Tartt, Underwood join Buck Buchanan Award Watch List

One usually thinks offense when talking about playmakers, but Samford safety Jaquiski Tartt and Illinois State defensive end Colton Underwood have defined the term from the defensive side this season.

Their continued excellence has led to Tartt and Underwood joining the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List on Wednesday in the race for the 18th annual award which honors the outstanding defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.

This season's winner will join a list of Buchanan Award greats such as Dexter Coakley, Jared Allen, Rashean Mathis, Kroy Biermann and the 2011 recipient, New Hampshire linebacker Matt Evans, who is a nominee trying to win for the second season in a row.

Tartt, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound redshirt sophomore, not only has been in on a team-high 73 tackles in Samford's first eight games, but he has intercepted four passes and recovered two fumbles, with 212 return yards, including a pair of long touchdowns. He also has eight pass breakups and ranks fourth in the FCS in passes defended with 12. Earlier this month, Tartt's breakout season helped his Southern Conference squad achieve its first national ranking since 1993.

Underwood, a 6-4, 255-pound junior, was an emerging pass rusher for Illinois State as a sophomore last season, but he's become one of the top defenders in the Missouri Valley Football Conference this year. The second-year starter has led the conference in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (15.5) through the Redbirds' 6-2 start. He also ranks second in the FCS in tackles for loss. Overall, the quick, strong big man has 72 tackles and seven quarterback hurries.

Other nominees on the Watch List are nose tackle Brent Russell of Georgia Southern; defensive ends Joseph LeBeau of Jackson State and Ben Obaseki of Indiana State; linebackers Evans, Wes Dothard of Chattanooga, Jeremy Kimbrough of Appalachian State, Robert McCabe of Georgetown, Blake Peiffer of Southeast Missouri State, Keith Pough of Howard, Derek Rose of Northwestern State, Tyler Starr of South Dakota and Jordan Tripp of Montana; cornerbacks Demetrius McCray of Appalachian State, B.W. Webb of William & Mary and Marcus Williams of 2011 FCS champion North Dakota State; and safeties Kejuan Riley of Alabama State, Cooper Taylor of Richmond and Darnell Taylor of Sam Houston State.

Bios of all 20 players can be found on the FCS Awards page at http://tinyurl.com/yhv6oh8.

The Buchanan Award will be voted on by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season on Nov. 19.

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.

All four awards will be presented on Dec. 17 at the FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation in Philadelphia.