Watch-list season continued on Friday when the Jim Thorpe Association released its watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is presented annually to the best defensive back in college football.
Among the 35 members of the list, five players hail from SEC programs, which is the most of any conference in college football. Mississippi State cornerback Jonathan Banks, Florida safety Matt Elam, Alabama safety Robert Lester, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and LSU safety Eric Reid were the SEC's representatives.
Who are the favorites?
Topping that list is Reid. The 6'2", 208-pound rising junior was named a second-team All-American by Rivals.com last season. He finished the 2011 campaign with 55 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery.
He made the play of the season last year, picking off a Marquis Maze pass down near the goal line in the first "Game of the Century" in early November versus Alabama.
No watch list would be complete without a Heisman finalist on it. Tyrann Mathieu's skills as a defensive back are subject to some criticism, but he proved last year that he has everything it takes to be a star as a defensive back in addition to his work on special teams.
Mathieu finished last season with 76 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, nine pass breakups, two interceptions, six forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
Florida's Matt Elam gets lost a bit considering the SEC has so many solid cornerbacks and safeties, but that shouldn't be the case. Elam finished last season with 78 tackles and finished as Florida's leader in tackles for loss (11), pass breakups (seven) and forced fumbles (two).
These awards are popularity contests, so Florida may have to win a few more games for Elam to be a legitimate candidate.
Noticeably missing from the watch list is Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo. Rambo will likely miss the first four games of the season due to suspension, which probably has something to due with his omission.
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