PARK CITY, Utah – North Dakota senior safety Cole Reyes highlighted a group of five Fighting Hawks that were named to the Preseason All-Big Sky Football Team released Monday at the league's annual Big Sky Kickoff Event.
Reyes was tabbed as the league's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and was joined on the team by running backs John Santiago and Brady Oliveira, offensive guard Demon Taylor and cornerback Deion Harris. Santiago was also selected as the team's kick returner.
All five of the UND players selected to the preseason team earned All-Big Sky honors in 2016 when they helped the Fighting Hawks earn their first FCS playoff berth and a share of the Big Sky Championship. The Fighting Hawks's six overall selections were the most of any league team. Weber State followed with four selections.
Santiago, who was just the sixth player in league history to earn first-team All-Big Sky accolades as a freshman and sophomore, and Reyes were two of the four consensus selections on the team, which is voted on by the media. The junior joined Northern Arizona wide receiver Emmanuel Butler and Weber State tight end Andrew Vollert with that distinction.
Reyes made 70 tackles and had three interceptions, while helping UND's defense lead the Big Sky in scoring defense and rushing defense. Harris added a Big Sky-best five interceptions as UND finished with 20 on the season – the second-best total in the FCS in 2016.
Santiago and Oliveira formed the Big Sky's best rushing tandem, combining for 1,880 yards and 17 rushing scores a season ago. Helping pave the way for those two was Taylor, who collected second-team All-Big Sky honors in his first season as a starter on the offensive front for the Fighting Hawks.
Santiago was also the All-Big Sky kick returner in 2016 after averaging 27.8 yards per return and equaling the UND record with a 100-yard return for a touchdown against Weber State.
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