Kentucky linebacker Jordan Jones was named to the 2017 Bronko Nagurski Trophy preseason watch list Thursday. Louisville defensive back Jaire Alexander, defensive tackle Drew Bailey and linebacker James Hearns were also among the 103 candidates.
The award is annually given to the National Defensive Player of the Year by the Charlotte Touchdown Club and the Football Writers Association of America.
UK’s Jones, a junior from Youngstown, Ohio, led the Southeastern Conference and ranked 16th nationally in solo tackles per game last season with 5.7 and ranked third in total tackles per game with 8.4. He totaled a team-high 109 tackles and led the Wildcats with 15.5 tackles for loss. He has earned preseason All-America honors by Athlon (third team) and preseason first-team All-SEC honors by Athlon Sports and Southern Pigskin.
Louisville’s Alexander, a junior from Charlotte, N.C., earned second team all-ACC accolades in 2016 and led the team with five interceptions, two of them in a career game versus nationally ranked Clemson. He also forced a Tigers fumble.
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Bailey, a senior from Jacksonville, Fla., recorded a career-best 58 tackles last year including nine tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.
Hearns, a redshirt senior from Tallahassee, Fla., ranked 46th nationally in sacks last year with eight and posted a career-best 43 tackles, including 11 tackles for loss. He also forced five fumbles, the second-highest total in school history.
The award recognizes the nation’s top defensive player, with five finalists announced on Nov. 16. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner will be selected by the FWAA All-America Committee after All-America teams are announced. The annual Bronko Nagurski Trophy Banquet will be held on Dec. 4 at the Charlotte Convention Center.
A defensive lineman, Bailey heads into his senior campaign with 67 tackles, 10 for loss, and 2.5 sacks through 25 career games. The Jacksonville, Fla., native appeared in all 13 games last season. The 6-foot-3 Bailey had six games with five or more tackles, including a season-best 11 against Duke. He capped the campaign with nine stops against LSU in the Citrus Bowl.
A two-year starter on the offensive line, Christian is coming off a solid 2016 campaign. The junior earned all-ACC honors for the second-consecutive season after helping guide an offense that averaged more than 40 points per game and 500 yards of total offense. The Ocala, Fla., native has started in 26-consecutive contests, including 13 as a true freshman in 2015.
Interior linemen on offense or defense only are eligible for the award.
The Outland Trophy winner is chosen from three finalists who are a part of the annual FWAA All-America Team. The FWAA All-America Committee, after voting input from the entire membership, selects a 26-man first team and eventually the three Outland finalists. Committee members, then by individual ballot, select the winner.
The list is being trimmed to six or seven semifinalists on Nov. 15. Six days later, the FWAA will announce the three Outland Trophy finalists. The winner of the 72nd Outland Trophy — named after the late John Outland, an All-America lineman at Penn at the turn of the 20th century — will be announced live on ESPN at The Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 7. For the third-straight year, the show will air from the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
College football award watch lists