Utah State seniors Devante Mays, Jake Simonich and Austin Stephens were all named to the 2016-17 Reese’s Senior Bowl Watch List, it was announced Tuesday by the organization. This annual all-star game showcases the top senior talent in the nation for NFL coaches, scouts and executives.
“The release of our watch list signifies the opening kickoff for the Reese’s Senior Bowl,” Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage said. “We are looking forward to evaluating these prospects over the next several months in trying to find the best 110 players in America.”
This year’s group includes 209 defensive players and 191 offensive players. Specialists were not included in this year’s watch list and will form their own list later this season.
“If a player is not on this list, it doesn’t mean they can’t play in our game,” Reese’s Senior Bowl Scouting Coordinator Patrick Woo said. “The players on our radar are not strictly limited to this list. This provides a starting point for us and NFL clubs. We look forward to finding the very best and bringing them to Mobile.”
Mays, Simonich and Stephens join 14 other players from the Mountain West on the watch list. San Diego State led the way from the MW with six Aztecs being singled out, while Utah State and Boise State tied with three each.
Overall, safeties (49), wide receivers (49) and cornerbacks (44) led the way by position.
Mays, a 5-foot-11, 220-pound running back from Livingston, Texas, played in all 13 games and made six starts in his first season at Utah State last season. He finished the year with 165 carries for 966 yards (5.9 ypr) and nine touchdowns to lead the team in each category. He ranked third in the MW and 39th nationally with his 5.9 yards per carry, which ranked ninth all-time in school history for a single season and tied for seventh all-time at USU for a career. He also ranked seventh in the conference with his nine rushing touchdowns and 10th in the league with his 74.3 rushing yards per game. Overall, he had three 100-yard rushing games during the year, highlighted by a season-best 176 yards on a season-high 22 carries against Wyoming.
Mays is also one of 76 players named to the Doak Walker Award Watch List and one of two Aggies named to the 2016 Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award Watch List, to go along with preseason third-team selections by Athlon Sports, College Sports Madness and Phil Steele.
Simonich, a 6-5, 300-pound offensive tackle from Danville, California, earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors as a sophomore and junior, along with being named a Phil Steele second-team all-conference selection in 2015. During his junior season, he started all 13 games and had an overall performance grade of 74 percent, which included four games better than 80 percent. For the year, he recorded 43 knockdowns, including a season-high seven at San Diego State and five at Fresno State. His best game of the year was against No. 21 Boise State, as he graded out at 84 percent and recorded four knockdowns.
Simonich is also a preseason first-team selection by Phil Steele and College Sports Madness and a preseason second-team selection by Athlon Sports heading into the 2016 campaign.
Stephens, a 6-3, 305-pound center from West Des Moines, Iowa, started all 13 games and had an overall performance grade of 78 percent, which included five games better than 80 percent last season. He recorded 42 knockdowns overall, including a season-high six at Utah, and allowed just one sack on the season. His best game of the year was against Wyoming, as he graded out at 86 percent and recorded four knockdowns.
Stephens earned honorable mention all-MW honors as a sophomore and junior, along with being named to Phil Steele’s third team in 2014 and second team in 2015.
Entering his senior season, Stephens is also on the 2016 Dave Rimington Trophy Fall Watch List, to go along with a preseason first-team all-Mountain West selection. He was also named a preseason first-team all-MW selection by Athlon Sports and Phil Steele.
Since 1962, Utah State has had 20 players selected to the Senior Bowl, including six in the past seven years.
The 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl week officially begins on Tuesday, Jan. 24, and concludes with the 68th game on Jan. 28, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. The practices are televised by ESPN and the game is broadcast live on the NFL Network at 12:30 p.m. MT.
Utah State opens the 2016 season by hosting Weber State at newly renovated Maverik Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 1, at 6 p.m. Fans are asked to #StripeTheMav for the game against the Wildcats with those sitting in even sections wearing white and odd sections wearing blue. The first 12,000 fans will receive a jersey rally towel compliments of Maverik, Pepsi, Zions Bank and USU Athletics.
Utah State begins Mountain West play by hosting Air Force in its annual Homecoming game on Saturday, Sept. 24.