SPOKANE — Montana linebacker Josh Buss and UC Davis wide receiver Keelan Doss were named Preseason Players of the Year by the Big Sky Conference on Monday.
Buss, a rising senior from Boise, Idaho, has 198 career tackles and 36 tackles for loss in his three years as a Grizzly. As a junior Buss recorded 94 tackles, including 13½ tackles for a loss, and his starting streak reached 22 games.
"I'm really honored and thankful to get this recognition, but it's something that could never happen without my teammates," Buss said in a news release. "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."
Montana wide receiver Keenan Curran said he was happy for his fellow senior teammate.
"It's super cool. I think it's a culmination of the work that he's done over the years. It's about time," Curran said. "I'm glad he's getting the recognition that he deserves, but I know he's not satisfied with the preseason one. He wants that on the back end.
"We'll let him go wild this year so he can achieve his goals and hopefully put us in a good position to make a run this season."
Buss missed all of Montana's spring football slate due to injury recovery and was not one of the two players who represented the Grizzlies at the league's media days in Washington state.
"It's great. Obviously when you get a preseason award, it says you've done some really nice things on the field in the past," Montana head coach Bobby Hauck said. "Just in regard to Josh, I hope he can play. He's had some health issues. We'll see."
Doss was the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year last season after a record-setting junior year.
The Alameda, California, native finished third in voting for the Walter Payton Award last year. He led the FCS and FBS with 1,499 receiving yards, 136.3 receiving yards per game and 10½ receptions per game at the end of his season. Doss’ receptions per game set a new Big Sky single-season record.
"He's a bona fide NFL receiver," UC Davis coach Dan Hawkins said. "He could have went out last year, could have transferred but he didn't. He helps the other guys in the league, maybe looking at him as an example of sticking around and finishing your career."
Doss said he sets himself apart on the field because he sets himself up for success off of it.
"A lot of it has to do with how you prepare yourself before the season like how you work out and how you prepare yourself before the game, watching film, how you take care of your body," Doss said. "A lot of people don't focus on that aspect of the game. A lot of people don't understand how that translates to the field."
UC Davis junior quarterback and former Big Sky Newcomer of the Year Jake Maier was proud of Doss on Monday for what he's done and for what he has yet to do.
"I know the preseason award isn't the end-all be-all for him," Maier said. "I think that's what makes him more special. A lot of guys take that and run away with it and make it somewhat bigger than it actually is, but knowing him, this guy will work even harder.
"... I'm going to do the best job I can to get him to where he wants to go. I know he wants to be a pro and he's going to be a pro if he keeps working. I'm just here to help him out."
2017 Big Sky Conference co-champion Weber State paced the league with six players on the Preseason All-Conference Team. All 13 teams had at least one player make the squad.
The Wildcats were represented by offensive tackle Iosua Opeta, placekicker Trey Tuttle, defensive end Jonah Williams, linebacker LeGrand Toia, return specialist Rashid Shaheed and special teams player Brady May.
Southern Utah, last year's other co-champion of the league, had five players make the team, including offensive tackle Marquez Tucker, offensive guard PJ Nu'usa, center Zach Larsen, inside linebacker Chinedu Ahononu and cornerback Jalen Russell.
Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona, Sacramento State and Idaho all had three players make the team.
The Eagles had quarterback Gage Gubrud, running back Antoine Custer and defensive tackle Jay-Tee Tiuli make the team. The Lumberjacks were represented by wide receiver Emmanuel Butler, cornerback Khalil Dorsey and safety Wes Sutton. The Hornets had wide receiver Andre Lindsey, defensive end George Obinna and safety Mister Harriel made the new. The Vandals were represented by offensive guard Noah Johnson, outside linebacker Kaden Ellis and punter Cade Coffey.
Montana State and Montana had just one respective player on the team. Montana was represented by Buss and Montana State placed senior defensive tackle Tucker Yates make the team.