A team concept rules on the best defense in the FCS, but, make no mistake, the stars come out for North Dakota State, the two-time defending national champion.
The Bison feature two of the 20 nominees on the 2013 Buck Buchanan Award Watch List which was announced Thursday, senior cornerback Marcus Williams and senior linebacker Grant Olson.
Williams is one of seven returning finalists for the 19th annual award, which is presented by The Sports Network to the outstanding defensive player in the FCS following the regular season.
Also returning to the Watch List are linebackers Wes Dothard of Chattanooga, Stephon Robertson of James Madison, Tyler Starr of South Dakota and Jordan Tripp of Montana; Illinois State defensive end Colton Underwood; and Samford safety Jaquiski Tartt. Dothard was a 2011 finalist as well.
In addition to Olson, the newcomers to the Watch List are linebackers Dorian Bell of Duquesne, Clarence Bumpas of Northern Colorado, Ronnie Hamlin of Eastern Washington and Alvin Scioneaux of Wofford; defensive linemen Antoine Lewis of Villanova, Caraun Reid of Princeton, Robert Simpson of Mississippi Valley State and Davis Tull of Chattanooga; cornerbacks Qua Cox of Jackson State and Steven Godbolt of Tennessee State; and safeties Jestin Love of Central Arkansas and Caleb Schaffitzel of Missouri State.
Williams and Olson play on a North Dakota State defense that ranked No. 1 in scoring defense and total defense last season while the Bison captured their second straight national championship. Williams' 18 career interceptions lead all active players in the FCS. Olson had 148 tackles as a junior - the highest total for the program since 1985 - which included a school-record 29 in a playoff win.
Underwood, who had 95 tackles with 19.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks as Illinois State reached the FCS quarterfinals last season, finished sixth in the 2012 voting - highest among the returnees. Tartt finished seventh, Robertson eighth, Williams ninth, Tripp 10th, Dothard 11th and Starr 20th.
The Buchanan Award Watch List can undergo revision during the 2013 season. Ballots will be sent to a panel of about 175 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season. The winner will be invited to The Sports Network FCS Awards Presentation on Dec. 16.
Past Buchanan Award recipients include two-time winner Dexter Coakley, Jared Allen, Rashean Mathis, Kroy Biermann and Montana State defensive end Caleb Schreibeis last season.
The Sports Network also presents the Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson awards. The Payton Award honors the outstanding player in the FCS, the Rice Award goes to the FCS freshman of the year and the Robinson Award honors the FCS coach of the year.
The FCS Awards package can be found at http://tinyurl.com/yhv6oh8.