UND DB Cole Reyes Named Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year
North Dakota junior safety Cole Reyes was named the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year and the league’s co-champions were well represented on the All-Big Sky Football teams announced by league officials on Tuesday.
Reyes was one of 11 Fighting Hawks to earn all-conference honors and five more were named honorable mention to give the program its best all-conference representation since joining the league prior to the 2012 season. The 11 honorees equaled the most by a league team as fellow co-champion Eastern Washington also had that many players garner all-conference accolades.
Reyes was joined on the first team by offensive tackle Michael Coe, running back and return specialist John Santiago and cornerback Deion Harris. Inside linebacker Dylan Bakker and placekicker Reid Taubenheim were named to the second team, while running back Brady Oliveira, guard Demon Taylor, defensive tackle Tank Harris and defensive end Noah Johnson were named to the third team.
Reyes, who was a second-team All-Big Sky performer a year ago, finished the regular season with 58 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, a sack, three interceptions, eight pass break-ups, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles in nine games. The UND captain was twice named ROOT SPORTS Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week and also helped his unit lead the league in scoring defense (21.9 ppg) and rush defense (91.5 ypg).
Deion Harris also earned the league’s weekly defensive accolade twice during the season and led the Big Sky with 14 passes defended and five interceptions during the regular season. He also returned three of those interceptions for touchdowns and added nine pass break-ups.
Santiago is just the sixth player in Big Sky history to earn back-to-back, first-team accolades as a freshman and sophomore. He finished the regular season with 924 rushing yards and led the Big Sky with 1,517 all-purpose yards. The reigning Big Sky Freshman of the Year accounted for nine total touchdowns and also equaled a school-record with a 100-yard kickoff return in the win over Weber State.
Santiago joins Nevada running back Charvez Foger (1985-86), Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp (2013-14), Weber State placekicker, punter and safety Scott Shields (1995-96), Weber State running back Trevyn Smith (2006-07) and Nevada placekicker Marty Zendejas (1984-85) on that exclusive list. Kupp was named the Big Sky’s Co-Offensive Player of the Year along with teammate Gabe Gubrud and earned his fourth-straight, first-team accolade.
Coe arrived on campus as a graduate transfer after racking up All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference honors in 2012 (third), 2013 (second) and 2014 (first) at Western New Mexico. He started the first four games at center before shifting out to right tackle for the final seven regular-season contests.
In his first season as a full-time starter, Bakker paced the defense with 85 tackles and added 6.5 tackles for loss and four pass break-ups in 11 starts. Taubenheim, who was a third-team, all-league selection in 2014, returned to the squad in 2016 after leading the league in field goals made with 15.
For the second-consecutive year, Johnson earned third-team accolades after finishing the regular season with 30 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss.
A trio of Fighting Hawks’ sophomores earned their first all-league honors. Tank Harris earned his after collecting 26 tackles, while Taylor helped Coe and the rest of UND’s offensive line produce the league’s third-ranked rushing offense that averaged 217.6 ypg.
Making the most of those holes was Oliveira, who had four 100-yard rushing games and accounted for at least one touchdown in all eight Big Sky games. He finished the regular season with nine rushing scores and added a touchdown pass in the Fighting Hawks’ championship-clinching win over Northern Arizona. The Winnipeg native finished with a career-high 837 rushing yards.
UND’s honorable mention selections were special teams player Alex Reed, defensive ends Drew Greely and Brandon Dranka, outside linebacker Brian Labat and cornerback Torrey Hunt.
The seventh-seeded Fighting Hawks are continuing preparations for the program’s first FCS playoff game that will take place Saturday, Dec. 3, against the winner of the Richmond-North Carolina A&T matchup.
North Dakota All-Big Sky Conference Honorees
First Team (5)
Michael Coe, OT
Deion Harris, CB
Cole Reyes, S; Defensive Player of the Year
John Santiago, RB/Return Specialist
Second Team (2)
Dylan Bakker, ILB
Reid Taubenheim, PK
Third Team (4)
Tank Harris, DT
Noah Johnson, DE
Brady Oliveira, RB
Demon Taylor, OG
Honorable Mention (5)
Brandon Dranka, DE
Drew Greely, DE
Torrey Hunt, CB
Brian Labat, OLB
Alex Reed, ST