Football

Boise native elected the top defender in the Big Sky; Vandals picked in top half

Montana linebacker Josh Buss, a Mountain View High grad, pressures Washington quarterback Jake Browning last season in Seattle.
Montana linebacker Josh Buss, a Mountain View High grad, pressures Washington quarterback Jake Browning last season in Seattle. AP

Josh Buss already has one of the most decorated careers for a defensive player at Montana. And the 2014 Mountain View High grad added another award to his mantle Monday.

Buss was named the defensive player of the year on the 2018 Big Sky Football Preseason All-Conference Team at the league’s annual media day. Media representatives throughout the league chose the team.

“We’re really excited for Josh and the recognition this award gives our program,” Montana coach Bobby Hauck told the school’s website. “He’s been a terrific player for the Grizzlies, and we expect the same from him in his senior season.”

The 6-2, 220-pound linebacker finished his junior season as a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award given to the top FCS defensive player in the country. He was the fourth finalist for the award in Montana’s history.

Buss broke out as a sophomore and has lived in opponents’ backfields ever since. He led the Big Sky with 20 tackles for a loss as a sophomore, then added 13.5 more as a junior. He’s eighth on Montana’s all-time list in tackles for loss with 36, needing 18 more to set the school record.

He enters his senior season with 198 career tackles and 12 sacks.

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

Buss set 11 Mountain View High records as a senior en route to the state’s coaches electing him the 2013 5A All-Idaho Player of the Year. He ran for 1,986 yards and 22 touchdowns to cap his high school career before converting to linebacker after a redshirt season at Montana.

IDAHO NOT AMONG FAVORITES IN POLLS

The Vandals aren’t getting much respect in their unprecedented move down from college football’s FBS division to the FCS level.

The league’s coaches picked Idaho fourth in their preseason poll behind Eastern Washington, Weber State and Northern Arizona. And the Vandals finished fifth in the media poll behind the same three schools and Montana.

Vandals coach Paul Petrino told the Spokesman-Review the program aims to compete for a Big Sky title and playoff berth right away.

“Early on, the (polls) don’t really matter,” Petrino said. “We’re going to try and win the league, that’s our goal, and do everything we can to get into the playoffs. That’s what it’s all about and that’s what we want to make sure happens.”

Idaho returns 11 starters from a 4-8 team and had three players elected to the preseason all-conference team: junior guard Noah Johnson, senior outside linebacker Kaden Ellis and sophomore punter Cade Coffey.

But Idaho will need to replace its starting quarterback, a 1,000-yard rusher, its top two receivers and its leading tackler, Tony Lashley, who transferred to Boise State.

IDAHO STATE PROJECTED TO STRUGGLE

The Bengals finished 10th in the preseason media poll and 12th in the coaches’ poll. The Big Sky has 13 teams.

Idaho State finished 4-7 and 2-6 in the Big Sky last season.

Senior running back James Madison, a first-team all-conference pick last season, was the Bengals’ only selection on the preseason all-conference team. Each Big Sky program has at least one player on the preseason team.

MEDIA POLL

School (1st-place votes)Pts
Eastern Washington (27)651
Weber State (19)636
Northern Arizona (1)535
Montana (2)496
Idaho (3)483
Southern Utah (1)449
Sacramento State415
Montana State (1)391
UC Davis (1)331
Idaho State170
Cal Poly169
Northern Colorado166
Portland State103

COACHES’ POLL

School (1st-place votes)Pts
Eastern Washington (6)134
Weber State (3)124
Northern Arizona (3)121
Idaho (1)101
Sacramento State94
Southern Utah91
Montana82
Montana State76
UC Davis64
Cal Poly40
Northern Colorado30
Idaho State29
Portland State21
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