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Kidder named pre-season defensive player of the year - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Kidder named pre-season defensive player of the year

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Montana senior defensive end Caleb Kidder has been named the Big Sky Conference pre-season Defensive Player of the Year, and senior safety Yamen Sanders has earned All-Big Sky preseason honors the league announced Monday at the annual football kickoff event in Park City, Utah.

“Having these guys recognized is an honor for our team because of how many great players there are in the Big Sky, especially on the defensive side of the ball,” said second year Montana head coach Bob Stitt. “Any time you get a preseason honor like this it’s a big deal, and these two deserve it.”

Kidder, the 6-5 senior from Helena and current custodian of Montana’s legacy number 37, builds on his first-team All-Big Sky award from the 2015 season by being acknowledged as the best defender in the league ahead of the 2016 season, despite making a position switch from defensive tackle to defensive end.

“It’s a big honor,” said Kidder. “I feel like I just go out there and hustle, and try to play as hard as I can on every play, so It’s cool to get recognized throughout the conference for that no matter what position I’m at.”

Kidder is the third Montana player in the past four years to be named Big Sky Player of the Year in the preseason behind Zack Wagenmann in 2014 and Jordan Tripp in 2013.

“He’s very deserving,” added Stitt. “Caleb is an unbelievable athlete for his size, and to be able to move him out to defensive end is really going to be a great thing for our defense. Hopefully it poses some problems for the tackles around the league.”

In making the transition from DT to DE, Kidder has made an incredible physical transformation, and has tuned his body to perform at the highest level of his career this season. He’s trimmed down from 280 pounds to 263 pounds, and over the summer set personal bests in the weight room of 463-pounds on the back squat, and 309-pounds on the power clean.

“I feel faster and more explosive. I feel stronger, well, I know I’m stronger than when I was at 280, so all around I feel better,” says Kidder.

“(Strength) Coach (Matt) Nicholson’s program is unbelievable. We do a lot of work on explosion and speed. As a team I feel we are completely ready. Individually, this it the best I’ve ever felt.”

Sanders enters his second season at Montana as an All-Big Sky preseason selection at safety after posting 64 tackles in his first season with the Griz, and earning a 2015 all-conference honorable mention.

The 6-4 Arizona transfer and Inglewood, Calif. native is the team’s second-leading returning tackler in 2016, and will be a go-to performer for Coach Stitt on the defensive side of the ball.

“He’s an exciting player and a big, athletic guy, that could play linebacker or safety” says Stitt. “He did a great job for us last year, and really had a great spring. He’s also taken on a leadership role on the defensive side. We have a young group and he really took control of those guys.”

Eastern Washington receiver Cooper Kupp took home his second preseason Offensive Player of the Year award in as many seasons.

Montana opens the 2016 season at home against Saint Francis on Sept. 3, under the lights at Washington-Grizzly Stadium with a 7:00 PM kickoff. For ticket information visit griztix.com<http://ev10.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventList?groupCode=FB&linkID=montana&shopperContext=&caller=&appCode=>.

Preseason All-Conference list

Preseason Offensive Player of the Year - Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington Preseason Defensive Player of the Year - Caleb Kidder, Montana

OFFENSE

Quarterback- Case Cookus, Northern Arizona Running Back- John Santiago, North Dakota* Running Back- Chad Newell, Montana State

Fullback- Joe Protheroe, Cal Poly*

Tight End- Steven Wroblewski, Southern Utah

Guard- Cameron Young, Weber State

Guard- JP Flynn, Montana State

Center- Blake Porter, Northern Arizona

Tackle- Jacob Julian, Northern Arizona

Tackle- Calvin Steyn, Weber State

Wide Receiver- Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington* Wide Receiver- Emmanuel Butler, Southern Utah Wide Receiver- Mike Sharp, Southern Utah

Placekicker- Jonathan Gonzales, Portland State Return Specialist- Ellis Onic II, Northern Colorado

DEFENSE

Defensive End- Caleb Kidder, Montana

Defensive End- Davond Dade, Portland State Defensive Tackle- Chance Bearnson, Southern Utah Defensive Tackle- Chuntony Johnson, Northern Colorado Outside Linebacker- Mike Needham, Southern Utah Outside Linebacker- Mac Bignell, Montana State Inside Linebacker- Emmett Tela, Weber State Inside Linebacker- Manoah Pearson, Sacramento State Cornerback—Xavier Coleman, Portland State

Cornerback- Taron Johnson, Weber State

Safety- Cole Reyes, North Dakota

Safety- Yamen Sanders, Montana

Punter- Tate Lewis, Southern Utah

Special Teams- Hakeem Deggs, Northern Colorado *=Unanimous

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