Football Stars Earn Missouri Valley Recognition

The Missouri Valley Football Conference announced its 2017 award winners on Wednesday, Nov. 22, and North Dakota State head coach Chris Klieman and redshirt freshman linebacker Jabril Cox received honors.

Klieman, in his fourth season at the helm, won the Bruce Craddock Coach of the Year award. In 2017, the skipper led the Bison to their seventh consecutive conference title, and third outright championship.

Klieman began his tenure with the Herd in 2011 as an assistant coach when NDSU took home its first FCS national title. The following year, he took over as the defensive coordinator, a position he held for two seasons until head coach Craig Bohl departed for Wyoming.

Klieman was promoted to the head position in 2014, twice leading the Bison to national championships. In his four years, he had recorded a 50-6 record, stewarding NDSU to four consecutive 7-1 conference records.

The award bears the name of the former Western Illinois head coach Bruce Craddock, who coached the Leathernecks for seven seasons before cancer ended his life at the age of 46. Craddock was 41-35 in charge of WIU.

Cox was awarded both the Missouri Valley Freshman and Newcomer of the Year awards for his head-turning season. Replacing the injured Chris Board, Cox stepped in and became an immediate force, leading the team with both 52 total tackles and nine tackles for loss. The Kansas City, Missouri product also tallied four sacks, and one forced fumble, fumble recovery, and interception.

Cox’s breakout game came against Youngstown State on Oct. 14. The linebacker racked up seven solo tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks. Cox has impressed throughout the season with both his speed in the open field and sharp decision-making.

He became just the third player in conference history to win both the Freshman and Newcomer of the Year awards.

The recipients of the Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year awards were unsurprising, won by South Dakota quarterback Chris Streveler and Western Illinois linebacker Brett Taylor, respectively.

Both Cox and Klieman are also in the running for national awards. Cox is a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award, given to the most outstanding freshman in the FCS. Klieman was listed as a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award for the subdivision’s top head coach.

The two are joined by linebacker Nick DeLuca, who is in the hunt for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the top defender.

Additionally, the conference announced its first and second All-Missouri Valley teams on Monday, Nov 27. Six Bison were named to the first team, and five earned second team honors.

Right guard Austin Kuhnert and Connor Wentz, as a fullback, received the first team nod on offense. DeLuca, free safety Tre Dempsey, and strong safety Robbie Grimsley did so on defense. Long snapper James Fisher was also selected to the first team.

Running back Bruce Anderson, wide receiver R.J. Urzendowski, and center Tanner Volson made the offensive second team. Cox and nose guard Aaron Steidl were selected on the other side of the ball.

NDSU led the conference with 11 total players named All-Missouri Valley.

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