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Local trio make watch list for prestigious Maxwell Award. Here’s every Utahn on 2020 watch lists

SHARE Local trio make watch list for prestigious Maxwell Award. Here’s every Utahn on 2020 watch lists
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Quarterback Jake Bentley runs a drill as the University of Utah football team opens spring camp in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 2, 2020.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The annual summer tradition of college football preseason award watch lists being released is complete.

Even if the 2020 season doesn’t happen, these locals are being nominated for the country’s top college football awards.

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Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson warms up before the game against Idaho State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Maxwell Award

College player of the year

  • Jake Bentley, senior, QB, Utah

The grad transfer from South Carolina will be in a quarterback competition for the Utes along with Texas transfer Cameron Rising and senior Drew Lisk. Bentley was a three-year starter (with a 19-14 record) and two-time captain at South Carolina, where he had a 62.5% completion percentage and threw for 7,527 yards and 55 touchdowns while accounting for 7,670 yards of total offense.

  • Penei Sewell, junior, OT, Oregon (Desert Hills High)

Sewell is the nation’s top offensive tackle — last year, he earned the top grade for an offensive lineman in Pro Football Focus history, which began tracking the stat in 2014. He was a unanimous first-team All-American in 2019 and the Ducks have a 17-3 record in Sewell’s 20 games as the program’s starter at left tackle.

  • Zach Wilson, junior, QB, BYU (Corner Canyon High)

Wilson enters his junior year looking to re-establish himself as the starter at BYU, after injuries slowed him in 2019. Through two seasons, Wilson has thrown for 3,960 yards and 23 touchdowns with 12 interceptions for the Cougars, while also rushing for 388 yards and five touchdowns.

Previous local winners (first awarded in 1937): Ty Detmer, BYU, 1990

Paul Hornung Award

Most versatile player in college football 

  • Britain Covey, junior, WR, Utah (Timpview High)

Covey was named to the Hornung Award watch list for the second straight year. He has 113 career receptions for 1,233 yards and five touchdowns — he missed most of the 2019 season with a lingering knee injury — and has averaged 80.4 all-purpose yards per game while returning kickoffs and punts for the Utes.

  • Lopini Katoa, junior, RB, BYU (American Fork High)

Katoa averaged 71.7 yards per game last season, which included 358 rushing yards, 288 receiving yards and 207 kick return yards for the Cougars.

  • Deven Thompkins, junior, WR, Utah State

Thompkins contributed in a variety of ways for USU last season, with 40 receptions for 536 yards and four touchdowns and six carries for 77 yards and one touchdown, while adding one punt for a 45-yard touchdown and a kickoff return for 22 yards.

Previous local winners (first awarded in 2010): None

Wuerffel Trophy

College football’s premier award for community service

  • Bracken El-Bakri, senior, DL, BYU (Brighton High)

El-Bakri has started 18 games for BYU during his career. The Cottonwood Heights native has 61 career tackles, including 31 solo stops, to go with three tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble.

  • Devin Lloyd, junior, LB, Utah

Lloyd started all 14 games at rover linebacker for Utah in 2019, earning All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors. His first career interception went for a 64-yard touchdown against Oregon State.

  • Justus Te’i, senior, DE, Utah State

Te’i started all 13 games for USU last year and had 51 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks to go with three pass breakups, a team-high three fumble recoveries and a quarterback hurry.

Previous local winners (first awarded in 2005): None

Lou Groza Award

Nation’s top placekicker

No locals on watch list

Previous local winners (first awarded in 1992): Matt Gay, Utah (Orem High), 2017

Ray Guy Award

College punter of the year

No locals on watch list

Previous local winners (first awarded in 2000): Tom Hackett, Utah, 2014 and 2015; Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah, 2016

Bronko Nagurski Trophy

Nation’s most outstanding defensive player

  • Khyiris Tonga, senior, DT, BYU (Granger High)

Tonga, also named to the 2019 Nagurski watch list, has started 21 times in 39 games played for BYU. The senior has 94 career tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and five sacks as a Cougar, topped by 45 tackles and four tackles for loss with a sack last season.

  • Jay Tufele, junior, DT, USC (Bingham High)

Tufele was also on the 2019 Nagurski watch list and is one of three Trojans — including fellow defensive linemen Drake Jackson and safety Talanoa Hufanga — named to this year’s preseason list.

Previous local winners (first awarded in 1993): None

Outland Trophy

Nation’s most outstanding interior lineman

  • James Empey, junior, C, BYU (American Fork High)

Empey has started every game — 26 in all — at center in his first two seasons for BYU. Pro Football Focus rates the junior as college football’s No. 10 returning offensive lineman in 2020. 

  • Penei Sewell, junior, OT, Oregon (Desert Hills High)

Sewell is the reigning Outland Trophy winner and has allowed just one sack in his two collegiate seasons. He’s the first Polynesian and first sophomore offensive lineman to win the Outland Trophy.

  • Khyiris Tonga, senior, DT, BYU (Granger High)

BYU is one of 17 schools with two players on this year’s Outland Trophy watch list and one of six schools to have both an offensive and defensive lineman on the list.

  • Jay Tufele, junior, DT, USC (Bingham High)

Tufele earned All-Pac-12 first-team honors in 2019, one year after taking home Freshman All-American first team accolades in 2018.

Previous local winners (first awarded in 1946): Merlin Olsen, Utah State (Logan High), 1961; Jason Buck, BYU, 1986; Mohammed Elewonibi, BYU, 1989; Penei Sewell, Oregon (Desert Hills High), 2019

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Utah Utes linebacker Devin Lloyd (20) runs for a touchdown after intercepting a pass during a football game against the Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Ore., on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Utah won 52-7.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Butkus Award

Nation’s best linebacker

  • Devin Lloyd, junior, LB, Utah

Lloyd excelled in his first season as a starter in 2019, leading the Utes with 91 tackles. He was also second on the team with 6.5 sacks and second with 11 tackles for loss.

Previous local winners (first awarded in 1985): None

Paycom Jim Thorpe Award

Best defensive back in college football

No locals on watch list

Previous local winners (first awarded in 1986): None

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Brigham Young Cougars tight end Matt Bushman (89) runs after a catch against the Washington Huskies in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

John Mackey Award

Nation’s most outstanding tight end

  • Matt Bushman, senior, TE, BYU

Bushman, who chose to forgo entering the NFL following his junior season, made the Mackey Award watch list for the third straight year. The three-year starter has 125 career receptions for 1,719 yards and nine touchdowns, including 47 catches for a career-best 688 yards and four touchdowns during the 2019 season.

Previous local winners (first awarded in 2000): None

Biletnikoff Award

Nation’s most outstanding college football receiver

No locals on watch list

Previous local winners (first awarded in 1994): None

Doak Walker Award

Nation’s premier college running back

  • Lopini Katoa, junior, RB, BYU (American Fork High)

Katoa was named to Doak Walker preseason watch list for the second straight season. He started four games for BYU in 2019 and had 85 carries for 358 yards and four touchdowns while finishing the season with a team-best 853 all-purpose yards.

  • Jaylen Warren, senior, RB, Utah State (Snow College and East High)

Warren enters his senior year as the headliner of the Aggies’ running back group. Last year, he had 112 carries for 569 yards and five touchdowns — averaging 5.1 yards per carry — while adding 15 receptions for 182 yards in his first season in Logan as a JUCO transfer.

Previous local winners (first awarded in 1990): Luke Staley, BYU, 2001

Davey O’Brien Award

Nation’s best college quarterback

No locals on watch list

Previous local winners (first awarded in 1981): Jim McMahon, BYU (Roy High), 1981; Steve Young, BYU, 1983; Ty Detmer, BYU, 1990 and 1991

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USC Trojans defensive lineman Jay Tufele gets ready to take the field against the Utah Utes during NCAA football in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Bednarik Award

College defensive player of the year

  • Jay Tufele, junior, DT, USC (Bingham High)

Tufele had 42 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and a pass deflection while starting all 13 games last season. He made the Bednarik Award watch list last season as well.

Previous local winners (first awarded in 1995): None