<
>

Big Ten watch list snubs

The two-week stretch of watch list season, when the committees that hand out college football's national awards provide fans with a bit of conversational fodder each July, came to an end Friday. Sixteen national awards tabbed a combined 988 college football players as candidates for their end-of-the-year prizes. The lists have become so exhaustively inclusive that names that don’t make cut are more notable than those that do.

This year’s lists mentioned Big Ten players 116 times, many of them more than once. Defensive ends Joey Bosa and Shilique Calhoun led the way by appearing on four lists each. Every team in the league landed at least one player on one of the lists, and all but Northwestern had at least two representatives.

There were still a few more players left off their respective lists who have reason to feel slighted or a little extra motivation when training camps begin in a couple of weeks. It’s difficult to nail down every candidate in the country, but here are a few oversights we think the voting committee might want to keep in consideration when the season gets started.

Ohio State LB Darron Lee

Lee, a redshirt freshman in 2014, made an immediate impact on the Buckeyes defense last fall. He had 80 tackles (16.5 for loss) and two interceptions in his rookie season. He was arguably Ohio State’s best defensive player during its playoff run, which is why it’s puzzling to not see his name on the watch lists for the Butkus Award (best linebacker) and Chuck Bednarik Award (best overall defender).

Lee did make the cut for the Lombardi and Nargurski awards, given to the best lineman or linebacker and best defensive player, respectively. His fellow Buckeye linebackers Joshua Perry and Raekwon McMillan were both on the Butkus list along with two linebackers from rival Michigan (Joe Bolden and James Ross). Lee certainly belongs in their company.

Maryland CB Sean Davis

Defensive backs in general didn’t get much respect from national voters this summer. The Jim Thorpe Award mentioned only three Big Ten players on its 42-man list. Davis starred at safety for the Terps last season, finishing second on the team with 115 tackles. He moved to cornerback late in the year and fared well while matching up with talented receivers like Michigan State’s Tony Lippett.

Davis made his move to the outside more permanent this spring, and that position switch might be part of the season why he didn’t join teammate William Likely on the Thorpe list. Minnesota’s Briean Boddy-Calhoun also has a legitimate bone to pick. He was left off the best defensive back list despite being selected as a candidate for both overall defensive player of the year lists (Nagurski and Bednarik). Penn State’s Jordan Lucas is also noticeably missing from the list.

Michigan State’s Montae Nicholson and Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers might be a little too unproven for the Thorpe voters now, but it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see either of them join an updated version when the season gets rolling.

Nebraska WR De'Mornay Pierson-El

None of the July watch lists included a space for top special teams players, which is where Pierson-El made most of his impact as a freshman, but it seems wrong to have one of the conference’s most electric players completely absent. The Cornhuskers' speedy returner made 23 catches when he got a chance to contribute on offense last fall. He should get a chance to be more involved with a year of experience under his belt.

Like defensive backs, the Big Ten’s wide receivers made up a small percentage of the Biletnikoff candidates. Four players (Leonte Carroo, Michael Thomas, Alex Erickson and DaeSean Hamilton) made the cut. Illinois sophomore Mike Dudek would have had a great chance to join them if he hadn’t suffered an ACL injury during spring practice.