Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, defensive tackle Shaq Lawson and defensive back Mackensie Alexander were all named as candidates to major national award lists on Tuesday.
Watson was named to the Maxwell Award watch list as the nation’s best player, while Alexander was named to the Jim Thorpe Award list as the nation’s best defensive back.
Watson threw for 1,466 yards and 14 touchdowns in just eight games, with a passing efficiency rating of 188.6 which was second in the country. Clemson’s offense averaged 530 yards and 42 points per game in 2014 when he played the majority of the snaps. He led the Tigers to a 35-14 victory over rival South Carolina in the regular-season finale, despite playing with a torn ACL.
Lawson was named to the Bednarik Award Watch list as the nation’s best defensive player. The Clemson defensive end recorded 44 tackles as a reserve, including 11.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Hi 44 tackles led all defensive ends on the team, including All-American Vic Beasley.
Alexander became one of the best cover corners in the ACC last season after allowing very few passes to be completed. He held Oklahoma’s top receiver to one catch for 13 yards in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Last year, Alexander had 22 tackles and broke up six passes.
A total of 14 Atlantic Coast Conference defensive players have been selected to the preseason watch list for the Bednarik Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top defensive player, while 11 ACC players have been chosen to the preseason watch list for the Maxwell Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top collegiate player.
Both awards are presented by the Maxwell Club which announced its watch lists for the 79th annual Maxwell Award and the 21st annual Chuck Bednarik Award.
The Maxwell Award, named in honor of Robert W. “Tiny” Maxwell, has been given to America’s College Player of the Year since 1937. Maxwell’s contributions to the game of football were extensive, including time as a player, a sportswriter and an official. The Bednarik Award has been presented to the College Defensive Player of the Year since 1995. Chuck Bednarik, former standout at Penn and with the Philadelphia Eagles, is a member of both the College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of ’69 and the NFL Hall of Fame’s Class of ’67.
Pitt’s Aaron Donald was the last ACC player to capture the Bednarik Award, as the Panthers former defensive defensive tackle took the honor in 2013. Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward was the last ACC player to win the Maxwell in 1993, though Miami’s Ken Dorsey took home the honor in 2001.
Six ACC quarterbacks made the Maxwell list, including Deshaun Watson of Clemson, Justin Thomas of Georgia Tech, Brad Kaaya of Miami, Marquise Williams of North Carolina, Jacoby Brissett of NC State and former Notre Dame starter Everett Golson who transferred to Florida State after graduating.
Five ACC defensive backs who will be competing for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back also made the preseason Bednarik list in Mackensie Alexander of Clemson, Jeremy Cash of Duke, Jalen Ramsey of Florida State, Quin Blanding of Virginia and Kendall Fuller of Virginia Tech.
The ACC Members of the 2015 preseason Bednarik watch list are:
Name School Pos. Cl. Hometown
Mackensie Alexander Clemson CB So.-R Immokalee, Fla.
Quin Blanding Virginia S So. Virginia Beach, Va.
Kelby Brown Duke LB Sr.-R Matthews, N.C.
Jeremy Cash Duke S Sr.-R Miami, Fla.
Brandon Chubb Wake Forest LB Sr.-R Powder Springs, Ga.
Kendall Fuller Virginia Tech CB Jr. Baltimore, Md.
Adam Gotsis Georgia Tech DT Sr. Abbotsford, Victoria, Canada
Tylor Harris Wake Forest DT Sr. Baton Rouge, La.
Shaq Lawson Clemson DE Jr. Central, S.C.
Dadi Nicolas Virginia Tech DE Sr.-R Delray Beach, Fla.
Jalen Ramsey Florida State DB Jr. Smyrna, Tenn.
Sheldon Rankins Louisville DE Sr. Covington, Ga.
Mike Rose NC State DE Jr.-R Fountain Inn, S.C.
Terrance Smith Florida State LB Sr.-R Decatur, Ga.
The ACC members of the 2015 preseason Maxwell Award list are:
Name School Pos. Cl. Hometown
Tyler Boyd Pitt WR Jr. Clairton, Pa.
Jacoby Brissett NC State QB Sr.-R West Palm Beach, Fla.
James Conner Pitt RB Jr. Erie, Pa.
Dalvin Cook Florida State RB So. Miami, Fla.
Everett Golson Florida State QB Sr.-R Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Jon Hilliman Boston College RB So. Plainfield, N.J.
Brad Kaaya Miami QB So. West Hills, Calif.
Brandon Radcliff Louisville RB Jr.-R Miami, Fla.
Justin Thomas Georgia Tech QB Jr.-R Prattville, Ala.
Deshaun Watson Clemson QB So. Gainesville, Ga.
Marquise Williams North Carolina QB Sr. Charlotte, N.C.