July 13, 2012
The Jim Thorpe Association has announced the 2012 Preseason Watch List for the Jim Thorpe Award given to the best defensive back in college football. The list contains 35 of the top defensive backs in the country, including four from Conference USA. D.J. Hayden of Houston, Deron Wilson of Southern Miss, Dexter McCoil of Tulsa and Kemal Ishmael of UCF represent C-USA on the preseason listing.
Hayden made an immediate impact in his first season at Houston in 2011, earning Conference USA Newcomer of the Year honors to help lead the Cougars to a record-breaking 13 victories. He paced the team with 11 passes broken up and finished fifth on the squad with two interceptions. He also led the club with five forced fumbles to go along with 66 tackles and eight tackles for loss. Hayden shined in the second half of the season, returning an interception 54 yards for a touchdown at UAB before stringing together five-straight games with a forced fumble to end the season.
Wilson earned All-Conference USA honors last season after starting all 14 games to extend his streak of consecutive starts to 27. He ranked fourth on the team in tackles with 75 (48 solo, 27 assisted) and intercepted a team-high four passes. Wilson returned two INTs for touchdowns and led the team in passes defended with 17 and broken up with 13. He also became the NCAA's active career leader in interceptions returned for touchdowns with four.
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.
Ishmael has racked up 244 tackles dating back to his true freshman season in 2009. He enters 2012 looking for just 35 more tackles to tie Cory Hogue for 10th on the UCF all-time list (Hogue amassed 279 tackles from 2006-09, while Rick Hamilton holds the record with 443 from 1989-92). In 2011, Ishmael paced the Knights in tackles for the second straight year, racking up 81 including 2.5 for a loss. As a sophomore, he notched 93 tackles with five break-ups and two interceptions. Ishmael has nine career break-ups and three picks while playing in all 39 UCF games from 2009-11. After being on the 2010 All-C-USA First Team, Ishmael was a 2011 All-C-USA Honorable Mention pick
The Thorpe Award is named after one of history's greatest athletes, Jim Thorpe, and is presented by the Jim Thorpe Association in Oklahoma City. Thorpe excelled at every sport in which he competed, including football at which he played on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The 2012 Olympics mark the 100-year anniversary of Thorpe winning gold in the decathlon and pentathlon at the Stockholm Olympics.
The Jim Thorpe Award watch list is chosen by a screening committee which compiles a list of 30-40 players each year. The list is not final and players who have outstanding seasons are added as the season progresses. The Thorpe Award winner is selected from three finalists and will be announced at The Home Depot College Football Awards on December 6, 2012 on ESPN.