It’s the beginning of watch list season, when the preseason watch lists are released, heralding the return of college football into our lives once again. Today, the watch lists for the Bednarik Award and the Maxwell Award were released. Both awards are sponsored by the Maxwell Football Club.
The Bednarik Award is given to the best defensive player in college football, as judged by a panel of sportswriters, sportscasters, coaches, and other members of the Maxwell Football Club. Past winners of the award include Charles Woodson, Julius Peppers, Tyrann Mathieu, and Aaron Donald, so there is some correlation with winning the award and finding sustained success in the NFL. Last year the award went to Johnathan Allen of Alabama.
This year, UCLA linebacker Kenny Young finds himself on the watch list, and it’s a well-deserved honor. Young really grew into a leader of the UCLA defense last year, finishing the year with 90 tackles, good for 2nd on the team behind the departed Jayon Brown. Young was credited with 5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, as he was able to leverage his athleticism into a great season acting as a spy in the Bruin defense at times. Young also threw in an interception and 3 fumble recoveries, and with the graduation of Brown appears set to be the next defensive leader for the Bruins at linebacker.
The Maxwell Award, voted on by a similar panel as the Bednarik Award, is given out annually to the best all-around player in college football. Recent winners include Marcus Mariota, Cam Newton, and Andrew Luck, though the award doesn’t primarily go to quarterbacks; running back Derrick Henry won in 2015, while Manti Te’o won the award in 2012. Last year’s winner, Lamar Jackson, returned for his junior season, and you have to consider him one of the early favorites for the award.
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who also was named to the list, has to be considered a dark horse candidate, however. Despite a shoulder injury that ended his season midway through last year, Rosen is still considered one of the premiere passers in the country, with most early mock drafts placing him comfortably in the top 5 of next year’s draft. Rosen posted spectacular numbers as a freshman, and while it will be interesting to see how he handles his third offensive coordinator in 3 years, new OC and QB coach Jedd Fisch does have a track record of getting great performances out of his quarterbacks.
Congratulations to both Kenny Young and Josh Rosen for these honors.