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Trio Of Penn State Football Defensive Standouts Earn Spots On Butkus, Jim Thorpe Award Watch Lists

Penn State football stars Brandon Smith, Jesse Luketa, and Jaquan Brisker were included on preseason award watch lists Monday morning.

Standout linebackers Luketa and Smith were each named to the Butkus Award Watch List Monday. The honor was instituted in 1985 and has since been given annually to the top linebacker in college football.

Brisker was recognized as a top defensive back in college football, as he was named to the Jim Thorpe Award watch list.

While it wasn’t a banner year for Penn State’s defense in 2020, the linebacker core had its moments, especially Smith and Luketa. The latter of the pair, who’s now entering his senior season, was second on the team with 59 total tackles last fall, including 2.5 for a loss, and even had a fumble recovery in a win over Rutgers. He’s already played in 35 games over the course of his Nittany Lion career and has 90 total tackles.

In just his second season in the blue and white, Smith stood out with a team-leading eight tackles for loss and two sacks in 2020. He started in all nine games, and even grabbed an interception against Nebraska.

The pair are now in the running for an award that has been taken home twice by “Linebacker U.” LaVar Arrington was honored after his incredible 1999 campaign, while Paul Posluszny won in 2005. Micah Parsons was named a finalist for the award after his impressive 2019 season, but Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons would eventually be named the winner.

As for Brisker, the Jim Thorpe watch list is just another addition to the safety’s preseason hype. He’s already been named a preseason All-American by Pro Football Focus and a candidate for the prestigious Bednarik Award.

The Jim Thorpe Award is given annually to college football’s top defensive back, which Brisker could very well be considered in 2021. As a senior in 2020, the the former Lackawanna College star led Penn State with six pass breakups, grabbed an interception, and added 57 total tackles.

Now entering his fifth season of college football, the athletic safety is expected to be a key piece of Brent Pry’s unit this fall.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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