Tajh Boyd, Jadeveon Clowney and Sammy Watkins acknowledged as three of the best players in college football isn’t much of a surprise.
Vic Beasley on the national radar for defensive players is more of a head-turner.
With 76 players named to the Maxwell Award Preseason Watch List, the trifecta of Palmetto State standouts has plenty of company.
Both the Clemson quarterback, Boyd, and wide receiver, Watkins, were on the 2012 preseason list, along with departed wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back Andre Ellington. Clowney, a South Carolina defensive end, was also acknowledged in July 2012, right next to then-tailback Marcus Lattimore.
Boyd is one of six 2012 Maxwell semifinalists back on the 2013 list, joined by three quarterbacks (Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller), Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas and USC wide receiver Marqise Lee.
Boyd is the reigning ACC Player of the Year, and Watkins was national freshman of the year in 2011 before a relative sophomore slump last year.
Clowney is the Gamecocks’ lone player named to the Maxwell list, but as the presumptive defensive player of the year favorite, he’s one of the biggest names to file away for the Maxwell Football Club’s top trophy.
Defending national champion Alabama has four players on the list: McCarron, tailback T.J. Yeldon, receiver Amari Cooper and linebacker C.J. Mosley. Texas A&M and Arizona State each have three representatives; Clemson is one of 13 schools with two players on the radar, joined in the ACC only by Miami (QB Stephen Morris, RB Duke Johnson.)
The ACC has eight players on the list; joining the Clemson and Miami representatives are Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs, North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner, Syracuse tailback Jerome Smith and Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas.
The SEC’s 16 hopefuls narrowly edged the Pac-12’s 15 to lead the nation. Georgia and Mississippi State also place multiple players in contention, and nine out of the league’s 14 schools are represented.
Mid-majors are finding their diamonds in the rough earning more preseason recognition, with 18 players from non-automatic BCS qualifiers getting some love.
Beasley is a breakout candidate on defense, one of ten ACC players on the Bednarik Watch List. The Tigers’ junior defensive end led the team last year with eight sacks, ranking fourth in the league.
Clowney is one of three Bednarik semifinalists from 2012 back on the list, joining Mosley and Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton.
2012 ACC Champion Florida State has three Bednarik representatives, but no Maxwell profiles. Alabama and Florida also have a trio of Bednarik candidates.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o swept the Maxwell and Bednarik awards last season, the first player ever to do so. He was the first defender to win the Maxwell Award in 32 years.
Members of the National College Football Awards Association will continue to roll out preseason watch lists for individual positions over the course of the next two weeks.