With the 2014 season fast approaching, watch lists for the most prestigious individual awards in the nation have been released over the last few weeks. Six Longhorns landed spots on these lists, all of whom are expected to be significant contributors to the success of the team in 2014.
On July 7th, DT Malcom Brown, DE Cedric Reed, and CB Quandre Diggs were named to the watch list for the 2014 Chuck Bednarik Award, as well as the FWAA's Bronko Nagurski Trophy three days later. Both awards are given annually to the best defensive player in the nation. All three players will likely play their final season this year - Diggs and Reed are both seniors, while junior standout Brown is expected to leave early for the NFL Draft. Diggs was also named to the watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, honoring the best defensive back in the country, while Brown was deemed a candidate for the Outland Trophy along with senior C Dominic Espinosa.
Reed is coming off a great 2013 season, in which he collected 79 tackles, 10 sacks, and five forced fumbles en route to 1st-team All-Big 12 honors. Diggs posted 58 tackles and 10 pass breakups last season (and was a honorable mention All-Big 12 choice) while Brown collected 68 tackles and 12 tackles for loss while starting all 13 games.
While no Texas player has ever won the Bednarik, former Longhorns Michael Huff and Aaron Ross won the Thorpe Award back-to-back in 2005 and 2006. Meanwhile, Derrick Johnson and Brian Orakpo captured the Nagurski in 2004 and 2008, respectively. The last Longhorn to win the Outland was Brad Shearer, who took home the award in 1977.
Meanwhile, the RB tandem of Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray has secured two spots on the watch list for the Maxwell Award (given to the top player in the country). Brown was Texas' leading rusher last year, earning a 1st-team All-Big 12 selection while scoring nine touchdowns and falling just short of 1,000 season rushing yards. Gray, a junior, added 780 yards on the ground despite missing the final four games of the season with a torn Achilles. Both will look to figure heavily in the Texas ground attack come 2014, as they look to impress NFL scouts. Previous winners of the Maxwell during the Mack Brown era include Colt McCoy, Vince Young, and Ricky Williams.
The finalists for these awards will be announced in late November, as the 2014 regular season draws to a close. The winners will be announced December 11th by ESPN as part of the Home Depot College Football Awards Show.