D-III Men’s 2024 Defensive Player of the Year

These three defenders put forth awesome and impactful seasons.

Each year, Ultiworld presents our annual College Awards. Our staff evaluates the individual performances of players from throughout the season, talking to folks around college ultimate, watching film, and look at statistics, voting upon the awards to decide those to be honored. The regular season and the college Series are both considered, with extra emphasis for performances in the competitive and high-stakes environment at Nationals.

Our awards continue with the Defensive Player of the Year, recognizing the individual, and two runners-up, who we felt were the top defensive performers this spring. Whether through generating blocks, shutting down options, helping out teammates, or all of the above, these defenders stood out doing the tough work that too often go unrecognized.

D-III Men’s 2024 Defensive Player Of The Year

Charles Tantum (Williams)

Williams’ Charlie Tantum rises for the sky at the 2024 D-III College Championships. Photo: Sydney Kane – UltiPhotos.com

After a phenomenal 2024 season and a final appearence, Charles Tantum easily proved himself as the year’s best defender. Tantum has been on a great track since his rookie year, winning ROTY Second Runner-up with 13 blocks and last year earned himself DPOTY Second Runner-up with a 10-block showing. This DPOTY season he had 11 blocks, and although the number is less than two years ago, it possibly demonstrates his defensive improvement. Tantum took the best cutter on each team and was able to shut them down in a way where they wouldn’t even get the disc.

Fans could see this particularly defensive prowess in the final when Tantum shut down Will Brandt in ways not seen all season against the POTY, only allowing three assists and no goals, with Tantum notching two blocks of his own.

What made Tantum so great was his field sense and body positioning. He could have eyes on the entire field, ready to come in for a poach block, while still matching up strongly on his defender. Without a particularly large frame, Tantum relied on his body positioning to not allow cutters to get unders, and his speed and athleticism to get the blocks when deep shots were thrown. Combined with his deep pulls, Tantum’s defense was suffocating for all teams who had to face him.

With one more year left, Tantum will be the next leader for Williams, hoping to bring them all the way to a title next year.

– Calvin Ciorba

First Runner-Up

Eric Crosby Lehmann (St. Olaf)

St. Olaf’s Eric Crosby Lehmann snags the disc past the outstretched Williams defender in the final of the 2024 D-III College Championships. Photo: Sydney Kane – UltiPhotos.com

If there’s anything to be gleaned from our awards cycle thus far, it’s that the Bezerkers O-line was stacked. With a POTY headliner and two OPOTY runner-ups, St. Olaf coach Luke Bleers distributed the majority of his best talent in the interest of offensive domination. And yet, as the string of decisive breaks at the outset of their semifinal against Oklahoma Christian indicates, Olaf’s defensive execution did not prove a notable weakness. Behind the magic of the Zerks defensive unit was Eric Crosby Lehmann.

Lehmann’s individual contributions were quite impressive. His handler defense was up close, personal, and stickier than the sweat on his jersey. The pressure he applied on a reset would force offenses into rushed motion. Besides his penchant for exceptional person defense, Lehmann also elevated the D-line’s ability to convert. It was his conservatism with the disc that was the hallmark of his play. Crosby Lehmann rarely turned it, despite the immense pressure of that each break opportunity poses late in the bracket.

Crosby Lehmann will remain with the Zerks for the following season, and in the absence of their typical all-star cast he’ll be taking up even more of the spotlight.

– Bix Weissberg

Second Runner-Up

Couper Kerns (Oklahoma Christian)

Oklahoma Christian’s Couper Kerns at the mark during the semifinal of the 2024 D-III College Championships. Photo: Rudy DeSort – UltiPhotos.com

What was Shakespeare’s old D-Line quandary? To bid or not to bid? That was not the question for Mr. Kerns, who showed no hesitation to make sprawling interceptions whenever possible. Kerns was OC’s most aggressive defender, a role in which he was often well rewarded, earning a number of key blocks for the Eagles. When not laying out for a big block, Kerns played lockdown hander defense, heavily pressuring the reset throw. The best handlers would have to face the Kerns matchup, and he forced plenty of turns with his great footwork and drive to get the disc.

Kerns stands out among this years podium winners as one of the few without prior Ultiworld recognition. Now that he’s set a standard, future praiseworthy performances won’t be nearly as surprising.

– Bix Weissberg

  1. Calvin Ciorba
    Calvin Ciorba

    Calvin Ciorba is a D-III Men's writer currently studying Leadership and Economics in his junior year at the University of Richmond. He started his ultimate career in St. Louis, MO playing ultimate at Ladue High School and St. Louis Storm YCC, when he also created the popular frisbee Instagram account Discmemes. Now he has sold the account and plays for the UR Spidermonkeys. You can find him on twitter @calvin_ciorba for passionate takes on the "People's Division."

  2. Bix Weissberg
    Bix Weissberg

    Bix Weissberg plays D-line on the Oberlin Flying Horsecows. He has a love for disc and enjoys writing about DIII college frisbee. In his free time he can be found eating something tasty and smiling. You can reach him at [email protected]

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