Three Seminoles, Nigel Bradham, Brandon Jenkins, and Andrew Datko, are among those named to the just released watch list for the Rotary Lombardi Award. They are among the seven Seminoles' who have already been named to these ever growing pre-season watch lists.
While these lists are somewhat meaningless at this time of year, the fact that many more FSU players are making these watch lists, as compared to the recent past, is a tribute to the higher quality of recruits the coaching staff has been bringing in as of late, and the better coaching they are receiving once they arrive on campus.
Eligibility for the Rotary Lombardi Award is limited to down linemen, end-to-end, either on offense of defense, who set up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball, and linebackers who set up no father than five yards deep from the line of scrimmage.
The candidates earned a place on the Official Watch List by earning All-American honors last season, by being named to their respective all-conference first team last season as selected by the conference’s head coaches, by being projected to be an All-American or first team all-conference player for the coming season, or by nomination approved by the nominations committee.
Representing Florida State on the Rotary Lombardi Watch List are:
Senior linebacker Nigel Bradham, who has led the Noles in tackles for the past two seasons.
efensive end Brandon Jenkins, who finished tied for third in the nation and second in the ACC with 13.5 sacks, and was named 1st Team All-ACC last season.
The ACC is well represented with 19 players on the Rotary Lombardi watch list.
As of today, seven Seminoles' names have already appeared on watch list for six different awards. They are Dustin Hopkins, Greg Reid, Xavier Rhodes, Brandon Jenkins, Andrew Datko, Nigel Bradham, and EJ Manuel.
In fact, Nigel Bradham and Brandon Jenkins are now on three of the nation's top defensive awards watch lists, the Lombardi, Bednarik, and Nagurski. Meanwhile, Rhodes is on two of the same top defensive awards watch lists, the Bednarik and Nagurski.
A senior linebacker, Bradham is one of four `Noles to make the Bednarik Award list of 65 preseason candidates for the trophy presented to the nation's most outstanding defensive player by the Maxwell Football club. He is also one of 82 players named to the list of Nagurski candidates, who are also contending for the nation's most outstanding defensive player award presented by the Charlotte Touchdown Club. Entering his third year as a starter, the Crawfordville, Fla. native has led the team in tackles each of the last two seasons. In 2010 he set new career-highs for tackles (98), passes defended (5) and sacks (5), while matching his previous best in tackles for loss (5.5).
Jenkins, a junior defensive end, burst on the scene last year with one of the top seasons in FSU football history. With 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss, the Tallahassee native ranked third and tied for fourth, respectively, in the two categories. His tackles for loss were the third-most in Seminole history, while his sack total tied for the fifth-best season. Not surprisingly, the 2010 first-team All-ACC selection, is a consensus preseason All-American candidate.
The same is true for Rhodes, a sophomore cornerback from Miami, who claimed ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2010. A 14-game starter, he was a consensus Freshman All-American after recording 12 pass break-ups and four interceptions, which was good for a share of the team lead. A second-team All-ACC selection, Rhodes registered 58 tackles (49 solo), two sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and recovered two fumbles for the 10-4 Seminoles.
Fellow cornerback Greg Reid also made the watch list for the Bednarik Award after compiling a season full of big plays. A first-year starter as a sophomore in 2010, Reid led the `Noles with 14 pass break-ups, forced three fumbles and swiped three interceptions. An honorable mention All-ACC selection, he also registered a career-high 65 tackles, including three tackles for loss. A Valdosta, Ga. native, Reid capped his season by claiming Chick-fil-A Bowl Defensive MVP honors at the Georgia Dome after forcing two fumbles, breaking up four passes and registering five tackles in FSU's 27-16 win over South Carolina.
Redshirt junior quarterback EJ Manuel, who has posted a 4-2 record as a starter over the past two seasons, is one of 66 players initially identified as a candidate for the prestigious Maxwell Award. The award goes to the nation's most outstanding all-around player and is presented by the Maxwell Football Club. Manuel, who takes over the reins from Christian Ponder, passed for 861 yards and ran for 170 more in 10 games during the 2010 season. The Virginia Beach, Va. native led the Seminoles to a pivotal regular season win over Clemson and threw for a career-high 288 yards against Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game, while starting in Ponder's absence. His game management and mobility were instrumental in directing the `Noles past South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl after Ponder suffered a first half injury. Manuel secured the 26-17 victory with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Taiwan Easterling with 6:22 remaining.
Senior offensive tackle Andrew Datko enters his final year as a fourth-season starting left tackle for the Seminoles. The former Freshman All-American from Weston, Fla. has anchored that spot with precision pass blocking, while developing into an outstanding edge blocker, worthy of candidacy for the Outland Award, presented to the nation's most outstanding interior lineman by the Football Writers Association of America. Despite missing three games due to injury in 2010, Datko posted the Seminoles' second-highest grade among linemen at 87 percent, trailing only Rodney Hudson, who was an Outland Trophy finalist. He relinquished only one sack, was penalized just three times and had only five missed assignments in 691 snaps.
Dustin Hopkins was a semifinalist for the 2010 Lou Groza Award, presented to the nation's most outstanding place-kicker by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission. Not surprisingly, he was one of 30 players selected to the Groza Watch List in 2011. A junior from Houston, Texas, he converted 22 of 28 field goal attempts and led the Atlantic Coast Conference with 119 points, which was also the third highest scoring season in FSU history. He enters the year working on a streak of 86 consecutive successful point-after conversions. Hopkins' sophomore campaign was highlighted by his 55-yard field goal to beat Clemson as time expired, and capped by his 14-point performance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, when he matched an FSU bowl record with four field goals.
While the Lombardi Watch List highlights those players who have already received national recognition, any Division IA player who meets the above requirements is eligible for consideration from the Rotary Lombardi Award Selection Committee. This committee is comprised of more than 500 members, including all past winners and finalists, all Division IA head coaches, and a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.
The Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List, intended as a reference tool for the Selection Committee, will be periodically updated and revised up to the first round of voting to determine the 12 Semifinalists for 2011.
Last year’s Rotary Lombardi Award winner, Nick Fairley (Auburn), was drafted by the Detroit Lions and Finalist Adrian Clayborn (Iowa) was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, both in the first round of the National Football League draft.
Here is the complete watch list for the 42nd Rotary Lombardi Award, which will be presented on December 6-7, 2011 at Reliant Center in Houston, Texas.
Sources: The 2011 Official Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List Released and the Florida State University Sports Information Department.