It’s been a crazy offseason full of change for the Penn State football program, but things are looking better than ever for the Nittany Lions. A new coaching staff and a new scoreboard await the players as they get ready for fall camp. The preseason wouldn’t be complete, however, without some awards predictions and watch list announcements. This year, Penn State was lucky enough to have eight different players named to awards watch lists.
- Quarterback Christian Hackenberg headlines the list, as he was named to both the Davey O’Brien and the Maxwell award watch lists. He’ll look to join Todd Blackledge and Kerry Collins as the only Nittany Lions to take home the O’Brien award — given to the best quarterback in the country. Seven Nittany Lions have won the Maxwell award for best player in the country, tied with Notre Dame for the most in the NCAA.
- Jordan Lucas was also recognized by two separate awards committees, as the rising junior was named to both the Bednarik and the Jim Thorpe award watch lists. The Bednarik award, which is given to the best defensive player in the country, has been won by four different Penn Staters, most recently by Dan Connor in 2007. Lucas will look to be the first Penn State player to win the Jim Thorpe award — awarded to the nation’s best defensive back — in its 28-year history.
- Two Nittany Lions were named to the Doak Walker award watch list, given to the best running back in the country. Both Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak were recognized for standout 2013 seasons by being placed on the list. The last Penn Stater to win the Walker award was Larry Johnson in 2002.
- Another pair of Nittany Lions were selected for the Mackey award watch list. Jesse James, the team’s leading returning receiver, and Kyle Carter were added onto the list to be considered for the award, given to the nation’s best tight end. Penn State joins Oregon and Oklahoma as the only schools with two nominees for the award. Despite the program’s exceptional history of producing great tight ends, Penn State has never had a Mackey award winner. James, Carter, and sophomore Adam Breneman will look to break that streak and take home the hardware in the next few years.
- Despite the team’s uncertainty on the offensive line, Donovan Smith was named to the Outland award watch list. This list is unique in that it is given to the best interior lineman in the country — it doesn’t matter if he plays offense or defense. With Miles Dieffenbach suffering an ACL injury in the spring, Smith will be leaned on heavily this season in the trenches.
- Finally, the preseason wouldn’t be complete without a member of Linebacker U landing on the Butkus award watch list. This year, the honor goes to Mike Hull. Hull will lead the defense this year after recording 78 tackles last year, and will look to join LaVar Arrington (1999) and Paul Posluszny (2005) as winners of the award, given to the best linebacker in the nation.
While it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to pull through and win these awards, if things pan out close enough to the way these awards committees think they will, 2014 could be a special season in Happy Valley.