As the days count down to the start of the 2017 FCS season, we take a closer look at the subdivision’s top conference, the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Each week will feature the top five returners in a position group in the MVFC.
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Next up are the defensive linemen. As the most physical conference in the FCS, one would think being a D-linemen in the Valley is more guts than glory. But that’s not necessarily the case. Northern Iowa‘s Karter Schult was named the Buck Buchanan Award winner last season as the best defensive player in the FCS. Youngstown State defensive ends Derek Rivers and Avery Moss were selected in the NFL Draft.
Several former MVFC defensive linemen are also making an impact on NFL rosters. And in the near future, these guys below hope to as well.
5. Colby Isbell, Missouri State
Isbell has played or started in 11 or more games in his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons. In 2015, he was fifth on the team with 44 tackles. Last year, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end recorded 33 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.
His 0.59 sacks per game ranked him sixth in the Valley as Isbell was named to the MVFC Second Team. He is ranked the No. 49 best defensive end and NFL Draft prospect heading into the 2017 season by NFLDraftScout.
4. Nate Tanguay, North Dakota State
Tanguay may not have the numbers as some of his teammates on the Bison defense, but he may be the most paid attention to player for offenses. The 6-foot-4, 293-pound defense lineman is eyeing an all-American caliber senior season despite coming off an ACL injury that limited his 2016 year to nine games.
In those games, he totaled 31 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. He was a MVFC Honorable Mention selection in 2015 and made the Second Team last season. NFLDraftScout ranks Tanguay the 69th best defensive tackle prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft.
3. Kellen Soulek, South Dakota State
Soulek will probably see more attention from offensive lines with the graduation of Cole Langer, but the 6-foot-5, 310-pound senior defensive tackle will still find a way to disrupt the run and pass game.
In 2016, he had 46 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, which was fifth in the Valley. Soulek was a Valley Second Team selection last season and is ranked the 32nd best defensive tackle by NFLDraftScout.
2. Dalton Keene, Illinois State
After a MVFC Honorable Mention season as a sophomore in 2015 and being selected to the Second Team last year, Keene is set for a big senior campaign and raise his NFL stock. NFLDraftScout has him ranked the No. 33 defensive tackle heading into the season.
Keene had a breakthrough performance in his last game as a freshman in the FCS championship with four tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack. In 2016, he recorded an impressive 65 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss. Keene’s career totals include 153 tackles and 20 tackles for loss as he has started in all 25 games the last two seasons.
1. Greg Menard, North Dakota State
One of the top defensive ends in the country, Menard was named an all-American his sophomore and junior seasons. He looks to follow in the footsteps of former NDSU defensive end Kyle Emanuel, the 2014 Buck Buchanan Award winner. Emanuel was drafted as an outside linebacker in the fifth round. At 6-foot-2, 238 pounds, Menard is ranked the 41st best OLB by NFLDraftScout.
Last season, he had 62 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Menard also recorded 14 sacks and has 43 total in three seasons.