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FCS College Football: Most Dominating Defensive Players by Conference in 2019

FCS College Football: 5 Favorites for the 2019 Eddie Robinson Award - Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best - Colgate DE Nick Wheeler

FCS College Football: 5 Favorites for the 2019 Eddie Robinson Award - Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best - Colgate DE Nick Wheeler

They're the players who everybody on offense are looking for at all times.

Even then, that often isn't enough to keep the most dominating defensive players from flattening the offensive team's momentum.

In FCS college football, the best defensive players don't necessarily have to have the most size and speed, but they usually have the most relentless motor.

Here is a look at the most dominating defensive players by FCS conference:

Big Sky

Dante Olson, Montana, LB, R-Sr., 6-3, 237

Ball carriers find there's no escaping Olson, whose 13.7 tackles per game led the FCS in 2018. The Athlon FCS All-American finished third in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award.

Two More to Fear: Montana State defensive end/outside linebacker Bryce Sterk and Northern Arizona cornerback Khalil Dorsey

Big South

Bryson Armstrong, Kennesaw State, OLB, R-Jr., 5-11, 212

The first defensive player to be honored with the Jerry Rice Award (2017) has 131 solo tackles and eight takeaways in his first two seasons.

Two More to Fear: Kennesaw State defensive end Desmond Johnson and free safety Dorian Walker

CAA Football

Manny Patterson, Maine, CB, Sr., 5-10, 180

Maine's "Black Hole" defense is epitomized by Patterson on the perimeter. No active FCS player comes close to his 52 career pass breakups.

Two More to Fear: James Madison cornerback Rashad Robinson and Maine defensive end Kayon Whitaker

Ivy League

Isiah Swann, Dartmouth, CB, Sr., 6-0, 190

After leading the FCS with nine interceptions as a junior, the Ivy League defensive player of the year is No. 1 among active players with 13 picks in his career.

Two More to Fear: Columbia defensive end Daniel DeLorenzi and Princeton cornerback T.J. Floyd


Mac McCain, North Carolina A&T, CB, R-Jr., 5-11, 173

McCain will be trying to return from a torn ACL suffered in late October. He has four pick-sixes among eight career interceptions for a breathtaking 374 return yards.

Two More to Fear: Delaware State linebacker Brian Cavicante and Bethune-Cookman defensive end Marques Ford

Missouri Valley

Jabril Cox, North Dakota State, OLB, R-Jr., 6-3, 233

The first sophomore since 2002 to be named Missouri Valley Football Conference defensive player of the year, Cox drips with athleticism for the two-time defending FCS champion Bison.

Two More to Fear: South Dakota defensive end Darin Greenfield and South Dakota State middle linebacker Christian Rozeboom


Cam Gill, Wagner, OLB, Sr., 6-2, 230

Basically unblockable in the Northeast Conference, Gill totaled 24.5 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hurries as a junior.

Two More to Fear: Saint Francis linebacker Da'Jon Lee and Bryant defensive end Tomas Wright

Ohio Valley

Zach Hall, Southeast Missouri, LB, Sr., 6-0, 230

The 22 tackles against Arkansas State suggested Hall would go on to lead the FCS in tackles (168) last season, when he received the Buck Buchanan Award. He also had six takeaways.

Two More to Fear: Jacksonville State free safety Marlon Bridges and Eastern Kentucky defensive end Aaron Patrick

Patriot League

Nick Wheeler, Colgate, DE, Sr., 6-2, 255

Colgate led the FCS in defense in 2018 with Wheeler causing havoc up front. He enters his final season with 36.5 tackles for loss and 23.5 sacks.

Two More to Fear: Colgate cornerback Abu Daramy-Swaray and Georgetown defensive end Kristian Tate

Pioneer Football League

Will Warner, Drake, S, R-Jr., 6-3, 201

The All-PFL standout put his long arms to good use last season, grabbing eight interceptions — which ranked No. 2 in the nation — with 223 return yards.

Two More to Fear: Stetson linebacker Colby Duncan and San Diego linebacker Nick Friedel


Nasir Player, East Tennessee State, DE, R-Sr., 6-5, 271

A 2020 NFL Draft prospect, Player has been a big-game performer in his career. He forced three fumbles as a junior and has 30 tackles for loss in his career.

Two More to Fear: Furman OLB Adrian Hope and ETSU safety Tyree Robinson


Chris Terrell, Central Arkansas, DE, Jr., 6-2, 266

Applying tons of quarterback pressure, the two-time All-Southland first-team selection has 46.5 tackles for loss, including 21 sacks, in his career.

Two More to Fear: Abilene Christian linebacker Jeremiah Chambers and Nicholls defensive end Sully Laiche


Solomon Muhammad, Alcorn State, MLB, Sr., 6-1, 235

Muhammad spies everything as he patrols the middle of the SWAC champion's defense, which led the FCS in sacks and tackles for loss last season.

Two More to Fear: Alabama A&M linebacker Armoni Holloway and Prairie View A&M cornerback Ju’Anthony Parker

— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.

(Nick Wheeler photo courtesy of Colgate Athletics)