With Saturday marking eight weeks until the start of college football season, preseason award list season kicked off on Monday with the release of the Bednarik and Maxwell preseason watch lists. And, true to SEC football form, the Southeastern Conference made a rather extravagant showing on Monday’s lists.
SEC stalwarts Jadeveon Clowney of the South Carolina Gamecocks and C.J. Mosley of the Alabama Crimson Tide highlight the Bednarik watch list, with the Bednarik going to the nation’s top defensive player. Meanwhile, defending Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of the Texas A&M Aggies is certainly near the top of the heap among Maxwell candidates, with the Maxwell going to the nation’s player of the year.
All told, 29 SEC players made appearances on the two lists with Clowney and Mosley being listed on both the Bednarik and the Maxwell preseason watch lists. They were two of just five defensive players to make the Maxwell’s list, joining Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Will Sutton, a defensive tackle for the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Each award’s preseason watch list was comprised of 75 total names, with SEC football players accounting for 16 of the names on the Bednarik list and 15 of the names on the Maxwell list. And, while the lists themselves are rather arbitrary (they can be augmented, and names can be added and subtracted over the first few weeks of the season), it is another indicator of strength for the conference.
The lists themselves are predicated largely on past successes and overall talent, and with the SEC making up for over 20% of the two lists, it has more names gracing the two lists than any other automatic-qualifying conference. The Pac-12 comes in second with 25 players listed (Will Sutton is listed on both lists).
For the Maxwell, SEC football players with legitimate shots at taking home the hardware include Manziel, Clowney (who tries to recreate Manti Te’o's feat of winning both awards for the first time ever in 2012), Georgia Bulldogs Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley, and Alabama’s A.J. McCarron and T.J. Yeldon. Vanderbilt Commodores wide receiver Jordan Matthews could be a longshot to win the award as the SEC’s best returning wide receiver, while Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews is one of just three offensive lineman listed.
For the Bednarik, Jadeveon Clowney looks like the surefire favorite heading into 2013. His hit against Michigan Wolverines running back Vincent Smith in last year’s Outback Bowl is fresh on everybody’s mind and has Clowney poised for a year where he could collect MANY trophies.
However, other serious candidates include Mosley, LSU Tigers Lamin Barrow, Craig Loston and Anthony Johnson, Tennessee Volunteers linebacker A.J. Johnson, Florida Gators defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy and teammate Dominque Easley. Tennessee’s Dan McCullers, a mountainous 6-8 360 lb. defensive tackle hoping to star in defensive coordinator John Jancek’s new system could be one with an outside chance to turn some heads in 2013.
At the end of the day, the lists will change and we’ll see SEC football players we’ve never heard of make a strong case for postseason awards throughout the season, but, for now, the release of the Bednarik and the Maxwell preseason watch lists have given SEC fans another point of pride to call on.
As if they needed it.