The Jim Thorpe Award is the prize that every great defensive back hopes to win. It was first introduced in 1986 and has been awarded to some of the best defenders in college football history. Players such as Deion Sanders, Roy Williams and Patrick Peterson are part of the elite group to be honored with the award.
Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State won the award last season.
The watch list for this year's award was released on Friday by the Jim Thorpe Association. The list includes 48 of the best defensive backs from across the country. Although an SEC player has won the award in each of the last four seasons, some of the best players to watch are outside of the powerhouse conference this year.
Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
Purifoy didn't make the list for some strange reason, but don't think he can't win the award. He is one of the best cornerbacks in the country and a potential first-round draft pick. He has the ability to become a shutdown defensive back.
Dion Bailey, S, USC
Bailey will play his first season at safety after spending his first two seasons at linebacker. He is a tackling machine who covers a lot of ground, and he'll be in the conversation for the award if he can continue to make plays.
Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
Exum is a physical cornerback with great ball skills. Last season, he had five interceptions, 48 tackles and 16 passes broken up. Keep a close eye on this rising senior.
Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State
Joyner will move from safety to cornerback this season. The speedy defensive back had 51 tackles and an interception last year. He will look to become the first Florida State player to win the award since Deion Sanders in 1988.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is now the leader of the Alabama secondary. Regardless of how many players the coaching staff seems to lose, the new guys always seem to step up. That's great news for Clinton-Dix.
The Alabama junior started 13 games last season and intercepted four passes. He also had 37 tackles and four broken up passes. He has great closing speed and terrific instincts, which allow him to cover a lot of ground and make plays.
Clinton-Dix is an aggressive player who is set to become the next great Tide defender.
Senior Ty Zimmerman has a chance to join Terence Newman as the second Kansas State player to win the Jim Thorpe Award.
Zimmerman was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection last season and led Kansas State with five interceptions. He also had 50 tackles, three tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. He isn't the most athletic player on this list, but he plays the game hard and finds ways to contribute.
The Kansas State safety is the only returning defensive starter. While there is a lot of pressure on him to play well, this should lead to more media attention.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is the leader of an experienced Oregon secondary.
He is an aggressive corner who plays physical and has solid hands. Ekpre-Olomu intercepted four passes last season and ran one of them back for a touchdown. He also broke up 16 passes and forced six fumbles. His playmaking ability is similar to past Jim Thorpe Award winners such as Eric Berry of Tennessee and Patrick Peterson of LSU.
Ekpre-Olomu will get plenty of attention playing for a national championship contender. He'll make a great case for the award if he can produce similar statistics.
Ed Reynolds proved to be a playmaker last season, and those sexy statistics will draw a lot of attention.
After missing the entire 2011 season due to injury, Reynolds came back and led Stanford with six interceptions. He ran three of them back for touchdowns while adding 47 tackles and five passes broken up. Reynolds is a ball hawk, and all of the exciting and game-changing plays give him a shot to win the award. Voters love flashiness.
He is a leader and the reason why Stanford's defense should be one of college football's best.
Ohio State has produced a couple of Jim Thorpe Award winners in Antoine Winfield and Malcolm Jenkins. Bradley Roby should be the favorite to join that select group.
He is by far the best cornerback in the country and is the most exciting to watch. Roby has tremendous speed and almost always makes a play on the ball. He led the Big Ten last season with 19 passes defended and added two interceptions and a fumble recovery. He also showed his toughness by finishing the year with 62 tackles.
Roby flies all over the field and is a big play waiting to happen. He is also a potential first-round NFL draft prospect.