Of all the watch lists released thus far, this one’s the biggest — literally.
Via the Football Writers Association of America, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy Tuesday released its preseason list of players to watch, with a whopping 97 individuals making the award’s initial cut. All 10 FBS conferences are represented, as are 61 individual schools.
Three first-team FWAA All-Americans have made the initial watch list for the award given annually to the best defensive player in college football: Clemson defensive end Austin Bryant, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver and SMU defensive end Sutton Smith. Oliver was a finalist for the 2017 Nagurski Trophy that was claimed by North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb.
Of the nearly 100 watch listers, 27 are defensive backs, 26 are linebackers, and 44 are defensive linemen — 24 ends and 20 tackles.
The SEC and Big Ten pace all conferences with 16 and 15 players listed, respectively, followed the ACC (13) and Pac-12 (12). The Big 12’s nine are the least among the Power Five programs, while the seven apiece for the AAC and Mountain West top all Group of Five schools. Conference USA (five) is next, followed by four each for the MAC and Sun Belt.
Five players from football independents made the watch list as well.