If teams are going to air the ball out, even if great running teams have a back who gets past the line and linebackers, the defensive backs are always a football team’s last line of defense.
Quality defensive backs are also a treasured commodity, from the NFL right down to the NAIA level. And at the Frontier Conference level, defensive backs are about as highly regarded as having a great quarterback.
The Montana State University-Northern football team has several of those highly regarded defensive backs in a league with plenty of quality players in the secondary.
Northern returns Frontier First-Team All-Conference cornerback Tanner Varner for his junior season. Varner has already started 20 games in two seasons with the Lights and is considered one of the top cover corners in the Frontier heading into this season. As a sophomore, Varner totaled two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown while he racked up 35 tackles. For his career, Varner has seven INT’s and is a ball-hawking corner who gives the Lights’ secondary plenty of experience.
Also back for Northern is team captain Matt Reyant at free safety. Reyant (6-1, 205) converted from quarterback to shore up a young Lights’ secondary a year ago and he excelled, totaling 49 tackles. Reyant is a team captain and his skills as a former QB has allowed him to lead what should be a much-more veteran Lights’ defensive backfield in 2012.
While Northern returns plenty of talent in the secondary, depth at the position is no problem for teams like Rocky Mountain College, Carroll College and Eastern Oregon.
Rocky returns its entire starting secondary from a season ago, though the Bears did graduate first-team all-conference safety J.T. Fitzgerald. However, the Bears return second-team all-conference selection Thomas Ackerman and corner Ridge Fuentes, who both totaled four picks a piece last season. Both also finished in the top 30 in the conference in total tackles, while Ackerman and corner Eric Buer are also returning all-conference performers in the return game.
Carroll graduated an outstanding safety in Ted Morigeau, but the Saints have plenty of star power in the secondary. Back for his fourth year starting is two-time NAIA All-American safety Brian Strobel (5-11, 212). As a junior, Strobel totaled 73 tackles and grabbed three INT’s to lead a talented Saints’ secondary. Carroll also brings back starting corner Mike Siegersma (6-1, 195), a second-team all-conference selection as a sophomore, who grabbed a Frontier best six picks a year ago.
Carroll's defensive backs are coached by former Havre Blue Pony great Jarrod Wirt.
Eastern returns a great ball-hawk as well in junior Max Hannah (5-10, 175). Hannah totaled 55 tackles and three picks a year ago and has started 21 games for the Mounties in his first two years. He’s already an NAIA All-American and a two-time first-team all-conference selection.
Montana Tech and UM-Western each bring back outstanding players in the secondary too.
Tech’s Nathan Kobold (5-11, 185) earned second-team all-conference honors as a junior and should be a star on the rise this season. Western’s Torrey Vezina (5-11, 175) is also a star in the making, with outstanding athletic ability and tough, hard-nosed tackling skills.
Editor’s Note: The Havre Daily News will continue its breakdown of the top returning players in the Frontier Conference with a look at the linebackers on Monday and special teams players on Tuesday.