A special season deserves special players, so it is appropriate three conference players of the year were invited Tuesday to the announcement of the 25th annual STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award.
Senior defensive ends Ron'Dell Carter of James Madison and Sully Laiche of Nicholls and senior linebacker Dante Olson of Montana finished among the top three vote-getters from 26 finalists who have been in the running for the Buchanan Award, which honors the outstanding defensive player in college football's Division I subdivision.
The Buchanan, named for the Pro and College Football Hall-of-Famer and presented since 1995, will be handed out at the STATS FCS Awards Banquet on Jan. 10 in Frisco, Texas - on the eve of the national championship game. Past winners include Dexter Coakley, Rashean Mathis, Jared Allen and Arthur Moats.
Carter, the CAA Football defensive player of the year, has lived in opposing backfields, totaling 24 tackles for loss - tied for the second-most in the FCS - and 10½ sacks among his 56 tackles in 13 games. He also has 11 quarterback hurries for the No. 2-ranked Dukes, the CAA champions.
Laiche, the first defensive player since 2007 to be named the Southland's overall player of the year, helped Nicholls to a second straight conference title. After missing the first two games following offseason surgery, Laiche had 63 tackles, 22½ tackles for loss, 12 sacks and four forced fumbles in 12 games.
Olson, the co-Big Sky defensive player of the year, leads the FCS with a school-record 165 tackles and has 11 tackles for loss, 3½ sacks, two takeaways and two forced fumbles in 13 games. As a junior, he led the FCS in tackles per game and finished third in the 2018 Buchanan Award voting.
A national panel of 156 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries voted on the Buchanan Award following the regular season. Voters selected a Top 5 on their ballot.
The 2019 Buck Buchanan Award results for fourth through 26th place were as follows:
4. Zach Hall, LB, Southeast Missouri: 11-15-12-13-16-193
5. Derrek Tuszka, DE, North Dakota State: 7-16-14-11-5-168
6. Kordell Jackson, S, Austin Peay: 4-13-12-13-10-144
7. John Daka, DE, James Madison: 11-7-7-9-9-131
8. Brandon Easterling, S, Dayton: 10-8-3-3-10-107
9. Elerson Smith, DE, Northern Iowa: 3-3-13-9-8-92
10. Eli Mencer, LB, UAlbany: 3-4-4-8-10-69
11. Christian Rozeboom, LB, South Dakota State: 2-6-4-9-4-68
12. Anthony Adams, DB, Portland State: 3-4-7-2-5-61
13. Bryson Armstrong, LB, Kennesaw State: 3-1-5-9-3-55
14.(tie) Da'Jon Lee, LB, Saint Francis: 0-3-6-8-7-53
14.(tie) Bryce Sterk, DE, Montana State: 2-5-4-4-3-53
16. Greg Liggs Jr., CB, Elon: 1-3-3-8-5-47
17. Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois: 2-2-2-7-6-44
18. Cam Gill, LB, Wagner: 2-4-1-1-5-36
19. Willie Eubanks Jr., LB, The Citadel: 1-3-3-0-3-29
20. Isiah Swann, CB, Dartmouth: 1-1-2-3-4-25
21.(tie) Aaron Patrick, DE, Eastern Kentucky: 2-0-1-4-2-23
21.(tie) Keith Woetzel, LB, Lehigh: 0-3-3-1-0-23
23. Rico Kennedy, LB Morgan State: 1-0-2-2-1-16
24. Nick Wheeler, DE, Colgate: 2-0-0-0-1-11
25. Artevius Smith, S, ETSU: 0-1-1-1-1-10
26. Solomon Muhammad, LB, Alcorn State: 1-0-0-0-4-9
A first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote four points, a third-place vote three points, a fourth-place vote two points and a fifth-place vote one point.