Several college football awards organization assembled their preseason watch lists last week, and several Badgers are included.
Quarterback Russell Wilson and running backs Montee Ball and James White were three of 66 players named to the preseason Maxwell Award watch list. The Maxwell Award goes to the top college football player in the nation as voted by members of the media and the Maxwell Football Club. The fact that Wilson made the list despite never taking a snap in a Badger uniform shows the incredible amount of hype surrounding the young quarterback’s transfer to Wisconsin.
Additionally, Wisconsin’s Phillip Welch was included on the watch list for the Lou Groza Award, which goes to the nation’s top kicker. Many Badger fans might remember Welch for his bad miss in the first half of the Rose Bowl, but Welch was solid throughout the 2010 regular season and there’s no reason he shouldn’t contend for the award in 2011.
The Bednarik (top defensive player), Mackey (top tight end), Biletnikoff (top receiver) and Ray Guy (top punter) all released their watch lists as well, but no Badgers were included. However, that doesn’t mean Wisconsin players won’t contend for the awards.
The Badgers lost standout defensive end J.J. Watt, but if linebacker Chris Borland is healthy after missing the entire 2010 season, he could be every bit the playmaker Watt was. The Badgers also have solid-to-elite players at punter and No. 1 receiver in Brad Nortman and Nick Toon, so there’s hope there as well. Although Wisconsin doesn’t return a proven tight end, that position has always been an important in Paul Chryst’s office, so don’t be surprised if Jacob Pederson and Jake Byrne surprise some opponents this season.
EDIT (7/9/11, 1:00 p.m.): Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler was just named one of 65 players named to the Outland Trophy preseason watch list. The Outland Trophy is awarded annually to the nation’s top offensive lineman. Former Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi won the award last season.