BIG SKY CONFERENCE
Offensive Player of the Year: Kevin Thomson, QB, Sacramento State
Thomson completed 244 of 397 passes for 2,919 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also rushed for 532 yards and led the Hornets with 10 rushing scores in overcoming a rash of career injuries to enjoy his finest season.
Sacramento State’s gritty and talented quarterback was named the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year after fueling the Hornets to the biggest one-season turnaround at the Division I Football Championship Subdivision level.
Sac State has gone from 2-8 last season to 9-3 now, including an 8-1 showing against FCS teams and a No. 3 national ranking, also a program record, and a first-time FCS playoff berth.
Co-Defensive Players of the Year: Dante Olson, LB, Montana
Olson, who started the year as the league’s Preseason Defensive MVP, lived up to the hype in 2019, once again leading the FCS in total tackles. To get there, he posted double-digit tackles in eight of Montana’s 12 games, including a season-high 18 stops against Montana State and Idaho State and a game-high 14 against the Oregon Ducks.
Not only were his 151 tackles the best in the league and FCS, they are the second-most in all of D-I football (to date) behind California’s Evan Weaver, who currently leads the nation with 164 stops.
Combined with his junior season total of 151, Olson now has 302 tackles in 23 games as a two-year starter (an average of 13.1 per game), bringing his career total to 369 total tackles.
Co-Defensive Players of the Year: Jonah Williams, DE, Weber State
Williams is the fifth WSU player to earn a defensive player of the year honor. He has 48 tackles this season, including 9.0 for loss and 6.5 sacks, three pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble, helping anchor a run defense that is top 10 nationally.
Freshman of the Year: Nick Eaton, LB, UC Davis
Eaton becomes the first UC Davis player to win Big Sky Freshman of the Year. The recently named Jerry Rice Award finalist ranked fourth on the Aggies with 56 tackles, including team highs of 12.0 tackles for losses and 6.5 sacks. He forced five fumbles in 2019, including an intercepted pitch that sent him 78 yards for his first collegiate touchdown against Cal Poly on October 12. Eaton’s rate of 0.42 forced fumbles per game shared the FCS lead at the end of the regular season, while his 1.00 TFL per game ranked eighth in the Big Sky. Eaton won two ROOT SPORTS Defensive Player of the Week awards plus a STATS FCS National Freshman of the Week and College Sports Madness Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week nod this season.
Newcomer of the Year: Marcus Knight, RB, Montana
Knight, a sophomore from San Juan Capistrano, California, is tied for third in the FCS with 21 total touchdowns after transferring from Citrus College in January. He has 930 rushing yards and could become the first Grizzly to eclipse 1,000 since 2014, when Jordan Canada had 1,207.
Coach of the Year: Troy Taylor, Sacramento State
In his first season at the helm of the Sacramento State program, Taylor led the Hornets to a record-breaking season. Sacramento State recorded nine overall victories during the regular season and registered seven Big Sky wins to set new school marks.
The Hornets captured a share of the Big Sky championship, and will compete in the NCAA Division I Football Championship playoffs this year for the first time. Sacramento State is the No. 4 overall seed for the postseason and has a bye in the first round.
Nat L. Faybian’s NFL Draft Players Position Rankings