STATS Inc. has quickly become the national leader in FCS coverage and the newswire/data organization is set to hand out three major individual awards recognizing on-field prowess during the 2015 season.
The Northeast Conference produced an official finalist for each of the three honors – STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year (Tyler Dube – Sacred Heart), STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year (Christian Kuntz – Duquesne), STATS FCS Freshman Player of the Year (Kyle Buss – Robert Morris).
You can find highlights and credentials for all three men below as we explain why each deserves to earn a national honor.
Dube – The Diamond in the Rough
It’s become known that he wasn’t highly recruited and he certainly didn’t have a starting spot waiting for him upon his arrival at SHU.
Despite those circumstances, Dube leaves Sacred Heart as one of the most-accomplished receivers in the 20-year history of Northeast Conference football. His
His ascension from scout team player to elite FCS receiver reached its pinnacle in 2015. The fifth-year senior ranked fifth overall amongst national leaders in receiving yards (1,160) at the conclusion of the regular season. That mark, which ranks third in NEC single-season annals, moved Dube past former Dallas Cowboys’ draft pick Deveren Johnson (1,157 – 2001) for first place in Sacred Heart history.
Becoming only the eighth man in 20 years of NEC football to reach the 1,000-yard plateau in a single season, Dube posted led the league in three major categories – yards, catches (71) and receiving touchdowns (9). Finding paydirt during the Pioneers’ triumphant regular season finale against Wagner, Dube became Sacred Heart’s all-time program leader in career touchdowns (38). He made no fewer than four catches in any game and produced memorable performances in back-to-back weeks in October.
Dube set the NEC single-game season high by racking up 202 yards and one TD on nine receptions in 31-6 win over Cornell one week before putting on a show in the annual #NECFB Connecticut Clash. The Nutmeg State product made a season-high 13 catches for 189 yards and one TD vs. rival Central Connecticut.
BOTTOM LINE: Maybe the best set of hands in FCS, he produced all-time great numbers and earned three consecutive all-NEC first team selections. 3rd all-time NEC career receiving yards (3,206); 3rd (2015 – 1,160) and 10th (2014 – 960) in single-season receiving yards.
Kuntz – Call it a Comeback
It almost seemed too perfect.
The local kid enrolls at nearby Duquesne and makes an immediate impact.
He started the 2012 season opener at Old Dominion, returning a second-quarter interception 49 yards for a touchdown to give the Dukes a 20-10 halftime lead.
Kuntz went on to appear in all 11 games that year and finished his rookie campaign with 38 tackles.
His performance went to the next level during his sophomore season. Kuntz led the nation in tackles for loss and tallied 9.0 quarterback sacks en-route to earning a spot on the Sports Network’s All-America Third Team.
Then, adversity struck.
Kuntz suffered a preseason injury heading into his junior year and lost the entire 2014 campaign as a result.
In 2015, the Keystone State product emerged stronger than ever.
He led the league in tackles for loss (26.0) and interceptions (4). His 2.2 TFL/game average ranked third overall amongst FCS leaders.
Averaging 5.9 tackles and 1.0 pass break-up per game for conference’s top-ranked scoring defense, Kuntz went onto win the NEC Defensive Player of the Year award.
He made interceptions in road victories over Patriot League member Bucknell and two-time defending NEC champion Sacred Heart. In an early-season game against fellow FCS playoffs qualifier Dayton, the fierce linebacker logged 2.5 TFL and forced a fumble.
BOTTOM LINE: One of the scariest players rushing off the edge, Kuntz has a knack for finding the football. He’ll enter his senior season with 47.5 TFL and will move onto the NEC’s all-time career top-10 list with his next hit behind the line of scrimmage.
Smooth Start for Buss
The 5-foot-11 receiver from Saratoga County, NY red-shirted the 2014 season, but once Kyle Buss got started, he didn’t make any stops.
Buss burst onto the scene to produce one of the finest seasons ever by a NEC rookie receiver. His 50 receptions were fifth most in the NEC, while his 722 receiving yards ranked him sixth amongst league leaders.
Both marks stand as Robert Morris freshman records.
Buss eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark on three separate occasions. For the season, he accounted for 56 percent of Robert Morris’ total receiving yards.
And the circumstances made Buss’ accomplishments all the more remarkable. Not only was Robert Morris starting a rookie quarterback under center, but freshman Matthew Barr was banged up at times and the Colonials were forced to use four different passers this season.
Buss had his best moments when Barr was back there distributing the football. He earned the NEC Rookie of the Week award for making eight catches for 160 yards at Central Connecticut and caught the game-winning 84-yard touchdown with 3:18 remaining vs. East Tennessee State.
BOTTOM LINE: Now that this Buss has gotten started, we’ll see if he has another gear to shift to next year. The potential for a special career is present.