(STATS) – One wears uniform number 9, one 1, the other 91.
But that’s not the only coincidence linking Northern Iowa’s Deiondre’ Hall, Montana’s Tyrone Holmes and Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence.
In fact, opposing offenses have often been forced to dial 9-1-1 because those three players have been among the most disruptive defenders in the FCS this season. As a result, Hall, a cornerback, and Holmes and Spence, both defensive ends, were nominated to the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year Watch List on Wednesday.
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DEIONDRE’ HALL, Northern Iowa, CB, Sr., 6-2, 190, Blue Springs, Missouri=
Versatility has been Hall’s calling card as he’s spent time at UNI at free safety, rover and outside linebacker as well as at wide receiver and as a returner. But he’s been best-suited for cornerback because of his ball-hawking and playmaking skills. In his fourth season as a starter, Hall has an impressive 28 tackles with two interceptions – one which he returned for a pivotal touchdown against Eastern Washington – and two forced fumbles. He has helped his 2-2 Missouri Valley Football Conference team to a No. 10 national ranking against one of the toughest schedules in the FCS.
TYRONE HOLMES, Montana, DE, Sr., 6-4, 245, Eagle Point, Oregon=
For a Montana team that hired an offensive-oriented coach (Bob Stitt) last offseason, it sure plays a lot of defense with Holmes in the lead role. His nine sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss are the most in the FCS and he’s been in on 48 stops for the No. 12 Grizzlies (3-2), who have a share of first place in the Big Sky. The big season includes career highs of 11 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in a win over Northern Arizona. As intelligent as he is athletic, Holmes uses his speed and strength to a distinct advantage. He follows in a long line of dominant defensive ends at Montana, which has had 10 first-team All-Americans at the position since 1987.
NOAH SPENCE, Eastern Kentucky, DE, R-Jr., 6-3, 261, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania=
Having run into different off-the-field problems at Ohio State, Spence has gained another chance at Eastern Kentucky, which he has helped to a No. 17 ranking. His talent is undeniable as he earned All-Big Ten first-team honors from the media in 2013. With his Ohio Valley Conference squad (2-2), Spence has used his quickness off the edge to register at least one sack in each game, totaling 4.5 overall with 18 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. The former five-star high school prospect is considered a prospect for the 2016 NFL Draft.
Other players on the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year Watch List are defensive ends James Cowser of Southern Utah, P.J. Hall of Sam Houston State, Victor Ochi of Stony Brook, Derek Rivers of Youngstown State, Chima Uzowihe of Liberty and Jonathan Woodard of Central Arkansas; defensive tackles Javon Hargrave of South Carolina State, O.J. Mau of Gardner-Webb and Devaunte Sigler of Jacksonville State; linebackers Kourtney Berry of Alabama State, Don Cherry of Villanova, Deon King of Norfolk State, Cory Magwood of Furman, Pat Meehan of Illinois State, James Rentz of Sacred Heart, Luke Rhodes of William & Mary, Darnell Sankey of Sacramento State and Connor Underwood of Indiana State; cornerbacks Casey DeAndrade of New Hampshire, Jermaine Hough of Jacksonville State and Harlan Miller of Southeastern Louisiana; and safety Donald Payne of Stetson.
The Watch List can undergo revision during the 2015 season. A national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will vote on the award after the regular season.