Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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Sports column

July 22, 2012

College football loves its watch lists

BLUEFIELD — Are you being watched? College football players all across the nation are, and they’re being told about it. So are the rest of us.

There are now lists for everything. Just watch David Letterman, he has a ‘Top Ten’ list every single night of the week, even when he’s on vacation, which seems to be the situation every time I flip him on.

College football loves lists. Don’t believe me? Just check out all those watch lists that invade the sports world each summer leading up to the college football season.

Apparently, we have to be told who is being considered for some of college football’s top awards. In reality, every player is a candidate, although a player from Alabama or Oklahoma has a better chance to win than someone at Vanderbilt or Troy.

Are these lists really necessary? There is no rule that says only a player on a particular watch list can win an award. Cam Newton was not on any watch list that I know of in 2010, and all he did was win the Heisman Trophy and lead Auburn to the national title.

Watch lists are a lot like preseason polls. They are meant to generate excitement for the upcoming season. We already have folks calling us to let us know whenever magazines, websites, soothsayers and cats are telling them that West Virginia is ranked in their top 10.

We know. Does it really matter?

Preseason polls are simply for fun. The two polls that matter will be released some time in August, and they will pretty much resemble all the rest of the polls, but they are the ones to be most concerned with.

The watch lists are much the same. They’re meant to generate buzz for college football, but who really remembers who won the Lou Groza or John Mackey awards last season unless it’s someone from your school.

What they really do is take up valuable space in a newspaper for something that really doesn’t matter. The only award that anyone remembers is the Heisman.

It does, however, promote college football so that is a good thing.

Robert Griffin III won the Heisman last season, but Andrew Luck won more overall awards. He just didn’t win the one that counted the most. He did, however, go first in the NFL draft.

The watch lists start coming out in early July, and they just keep on coming. It would be hard to find a school that isn’t represented, but it helps to be a winning program with big hopes for the season ahead.

In all the excitement about West Virginia football this season, not one defensive player from the Mountaineers is on a list. The center (Joe Madsen), kicker (Tyler Bitancurt), quarterback (Tavon Austin) and two wide receivers (Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey) are there, but someone has to stop the other team.

The truth is that, there could be someone on that defense who could be a standout and wind up in competition for the award. Each award releases their mid-season watch list, the semifinalists, and then the finalists — which is usually three for each award.

There are so many awards that I missed some when I made my initial list,  and I am sure I have missed more that are not here. I really needed to make a list of all my lists to keep up with all the lists.

Among the four schools in our coverage area, there are several players that have had nominated for these awards. There are probably more lists coming or some I missed, but the these lists go on longer than the Dwight Howard nightmare in Orlando or the statue saga at Penn State.

Here is a look at the players from West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Marshall and Virginia that are listed on some of these lists.

Some of these awards appear to be for the same thing, such as the Walter Camp and Maxwell awards, and the Bednarik and Nagurski awards.

*Walter Camp Award (most outstanding player): Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech; Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, West Virginia.

*Maxwell Award (most outstanding player, by the Maxwell Football Club): Austin, Smith, Thomas.

Not sure the difference in these two, but someone has to win them.

*Davey O’Brien Award (quarterback): Thomas, Smith.

*Biletnikoff Award (receiver): Austin, Stedman Bailey, West Virginia; Marcus Davis, Virginia Tech; Aaron Dobson, Marshall (the only Thundering Herd player on one of these lists).

Davis, who was third in receptions last season at Virginia Tech, is on the list, but Clemson rising sophomore sensation Sammy Watkins is not. Willie Haulstead of Florida State was listed and he didn’t even play last season because of concussion issues. However, teammate Rashad Greene was no where to be found and he caught seven touchdown passes in nine games for the Seminoles.

*Lombardi Award (lineman): The list includes 145 names. Taylor, James Gayle, Virginia Tech; Joe Madsen, West Virginia; Oday Oboushi, Steve Greer, Morgan Moses, all from Virginia (if any of those three win this award, I will wear a Virginia Tech cap for a week).

*Butkus Award (linebacker): Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech

*Bronko Nagurski (top defensive player, presented by the Charlotte Touchdown Club): Kyle Fuller, Taylor, Virginia Tech; Greer.

*Bednarik Award (top defender): Fuller, Gayle, Taylor.

Once again, not real sure the difference in this one either (but if Fuller, Taylor, Greer or Gayle wins, heck, I’ll wear a West Virginia cap for a week).

*Outland Trophy (interior lineman): Andrew Miller, Virginia Tech; Oboushi, Moses.

*Rimington Award (center): Madsen, Miller,

*Lou Groza Award (kicker): Tyler Bitancurt, West Virginia.

No regional athletes were listed for the Johnny Unitas Award — which goes to the outstanding senior or fourth-year quarterback — the Ray Guy (punter), Jim Thorpe (defensive back) and Mackey (tight end) awards.

There are definitely more awards out there, but this is enough for now. We’ll probably have more of these lists in the paper soon.

Hey, the lists keep on coming. So does college football, and when it does we’ll all be watching. Some of the players will just get more attention than others.  

Those players are being watched, and they’re on lists.

—Brian Woodson is the sports editor at the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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