramento State
Cornerback Xavier Coleman, Portland State
Cornerback Taron Johnson, Weber State
Safety Cole Reyes, North Dakota
Safety Yamen Sanders, Montana
Punter Tate Lewis, Southern Utah
Special Teams Player Hakeem Deggs, Northern Colorado
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