Three dominating linebackers – Montana State’s Troy Andersen, Florida A&M’s Isaiah Land and Montana’s Patrick O’Connell – were invited on Wednesday to the Jan. 7 announcement of the 2021 Stats Perform Buck Buchanan Award, presented to the national defensive player of the year in Division I FCS.

The Buchanan Award, in its 27th season, is named for legendary Hall of Fame defensive lineman Junious “Buck” Buchanan, with past recipients including Dexter Coakley, Rashean Mathis and Jared Allen.

The 2021 winner, selected by a 50-member, national media panel after the regular season, will be announced at the FCS National Awards Banquet in Frisco, Texas, with a broadcast of the festivities to begin airing the next day, Jan. 8, on Bally Sports Regional Networks.

Each of the three top vote-getters helped his team go 9-2 in the regular season and qualify for the FCS playoffs. Montana and Montana State remain alive in the national quarterfinals this week.

Andersen, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound senior from Dillon, Montana, was named the Big Sky Conference defensive player of the year. During the regular season, he racked up 111 tackles, including 57 solos, with 9.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He also had two interceptions (one a touchdown return), seven pass breakups, one quarterback hurry and one fumble recovery.

Land, a 6-4, 215-pound redshirt junior from Buffalo, New York, had 43 tackles, including 32 solos, and produced 25.5 tackles for 147 yards in losses and 19 sacks for 121 yards in losses – all FCS-leading totals. The Southwestern Athletic Conference defensive player of the year had five QB hurries, two pass breakups, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

O’Connell, a 6-2, 225-pound redshirt junior from Kalispell, Montana, earned first-team All-Big Sky honors after totaling 91 tackles, including 40 solos, with a conference-high 13 sacks as well as 19.5 tackles for 121 yards in losses. He had five QB hurries, three forced fumbles and one fumble return for a touchdown.

Also at the national banquet, Stats Perform will present the Walter Payton Award (FCS offensive player of the year), Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman player of the year), Eddie Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) and Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

2021 Buck Buchanan Award Voting Results

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.

1. TBA

2. TBA

3. TBA

4. Justin Ford, CB, Montana: 3-7-4-9-4-77

5. James Houston, DE, Jackson State: 4-6-2-1-5-57

6. Darius Joiner, S, Western Illinois: 1-4-5-5-5-51

7. Isaiah Chambers, DE, McNeese: 1-4-5-4-1-45

8. Forrest Rhyne, LB, Villanova: 2-3-1-3-0-31

9. Nate Lynn, DE, William & Mary: 0-4-1-3-4-29

10. Jacob Dobbs, LB, Holy Cross: 0-1-3-3-5-24

11.(tie) Kelechi Anyalebechi, LB, UIW: 0-4-3-0-2-23

11.(tie) Adam Bock, LB, South Dakota State: 1-1-1-4-3-23

13. Stone Snyder, LB, VMI: 1-0-3-1-6-22

14. Devonnsha Maxwell, DE, Chattanooga: 0-1-2-3-2-18

15. Jahari Kay, DE, Sam Houston: 0-0-3-2-1-14

16. Matthew Jackson, LB, Eastern Kentucky: 0-0-1-3-0-9

17. Markquese Bell, S, Florida A&M: 0-0-2-0-0-6

18. Decobie Durant, CB, South Carolina State: 0-1-0-0-0-4

19. Jalen Mackie, LB, Dartmouth: 0-0-0-0-3-3

20. Vaughn Taylor Jr., DE, Morehead State: 0-0-0-1-0-2

21. Titus Leo, LB, Wagner: 0-0-0-0-1-1

22.(tie) Brevin Allen, DE, Campbell: 0-0-0-0-0-0

22.(tie) Shaundre Mims, DL, Charleston Southern: 0-0-0-0-0-0

22.(tie) Koby Perry, S, Austin Peay: 0-0-0-0-0-0

22.(tie) Jeremiah Tyler, LB, Princeton: 0-0-0-0-0-0

Graphic by Matt Sisneros.