Cornerback/safety Banks and wide receiver Bumphis give Mississippi State a total of seven players on various watch lists. Five of these seven were part of Coach Dan Mullen's first signing class in 2009.
For Bumphis in fact this is the first nomination. Banks, now, is by far the most-nominated Bulldog of the bunch. He adds the Hornung Award to the Nagurski Trophy, the Bednarik Award, the Thorpe Award, and the Lott Trophy. He has also been tabbed to eight pre-season All-Conference teams announced by magazines, networks, or the SEC itself.
The Hornung Award goes to the nation’s most versatile player, and both Banks and Bumphis qualify given their work in kicking plays or in Bumphis’ case taking direct snaps and even working as a quarterback. Mississippi State is the only SEC team with two players on the Hornung Award list.
As for the overall list of Mississippi State nominees, 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. Both are preseason SEC Coaches all-conference, Jackson on the second team and Boyd third team.
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 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. 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.
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.
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.