Mountain West Football: Eight Players Named to Bednarik Award Watch List
The long list of athletes in the running to be the nation’s best defensive player includes eight players from Mountain West football.
Stacked with defensive talent.
College football’s watch list season kicked off in earnest today with the unveiling of who is in the immediate running for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which is given annually to the nation’s defensive player of the year.
𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟭 𝗕𝗲𝗱𝗻𝗮𝗿𝗶𝗸 𝗔𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗪𝗮𝘁𝗰𝗵 𝗟𝗶𝘀𝘁 🗞
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Congratulations to the 90 athletes who have been named to the watch list.
— Maxwell Football (@MaxwellFootball) July 19, 2021
The Mountain West landed just five players on this list a year ago, but a mix of return honorees and new faces comprise the eight athletes from the conference on this year’s list of 90.
San Jose State defensive end Cade Hall, the defending Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, leads the way after breaking out last season with a conference-best ten sacks to go along with 26 total tackles and 12 tackles for loss.
San Diego State defensive end Cameron Thomas continued to terrorize offenses at a breakneck pace in 2020, picking up 35 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks for the Aztecs. He earned a spot on the first-team defense for the second straight season and is one of just two Mountain West players on the Bednarik watch list for the second straight summer. Joining him from the SDSU defense is Caden McDonald, who stepped up in his first full year as a starter to rack up 34 tackles, 4.5 sacks and ten tackles for loss, the last of which ranked third among Mountain West defenders.
Utah State linebacker Justin Rice, meanwhile, is the other current Mountain West defender to be back on the preseason Bednarik watch list. Rice led the way for the Arkansas State Red Wolves in 2020 with a Sun Belt Conference-best 18.5 tackles for loss to go along with 76 total tackles and seven sacks. The former Fresno State Bulldog, who was the media’s choice as preseason defensive player of the year before he decided to transfer, is back in the Mountain West to make a few more waves.
Hawaii linebacker Darius Muasau made a splash on the islands by emerging as the conference’s premier tackling machine. His 108 total tackles last fall were 26 more than second-place tackler Kyle Harmon, though Muasau also created his fair share of havoc with 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
Defensive end Scott Patchan broke out at Colorado State as perhaps the conference’s highest-impact transfer in 2020, giving the Rams a much-needed jolt as a pass rusher. He led CSU with 5.5 sacks and picked up 7.5 tackles for loss in all.
Nevada linebacker Lawson Hall and Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma might be the deepest cuts on this year’s Bednarik list, but don’t count them out. Hall had his best overall year yet for the Wolf Pack in 2020 with 65 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, while Muma made replacing a pair of NFL Draft picks look easy for the Cowboys with 71 tackles, eight tackles for loss and three sacks.
Last year’s Bednarik Award winner was Tulsa’s Zaven Collins.