The watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, recognizing the nation’s most outstanding defensive back, was announced earlier today. From the Atlantic Coast Conference, four outstanding defensive backs have been named as players to keep an eye on in regards to possibly taking home the coveted hardware. With the SEC taking home the last four editions of the award, the latest being Mississippi State‘s Johnathan Mitchell in 2012, can one of these athletes be the one to break that streak?
Of the four representatives, three are from the Coastal Division.
Carrying the Duke Blue Devils banner is CB Ross Cockrell. The 6-0, 180-pound senior was a key part in Duke’s surprising success last season. Garnering First-Team All-ACC honors last year, Cockrell is back to try and get the Blue Devils to their second consecutive bowl game. Cockrell notched 71 tackles last season with five interceptions added on.
FS Tre Boston of the North Carolina Tar Heels is next up on the list. Also a senior, the 6-1, 205-pounder recorded 86 tackles last season with four interceptions. He’ll be one of the four seniors on this defense that will look to get the Heels into the ACC Championship Game they missed out on last year due to sanctions.
Finally from the Coastal Division, and probably the favorite of the entire group, is the Virginia Tech Hokies‘ CB Antone Exum. Although recovering from offseason ACL surgery and hoping to return in time for the opener against the Alabama Crimson Tide, there’s no question that Exum is one of the elite defensive backs in the nation when he’s 100%. Once that knee is indeed back to normal, the nightmare will once again begin for ACC offenses.
As for the lone entrant on the list from the Atlantic Division, that honor goes to the Florida State Seminoles‘ safety-turned-cornerback, senior Lamarcus Joyner. The senior makes the transition to the new position in 2013, but his overall defensive talents should end up overshadowing any issues the move may bring up. No matter where he is in the defensive backfield, Joyner is one of the elite d-backs in the country.
Jack is the ACC College Football Writer for Rant Sports. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackJ14RS