The Buck Buchanan Award has been given to the most outstanding defensive player at the FCS level since 1995. The award was named after Grambling State defensive tackle Junious “Buck” Buchanan. Buchanan is a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and was the 1st overall pick in the 1963 NFL Draft. Notable past winners include Bethune-Cookman DB Rashean Mathis, Idaho State DE Jared Allen, and North Carolina A&T DE Chris McNeil.
Below we breakdown the way-too-early favorites for the Buck Buchanan Award going into the 2022 season.
Isaiah Land (Florida A&M; EDGE)
Land is aiming to become the first back-to-back winner of the Buck Buchanan Award since Appalachian State LB Dexter Coakley in 1995-1996. Land exploded onto the scene for the Rattlers in 2021 with 43 tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, 19 sacks, & 3 fumble recoveries. Land was named the 2021 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year and a 1st Team FCS All-American. He led the FCS in tackles for loss and sacks last season and was a huge part in the Rattlers making a run to the FCS Playoffs. Land returns for the 2022 season after a rumored transfer earlier this spring and the Rattlers are primed for a run at their 1st SWAC Championship.
Patrick O’Connell (Montana; LB)
O’Connell was a finalist for the 2022 Buck Buchanan Award, but ultimately finished 3rd after being invited to Frisco, TX for the FCS awards banquet. O’Connell was named a 1st Team FCS All-American after totaling 105 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. He was a huge piece to the Montana defense that ranked Top-10 in scoring defense and Top-5 in the Big Sky in total defense. O’Connell returns for the 2022 season and will be an important piece for the Grizzlies as they look to compete in the loaded Big Sky conference.
Justin Ford (Montana; DB)
Ford was a Buck Buchanan Award finalist last season, but finished 4th in the voting with three first place votes. Ford was named the Big Sky Newcomer of the Year and a 1st Team FCS All-American. Ford was one of the top playmakers for the Grizzlies and totaled 41 tackles, 9 interceptions, 20 pass breakups, and 3 defensive touchdowns. He led the FCS in interceptions and defensive touchdowns, while also ranking 2nd in the FCS in pass breakups. Ford is one of the biggest reasons that Montana is being picked as one of the favorites for the 2022 FCS National Championship and is primed for another run at the Buck Buchanan Award.
Stone Snyder (VMI; LB)
Snyder has been a two-time Buck Buchanan Award finalist as he finished 3rd in the 2021 spring season and finished 13th this past season. Snyder totaled 120 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 3 fumble recoveries last season for the Keydets. Snyder was named the 2020 SOCON Defensive Player of the Year and is now a two-time 1st Team All-SOCON selection. Snyder will look to lead the Keydets to their 2nd SOCON Championship in three seasons after winning the 2020 conference championship.
Titus Leo (Wagner; EDGE)
Leo was a finalist for the 2022 Buck Buchanan Award and finished 21st with three total votes. Leo has won back-to-back NEC Defensive Player of the Year awards, while also being named a two-time FCS All-American. Leo finished last season with 71 total tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, and 7 sacks; while also ranking 7th in the FCS in tackles for loss per game. Leo shocked everyone when he announced his return to the Seahawks for the 2022 season and will look to become the first player to ever win three straight NEC Defensive Player of the Year awards.