Pre-season award watch list season is officially upon us and while Notre Dame has been well represented thus far, one player who might just be one of the best players on the 2014 roster – Keivarae Russell – was overlooked for the Jim Thorpe Award watch list.
Earlier this week, Russell, one of Notre Dame’s defensive leaders for 2014, was listed as a candidate for both the Chuck Bednarik and Bronco Nagurski Awards – both given out to the best overall defensive player in the country – but was curiously absent from the 39 member watch list for the Thorpe Award which is handed out to the nation’s defensive back.
While being absent from the Thorpe Watch list certainly won’t prevent the junior corner from being eligible for the award this season, it seems a bit absurd that Russell was not included. Phil Steele tabbed Russell as a 4th team All-American in his pre-season publication and both the Nagurski and Bednarik committees which have a much larger pool of players to select from included Russell on their watch lists.
Hopefully for the sake of Notre Dame’s defense Russell uses the snub as motivation this fall because winning the award is one of the former wide receivers goals for the season as stated during Spring practice. Russell told the South Bend Tribune’s Tyler James, “I want to win it this year. That’s a big goal for me, to win the Thorpe this year. I think I really I can. The biggest thing for me is perfecting my craft and becoming a true lockdown corner. I know I can.”
A year ago Russell experienced a few growing pains in just his second full season playing on the defensive side of the ball, but by the end of the season, Russell was playing at a very high level which has raised expectations.
Russell will be the leader of what figures to be one of the better secondaries Notre Dame has fielded in a while. At corner, Russell will be paired with either sophomore Cole Luke or 5th year senior transfer Cody Riggs most likely. Senior Matthias Farley made the switch to corner in the spring as well and figures to be in the mix too. The emergence of Max Redfield at safety this spring figures to only further solidify the Irish secondary.
While Russell was left of the Thorpe list, several of his teammates were named to other watch lists throughout the week.
- Ben Koyack as on the Mackey Award watch List.
- Sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith found himself on both the Bednarik and Nagurski watch lists like Russell.
- Smith and Day’s defensive teammate Sheldon Day was on the Outland watch list (best interior lineman).
- Center Nick Martin was on the Remington Watch list (best C)
- Kicker/punter Kyle Brindza landed on the Lou Groza (best K) watch list but missed the cut for the Ray Guy (best P) watch list.
- Quarterback Everett Golson was a member of the Maxwell Watch list (best QB)
There will be more watch lists to come out this week including the Biletnikof Award and Doak Walker Award lists. It will be interesting to see if Davaris Daniels makes the first Biletnikof list after missing the spring and if any Irish running back will make the Walker list.