Texas Football: 8 Longhorns Make National Watch Lists for 2013
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The first wave of college football's watch lists for national awards came out this past week. Texas football certainly has something to be proud of, with eight players already chosen to at least compete for these prestigious awards.
With six watch lists yet to be disclosed, the Longhorns should feel good about the eight players who have already made the list. That number should continue to swell to at least 12, with the watch lists for the nation's top receivers and running backs yet to come out.
But eight is what we have now, and while none are quite favorites, many of them have a chance to prove they were worthy of the early hype.
Here, in alphabetical order, are the eight Longhorns who received designation as members of a national watch list, whether they deserved it or not.
QB David Ash (Maxwell Award)
Ash's strong sophomore season has earned him another appearance on the Maxwell Award watch list.
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For the second straight season, David Ash has been named to the Maxwell Award watch list for the nation's player of the year. However, his chances of winning are only slightly less remote than they were in 2012.
This is not a knock on Ash, who should also be named to the Davey O'Brien watch list for the nation's best passer on July 17. It is just that college football, headlined by reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and freak defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, is so deep on talent in 2013 .
Currently a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy, Ash is due for another strong season in a more urgent offensive attack. While he may not be the nation's best player, Texas has developed a dependable quarterback for themselves, and this nomination is simply more evidence to that fact.
CB Carrington Byndom (Thorpe Award)
Carrington Byndom certainly has the talent to win the Thorpe Award. Whether he is consistently great is another story.
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Even after a surprisingly down junior season, the Jim Thorpe Association could not leave Carrington Byndom off their 2013 watch list. With a return to his 2011 form, he could make some serious noise for the award.
Byndom was not himself for much of 2012. He was giving up long touchdowns, and his tackling was poor from day one, adding himself to the last season's list of underachieving Longhorn defenders.
But when he is on, Byndom is one of the nation's best cover corners, which he showed in 2011 when he held Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon to 74 yards. Then there was the final matchup with Texas A&M, in which he returned an interception for a touchdown in the gripping 27-25 win.
That is the type of play that, on a consistent basis, will make Byndom Texas' third Thorpe Award winner. Whether he is capable of being that good every week is a mystery, but he has at least shown the type of ability it takes to win a national award.
CB Quandre Diggs (Nagurski Trophy, Thorpe Award)
Diggs would have to improve in coverage or force a ton of turnovers to win either the Thorpe Award or the Nagurski Trophy.
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Joining Byndom in the quest for Texas' third Thorpe Award is Quandre Diggs, who is also on the Nagurski Award watch list for the nation's top defensive player.
More of a ball hawk than a lockdown specialist, Diggs is one of Texas' top playmakers. In spite of a 5'10" frame, he thrives on delivering big blows in the secondary and forcing turnovers, with eight interceptions and two forced fumbles on his career.
These are all traits that bode well for Diggs' future in the pros, but do not make him a favorite for this coveted award. He does not force turnovers at an astonishing rate nor is he unbeatable in coverage, and you basically have to do both to win either of these awards
Diggs is the best and most versatile defensive whom the Longhorns have, just not to the degree that will earn him distinction as the nation's best.
C Dom Espinosa (Rimington Trophy)
Espinosa needs improvement just to maintain his starter's status in 2013. (Eric Wade/SportsPageMagazine.com)
Every once in a while, the committees that make the watch lists whiff on candidates. That is what happened when Dom Espinosa was placed on the Rimington Trophy Watch List for the nation's top center.
Forget about being the best in the nation, Espinosa might not even be the best center on his own team. Despite starting every game of his career, he does not push people around and tends to get overwhelmed by better defensive tackles and could be overtaken by freshman Darius James before the season is out.
On paper, Espinosa looks like a national-level player. On the field, he does not, and he will not even come close to winning the Rimington Trophy.
LB Jordan Hicks (Nagurski Trophy)
Jordan Hicks' health remains the biggest obstacle to him becoming an elite player.
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Linebacker Jordan Hicks has also been named to the Nagurski Trophy watch list and should find himself on the one for the Butkus Award as well. He is certainly not a favorite for either, but he could be in the conversation if his health holds up.
The issue with Hicks has never been talent, as he possesses all of the tangible and intangible qualities to be a top-flight linebacker. His issue has been health, which slowed him down his sophomore year and cost him 10 games last season.
If Hicks stays healthy, he will be a player whom college football will have its eye on it 2014 and 2015, thanks to his medical redshirt. He has just been away from the game for too long and has to prove he can stay on the field for a full season.
OG Trey Hopkins (Outland Trophy)
Due to injury, Hopkins has major work to do simply to remain a starter at Texas.
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Making his debut on a watch list is offensive lineman Trey Hopkins, who has been named a candidate to win the Outland Trophy as the nation's top interior lineman. However, his main concern should simply be remaining a starter for the 'Horns.
At left guard, Hopkins was Texas' offensive lineman in 2012 and was the offense's lone All-Conference player. But a stress fracture and the arrival of Desmond Harrison has cast doubt on Hopkins' 2013 season, and he will have to fight or change positions to remain a starter.
While he may still be able to salvage a solid senior season, Hopkins is nowhere close to claiming status as the nation's top interior lineman.
DE Jackson Jeffcoat (Nagurski Trophy, Bednarik Award)
Jeffcoat has award-type talent. But so do plenty of other defensive ends.
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Any other year, you could say a healthy Jackson Jeffcoat would be a favorite to win either of college football's most prestigious defensive awards, the Bednarik Award and the Nagurski Trophy. But with Jadeveon Clowney in the way, just stirring the pot would be an achievement.
When healthy, Jeffcoat is as dominant a force as there is in college football. He has 38 tackles for loss in 26 career games and can cover ground as quickly as any linebacker.
The primary obstacle to him being a nationally recognized player has been health, missing roughly a third of the games in which he has been on the roster. The only season in which he has been healthy, he racked up 71 tackles and eight sacks.
If he stays healthy, this will be the year in which Jeffcoat becomes a household name. Unfortunately, he will be fighting Clowney for designation as the game's best defensive end as well as overall defensive player, and that is the definition of a losing battle.
OG Mason Walters (Outland Trophy)
Mason Walters certainly deserves his status on the Outland Trophy Watch List. He just does not have the inside track to actually winning it.
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Last up is star right guard Mason Walters, who joins Trey Hopkins on the Outland Trophy watch list, except Walters has at least somewhat of a chance.
Walters may have had a down year in 2012, but there is a reason the fifth-year senior is the only offensive lineman who will not be asked to change positions. That is, unless he decides to take a crack at center.
Walters, who leads the team with 38 consecutive starts, is both a future NFL draft pick and one of the nation's best offensive linemen. However, he does not have the type of talent to usurp players like Notre Dame's Louis Nix III.