Six Bulldogs On National Watch Lists So Far

Sophomore center Dillon Day

While Mississippi State fans watch their favorite team play this fall, several individual Bulldogs will be watched closely by observers charged with selecting the nation's elite collegians for the premier Trophies and Awards. As of Monday, no less than six Dogs have been named to various watch lists, with four more such groups to be announced this week.

Leading the roster of Mississippi State nominees is Johnthan Banks, who over the weekend added the Thorpe to his awards-watching list. This trophy goes to the nation's top defensive back, as does the Lott Trophy for which the senior cornerback is also a nominee. But Banks finds himself under additional consideration for best defensive player in the land, period, with nomination to both the Bronco Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award.

Banks is a preseason All-SEC first teamer by league coaches as named last week and is projected by various publications and outlets as an all-American. The Nagurski Trophy is presented on December 3, while the Bednarik will be awarded on December 6. That is the same date for the Thorpe announcement.

A pair of Bulldogs, who play on opposite sides of the line of scrimmage, have been named to the Outland Trophy list given to the nation's top down-lineman. Defensive tackle Josh Boyd will compete with teammate and offensive guard Gabe Jackson to make the Outland's finalist cut. The trophy winner is named December 6. Both are preseason SEC Coaches all-conference, Jackson on the second team and Boyd third team.

But Jackson finds himself the lone Bulldog on another list, as a nominee for the Lombardi Award given the top interior lineman. The junior left guard is not State's oldest lineman—that would be oft-injured right guard Tobias Smith—but he is the ranking veteran with his 26-straight starts these past two seasons.

A 123-tackle junior season not only made outside linebacker Cameron Lawrence one of the SEC's elite stoppers in 2011. It has earned the senior nomination for the Butkus Award, recognizing the top linebacker in the country. This award is presented in January prior to the NFL's Super Bowl, though the winner is notified December 4.

Sophomore Malcolm Johnson had a most interesting week when he was A) named to the Mackey Award watch list for the country's top tight end and B) had his season shortened by a non-sports injury, a torn pectoral muscle that will sideline him at least into October. Still to be named to the Mackey list as only a sophomore, and after only one regular-season start in 2011, speaks well to Johnson's future. This award is also presented on December 6.

Maybe more impressive though is Dillon Day's appearance on the Rimington Trophy watch list. He is one of 51 college centers selected to track through 2012, but among just eight underclassmen. A sophomore as well, Day only became a starter four games into last season yet has already made an impression beyond the conference borders.

The Rimington Trophy is presented on January 12.

This week sees four more watch-lists announced, beginning Tuesday with the Biletnikoff Award for the nation's top receiver. Mississippi State is pushing senior Chad Bumphis for this honor. Wednesday reveals the O'Brien Award for the game's best quarterback, which given the newness of State's situation likely won't include any Bulldog. The Doak Walker Award nominations for top running back comes out Thursday, and on Friday the projected best overall college players at any position will be nominated for the Walter Camp award.

State has no specialists nominated for either the Groza or Guy awards this year, nor for the Maxwell Award which goes to the national player of the year.

Mississippi State is still looking for the first Bulldog to win any of these individual honors. The highest such finish to-date was in 2000 when cornerback Fred Smoot was a finalist for the Thorpe. A year later Edward ‘Pig' Prather was a semifinalist for the same award.

Two linebackers have been semifinalists for the Butkus; Dwayne Curry in 1995 and Barrin Simpson in 1999. Johnie Cooks (1981) and Wayne Harris (1982) were semifinalists for the Lombardi. And while MSU has no Groza nominee this year, three times a Bulldog kicker has been a semifinalist: Tom Burke in 1993, and Scott Westerfield in both 1999 and 2000.

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