USC football’s Jay Tufele named to Bednarik Award watch list

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

USC football defensive tackle Jay Tufele was named to the Bednarik Award watch list on Monday with potential to be named the Defensive Player of the Year.

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The USC football defense will have quite a new look in 2019, and Jay Tufele could ensure that new look is a very positive change.

In recognition of his great potential as an explosive defensive lineman, Tufele was listed among the preseason candidates for the Bednarik Award in 2019 on Monday.

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Tufele’s ability was clear in 2018 when he posted 23 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss in 12 games of action, including five starts. He also blocked a field goal to help seal USC’s victory over Washington State and returned a fumble for a touchdown in his home town of Salt Late City against Utah.

The Athletic named Tufele to their Freshman All-American First team while the conference placed him on the All-Pac-12 second team. USC voted him the team’s Defensive Lineman of the Year.

It would take a meteoric rise for Tufele to truly be in contention for the Bednarik Award, but he is the right profile for it. His best asset is getting to the quarterback and creating havoc plays. If he reaches his full potential he could be a one-man wrecking ball in the Pac-12. USC’s defense would have little to worry about if that came to pass.

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Of course, there are other Trojans who could also make a run at Bednarik recognition. Those include presumptive starting linebacker Palaie Gaoteote and expected starting safety Talanoa Hufanga, both heading into their sophomore seasons with huge expectations.

Gaoteote could very well walk in the footsteps of another great linebacker who came before him like Rey Maualuga, who is USC’s lone winner of the Bednarik Award.

Defenses the Trojans face this season will also be able to brag over Bednarik Award candidates.

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Fresno State has two in safety Juju Hughes and linebacker Mykal Walker, who will be looking to wreck USC’s season opener. The mountain schools also placed two each on the list with Utah defensive end Bradlee Anae and cornerback Jaylon Johnson and Colorado defensive end Mustafa Johnson and linebacker Nate Landman.

Notre Dame defensive ends Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara will represent the Irish.

The Trojans will also have to get by Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo, Washington cornerback Myles Bryant, Oregon linebacker Troy Dye, Arizona State linebacker Merlin Robertson, Arizona linebacker Colin Schooler and Cal linebacker Evan Weaver.