Football season is just around the corner, but to keep fans and analysts happy until the season begins, July is filled with announcements of award watch lists.
These football watch lists identify players who have potential to win end-of-season awards. While the lists are long and the winners few, watch lists attract national attention for a team.
ESPN analyst and former BYU center Trevor Matich explained what being on a watch list might mean to a player.
“What it means for players is that they’ve shown enough that the national awards selection committees have noticed what they’ve done in the past,” Matich said. “So it’s an honor to be named to the watch list for the team and the players.”
While it is honorable to be mentioned on any of the dozens of award watch lists today, only 13 are recognized by the National College Football Award Association (NCFAA), including the Heisman Trophy, first presented in 1935, the Walter Camp Award and the Maxwell Award. Several BYU players have been recognized on these preseason lists, with the exception of the Heisman.
The watch lists are announced in July, semi-finalists are announced mid-season and the awards are given out near the end of the season. Each award is created by a different organization and has a different voting system.
“The different awards have different processes and different kinds of groups and different sizes of groups,” Matich explained.
And while watch lists are important, they aren’t the end all of predicting who will perform well in the season.
“They’re a good marketing tool. They focus people initially on who to watch, but at the same time you don’t know who the person at the end of it will have risen up, so you have to pay attention,” Matich said. “You’ve got your front runner that everybody talks about in August and September, but you’ve got to keep your minds open for who deserves it for this year.”
Cougars on NCFAA-recognized watch lists:
The Maxwell Award
Both Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams are on this watch list. This award is for the Player of the Year, and any athlete in any position can win. Seventy-six players have been announced on the list. The last BYU athlete to win was Ty Detmer in 1990.
The Walter Camp Award
This is another award for a Player of the Year that any position is open to. Fifty players are being considered, 33 offensive and 17 defensive. Taysom Hill is the only BYU player on the list, and no athlete from BYU has ever won the Walter Camp Award.
Al Carbone, a spokesperson for the Walter Camp Foundation, gave an inside look to this awards specific voting process.
“While watch lists are great and give schools and players some preseason recognition, the ultimate winner is voted on by the head coaches and the sports information directors,” Carbone said.
The Davey O’Brien Award
Hill is also featured on this list. He is one of 39 quarterbacks considered for this position-specific award. This watch list is particularly interesting because BYU has won the award more times than any other school, with Jim McMahon winning in 1981, Steve Young in 1983 and Ty Detmer winning in both 1990 and 1991. Hill could follow in the footsteps of the great BYU quarterbacks if this season proves to be fruitful.
The Doak Walker Award
Williams once again finds his place on a watch list. He is one of 53 running backs being considered. It’s been 13 years since a BYU running back took home the prestigious award, and Jamaal has potential to break BYU’s all-time rushing record, putting him in a good place to continue gathering national attention.
The Butkus Award
Alani Fua is being considered for the Butkus Award, which is position specific toward linebackers.
Ron Arp, a spokesperson for The Butkus Foundation, explained that the watch lists aren’t swayed by team records, but what really counts is the individual’s overall performance and contribution to their team.
“Anyone on the watch list already has been studied closely. They will be studied even more closely to make the cut to the semi-finalist list,” Arp said. “Often the difference is razor thin between the top few candidates.”
The Bronko Nagurski Trophy
This award is for the best defensive player. Eighty-one athletes are chosen, which is extensive but still selective considering the quantity of defensive players. BYU has two players on the list: Craig Bills, one of 24 defensive backs on the list, and Alani Fua, one of 24 linebackers on the list.
Manning Award Watch List
Hill was named to this award watch list, which honors the nations top quarterback, on Aug. 14. He is one of 32 nominees.
The Rotary Lombardi Award
This award watch list features multiple BYU athletes, but it’s one of the larger watch lists of the season. It includes 123 athletes from 76 universities who are linemen, offensive or defensive. Alani Fua, Bronson Kaufusi and Remington Peck represent BYU on that list.
The Remington Trophy
Edward Fusi is one of 66 named to this watch list specifically for centers.
The Outland Trophy
Michael Yeck is one of 64 interior linemen who made this watch list.
The John Mackey Award
Devin Mahina is one of 38 tight ends to be featured on this list.
BYU has no players on the NCFAA-recognized watch lists for The Benarik Award (defensive players), The Blientnikoff Award (receivers), The Jim Thorpe Award (defensive backs), The Lou Groza Award (kickers) and The Ray Guy Award (punters). This does not mean a BYU player could never be in the running for these awards, as the lists are updated during the season’s play.
“In reality, a player could not be on any preseason watch list or even be a semifinalist and ultimately win. This has happened before [for The Walter Camp Award], back in 2002, when Penn State’s Larry Johnson won. He wasn’t on the preseason watch list, nor was he a semifinalist,” Carbone said.