*** ARTICLE COURTESY GRIZ ATHLETIC DEPT.
Montana senior linebacker Jordan Tripp was named the Big Sky Conference preseason Defensive MVP, the league announced Monday at its annual summer media event at Park City, Utah. Joining Tripp on the preseason All-Big Sky team were senior offensive tackle Danny Kistler Jr. and junior defensive end Zack Wagenmann.
"This is a very prestigious honor for Jordan," said Griz head coach Mick Delaney. "When you take into consideration the number of outstanding defensive players, particularly at linebacker, that there are in the Big Sky Conference, being named the preseason MVP is really something.
"That is one more thing that signifies what kind of football player and what type of person Jordan is."
A total of 31 players, from offense, defense and special teams, were named preseason All-Big Sky Conference in voting by the media and the conference's sports information directors.
Northern Arizona had a league-high six selections. Montana State had four, including the preseason Offensive MVP in senior quarterback DeNarius McGhee.
Tripp, a four-year starter, is on the Sports Network's preseason Buck Buchanan watch list for the FCS defensive player of the year. He finished 10th in the balloting for the award last season.
A Missoula native, Tripp was second on the team with 95 tackles last season and had a team-high 13.5 stops for loss. He was named to several All-America teams as a junior and was a first team All-Big Sky pick. He will be one of UM's co-captains on defense this year.
"There are some great defensive players and great linebackers in this conference," Tripp said. "You saw last year (Montana State linebacker) Jody Owens was the league MVP, and Caleb McSurdy, one of my best friends, won it the year before, and (Eastern Washington linebacker) J.C. Sherritt won it the year before that.
"To be in that kind of company with those kind of players, one of whom is my best friend, is awesome. I couldn't be more honored.
"Obviously you have to show up on Saturday, play football and utilize the gifts you have been given. I am going to prepare every single week and give my best effort every game, and hopefully our team will be successful, which is what it is all about."
Kistler, who will serve as UM's co-captain on offense, is one of the premier lineman at the FCS level and will be starting for the third straight season in 2013. He has played in 35 career games and has 29 starts thus far in his career.
Last season, Kistler, of Seattle, started all 11 games at right tackle and was a first-team All-Big Sky selection. He was also the co-recipient, along with guard Jake Hendrickson, of the team's Paul Weskamp Award, which is presented to the Grizzlies' outstanding offensive lineman.
Wagenmann, of Missoula, had a breakout season in 2012. He ranked fourth in the FCS with 1.05 sacks per game and tied for sixth on the team with 50 tackles. He led the Grizzlies with a team-high 11.5 sacks and was second on the squad with 13.0 tackles for loss.
Wagenmann was named to three All-America teams following his sophomore season: Associated Press (second team), Sports Network (third team) and Phil Steele Magazine (fourth team). He was also a first-team All-Big Sky selection.
"All three of those players were outstanding last season, and we expect even bigger things from them in 2013," Delaney said. "They are not only very good players but very good people and team leaders as well."
2013 Preseason All-Big Sky Conference Team (offense)
Pos. ... Player (School, Year, Hometown)
QB ... DeNarius McGhee (Montana State, Sr., Euless, Texas)
RB ... Zach Bauman (Northern Arizona, Sr., Chandler, Ariz.)
RB ... Cody Kirk (Montana State, Sr., Frenchtown, Mont.)
FB ... Dalton Turay (UC Davis, Jr., Pleasanton, Calif.)
OG ... Tyler Worthley (Sacramento State, Sr., Dublin, Calif.)
OG ... Gavin Farr (Southern Utah, Sr., South Ogden, Utah)
C ... Mitch Gaulke (Portland State, Sr., West Linn, Ore.)