July 12, 2012
The 2012 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List features the best and brightest of the upcoming season's defensive players, including three Conference USA standouts. Southern Miss senior LB Jamie Collins, Tulane senior LB Trent Mackey and Tulsa senior DB Dexter McCoil are among the preseason candidates for the trophy that is awarded annually to the nation's best defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club.
Collins, who also is listed on the Bednarik Award preseason watch list, returns as the Golden Eagles' top tackler after registering 76 stops last season. In three seasons at Southern Miss, Collins has posted 222 stops (127 solos) with 25.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks, to go along with 10 pass breaks, four fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles, three interceptions and a blocked kick. Two of his interceptions have been returned for touchdowns, including a 97-yard return last year at East Carolina and a 32-yard return against the Pirates at home in 2010.
A first team All-Conference USA and All-Louisiana selection and a candidate for the Rotary Lombardi Award a year ago, Mackey was one of the nation's top defenders in 2011, logging 145 (96 solo/49 assists) tackles in 12 games. He finished second among C-USA players and ranked fourth nationally with 12.1 stops per game. Mackey posted double figure tackles in eight of his 12 games, including 18 stops against Syracuse, which was the 18th-best single game effort in college football last season. His tackle total as a junior ranks 10th among the school's single season leaders but was the most by a Tulane player in a single season since 1983. Mackey also accounted for 14 tackles for lost yardage, which ranked fifth among conference players, 4.5 sacks, one fumble return and one interception return for a touchdown. Offensively, he lined up in the backfield in the season opener against Southeastern Louisiana and caught a three-yard touchdown pass.
McCoil earned second team All-Conference USA honors last season after finishing third on the Golden Hurricane in tackles with 84. He tied for the league lead in interceptions with six, returning one for a touchdown and totaling a league-high 131 return yards on INTs. In three seasons at Tulsa, McCoil has tied the school record with 13 interceptions. He had seven pass breakups in 2011 and added three tackles for loss. McCoil turned in one of the top defensive performances in any bowl game last season when he registered 10 tackles and recorded two interceptions in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.
Players may be added or deleted from the Bronko Nagurski Watch List during the season. For the 12th consecutive season, the FWAA will choose a Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week. If a recipient is not on the Watch List, he will be added. The FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club will announce five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Nov. 15.
The Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner is chosen from five finalists who are part of the FWAA All-America Team. The FWAA All-America Committee, after voting input from the entire membership, selects the 25-man team and eventually the Bronko Nagurski finalists. Committee members, then by individual ballot, select the winner, the best defensive player in America. The annual Bronko Nagurski Trophy Banquet presented by ACN will be Dec. 3 at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, N.C.