It’s that time of year: college football award watch list season. On Monday the watch list for the 2017 Bednarik Award was one of the first to be announced. Notre Dame senior linebacker Nyles Morgan’s name was among the list of 86 watch list candidates. The Bednarik Award is given annually to the best defensive football player in the country as judged by the Maxwell Football Club.
Nyles Morgan, a captain for the 2017 season, is coming off his first season as a starter for the Fighting Irish. As a junior Morgan racked up 94 tackles, 6 TFL, and 4 sacks while starting all 12 games during Notre Dame’s 2016 campaign. It was a breakout campaign for Morgan after he toiled on the bench during the 2015 season while Brian Vangorder inexplicably seemed to refuse to play him.
Morgan’s 2016 was solid, but also was still short on the kind of game changing negative plays that the Notre Dame defense as a whole struggled with the last few seasons. The arrival of Mike Elko though could have Morgan primed for a huge senior season. Elko’s defenses funnel plays to the MIKE and much like Manti Te’o did in 2012, Morgan could explode this year. The chances of him being a Heisman finalist like Te’o are probably slim to none, but it is very possible to see Morgan go from hardly producing any turnovers to creating an abundance this fall under Elko and Clark Lea‘s guidance.
Notre Dame Opponents On the Bednarik Watch List
No other Notre Dame defender is on the list of watch list candidates although plenty of Notre Dame opponents are.
- Stanford: Harrison Phillips (DT) and Justin Reid (S)
- Boston College: Harold Landry (DE)
- North Carolina: MJ Stewart (CB)
- Miami: Kendrick Norton (DT) and Shaq Quarterman (LB)
- Miami (OH): Heath Harding (CB)
- Navy: Micah Thomas (LB)
- USC: Cameron Smith (LB), Porter Gustin (LB), Iman Marshall (CB)
- Wake Forest: Duke Ejiofor (DE)
- Georgia: Roquan Smith (LB), Trenton Thompson (DT)
Nine of Notre Dame’s opponents have at least one defender on the Bednarik Watch List. Only North Carolina State, Michigan State, and Temple are absent any defenders on this list. USC leads the way with three players on the list including two of their starting linebackers. Miami, Georgia, and Stanford each have two players on the list as well.
Wake Forest’s Duke Ejiofor is on the list after racking up 10.5 sacks last season under the guidance of MIke Elko. Hopefully Elko is able to get that kind of production out of any defensive player from Notre Dame this fall. Daelin Hayes perhaps?