On Monday, the Maxwell Football club released its Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List, and like the one for the Maxwell award, multiple Trojans have made the cut.
Safety T.J. McDonald, outside linebacker Dion Bailey and cornerback Nickell Robey represent USC on the watch list, giving USC more nominees than any other school in the Pac-12. Alabama and LSU tied for having the most representatives on the list, with four apiece.
The Bednarik award is given to the nation’s top collegiate defensive player. In 2011, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu won it.
In the 2011, McDonald was one of the most productive forces in the Trojan defense, having 67 tackles, including 2.5 for losses, a team-high three picks, two deflections, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt. His leadership and experience in the secondary was essential in the defensive turnaround we saw from the 2010 season to 2011, and the fact that he chose to return for his senior year should bode well for Troy. Bailey, a redshirt sophomore who was recruited as a safety but converted to an outside linebacker, showed just how deadly his smaller build and deft athletic ability could be. Starting in 11 games, Bailey recorded 82 tackles, tying for most on the team with fellow then-redshirt freshman Hayes Pullard, had two sacks, two interceptions, a deflection and a forced fumble. Robey also had a brilliant season in 2011, showing us why he is one of the best shut-down corners in the Pac-12. He amassed 63 tackles with 5.5 for loss, two sacks, a team-high nine deflections and two picks, one of which was a pick-6. Though his interception numbers dropped off from 2010 when he lead them team in them (4), Robey’s ability to stifle the Pac-12′s best receivers did not go unnoticed.
Aside from this trio of Trojans, the Pac-12 has nine athletes in contention for the Bednarik Award.
With this watch list and that of the Maxwell Award, USC has seven athletes so far nominated between the two lists, more than any other school in the nation. Over the next 10 days, 13 more watch lists will be announced, and USC could rack up a number of more nominations in that time period.
Rey Maualuga was the last Trojan to win this award, in 2008.