Another day, yet another watch list as the 2017 offseason barrels towards a merciful death.
This time around it’s the Jim Thorpe Award doing the honors, with the trophy given annually to the nation’s top defensive back releasing a watch list consisting of a mere 45 players from all 10 FBS conferences. Headlining this year’s list are a pair of semifinalists from a year ago, Louisville’s Jaire Alexander and Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The ACC and SEC lead all conferences with seven players apiece selected, followed by the Pac-12’s six and five each for the Big Ten and Big 12. Conference USA was next with four, while the AAC, MAC and Sun Belt had three and the Mountain West two.
Alabama, Florida State and Stanford were the only programs with two players each selected.
USC’s Adoree’ Jackson won the 2016 version of the Thorpe Award. The other finalists for last year’s trophy were Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis and LSU’s Tre’Davious White. All three of those players were selected in the 2017 NFL draft.
I didn’t see this one coming. Talk about being blindsided.
One day after putting the wraps on its annual media days shindig, the SEC released the media’s picks for conference champion and predicted order of finish. And, to the surprise of absolutely no one, the Alabama Crimson Tide, playoff participants in each of the first three years of the new system to determine a national champion, is the overwhelming favorite to claim yet another league championship.
‘Bama earned 217 points from the media when polled as to this year’s conference champ. Next closest? Auburn with 11, followed by Georgia’s six points and three each for Florida and LSU. Showing that the media has a sense of humor and doesn’t take these preseason honors too seriously, even Vanderbilt was the recipient of a point.
Six times since 1992, the media has correctly picked the eventual champion in the preseason vote. Two of those, though, came the last three years.
While ‘Bama was an overwhelming title choice, they weren’t a unanimous selection to win the West. They did, however, reel in 225 first-place votes; Auburn (13), LSU (four) and Arkansas (one) were the only others to do so.
In the East Division, Georgia’s 138 first-place votes topped Florida’s 96. South Carolina with five and Tennessee with three were the others to garner first-place votes in that division.
In addition to the predicted order of finish, the conference also released its Preseason Media Days All-SEC Teams. Alabama had the most first-team All-SEC selections with 10, which is a new record for this particular preseason squad.
Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama), Calvin Ridley (Alabama) and Derrius Guice (LSU) received the most votes amongst individual players.
It may not be the biggest award in college football, but it’s certainly the most voluminous.
Watch List Season continued unabated Thursday morning, with the Bronko Nagurski Trophy revealing a group which consists of a whopping 103 FBA players. Within that triple-digit preseason club, there are 30 defensive backs, 29 linebackers, 25 defensive ends and 19 defensive tackles.
Two 2016 first-team Football Writers Association of America All-Americans appear on the list — Clemson’s Christian Wilkins (pictured) and Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden.
Conference-wise, the ACC leads with 20 players selected for the initial watch list. The Big Ten is next with 16, followed by the SEC’s 14, the Pac-12’s 13 and the Big 12’s 11. The AAC paced Group of Five leagues with 10, with the Sun Belt (6), Mountain West (5), Mid-American (3) and Conference USA (2) rounding out the conferences, while football independents chipped in the remaining three.
The Nagurski Trophy has been handed out annually since 1993 to college football’s best defensive player. Last year’s winner was Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen.
It appears the news was indeed as bad as it seemed at the time.
Nick Harvey sustained what was rumored to be a significant but unspecified knee injury during a Texas A&M scrimmage this past spring. Subsequent to that, the starting cornerback underwent surgery to repair the unspecified damage.
At tSEC Media Days this week, Kevin Sumlin confirmed the Aggies’ worst fears, that the senior will likely be sidelined for the whole of the 2017 season.
“I don’t foresee him being able to go,” the head coach said Wednesday. “It could be a redshirt situation.”
Harvey has yet to use his redshirt season, meaning, should he decide to forego early entry into the 2018 NFL draft, the defensive back could play the 2018 season with the Aggies as a fifth-year senior.
After playing in every game but starting none his first two seasons in College Station, Harvey started 12 games for A&M in 2016. Last season, his 10 pass breakups were tops on the team.
Harvey’s success wasn’t limited to the secondary a year ago as he returned one punt, taking it to the house for a 73-yard touchdown
We’ve had an unusually low number of coaching changes the past few years in the SEC but the flip side of that storyline is that a good quarter of the league enters the 2017 season firmly on the hot seat at their respective schools.
Perhaps nobody is feeling that heat more than Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, who is 44–21 at the school but who very well could be coaching for his job this year following three consecutive 8-5 finishes. He was already put on the hot seat in a very public manner by his athletic director this spring and addressed all the talk swirling around College Station on Wednesday at SEC Media Days.
“I’m feeling the same pressure I feel all of the time and so nobody puts more pressure on me than me,” said Sumlin. “That pressure, it never changed. It never changed from the first day I got here when we opened with Florida and lost and then went on to win however many games we won or whatever happens. We’re here to compete for championships. How we do that, when we do that, basically, the why, with and how, that remains internal, but that’s my job. And the pressure for that never changes.”
While that is a little bit of coach speak, it does seem like Sumlin is well aware of what expectations are for the Aggies and what he’ll need to do in order to keep his high-paying job beyond 2017.