The Jim Thorpe Association released their watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, which has been given annually since 1986 to the nation’s top defensive back. Continuing a trend in the preseason watch lists for the other awards released this week, the SEC, as one may expect, is well represented, although not as much as I anticipated.
Here are the four who made the list:
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
Craig Loston, LSU
Damian Swann, Georgia
The biggest omissions from the preseason list are Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson from Florida. The Gators’ cornerback duo is the best in the country. Considering Purifoy is on the Bednarik Award and Nagurski Award watch lists, it is a stunner he is not on the Thorpe Award list.
Other notable SEC players to keep an eye on who will merit consideration for the award are Deion Belue of Alabama, E.J. Gaines of Missouri, Kenny Ladler of Vanderbilt and Nickoe Whitley of Mississippi State.
The SEC has claimed seven Thorpe Award winners, placing second to only the Big 12, who has nine award winners. However, after only three SEC defensive backs won the trophy in the first 24 years of the award’s existence, the conference has rattled off a four-year winning streak.
Tennessee legend Eric Berry started the streak in 2009, and in the last three years, LSU cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu and Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks kept the streak alive.
The Big Ten is the only other conference to have four straight winners, so if one of the aforementioned watch list members takes home the trophy this year, the SEC will have more bragging rights over the rest of the conferences.
The award’s name sake, Jim Thorpe, is one of the most versatile athletes in American history, playing professional baseball and basketball in addition to winning gold in the pentathlon and decathlon in the 1912 summer Olympics in Stockholm.
Despite Thorpe’s success in track and field, football was his favorite sport and essentially was a one-man team for Carlisle in 1911 and 1912 and earned All-American honors for his work as a running back, defensive back, punter and kicker. Thorpe could do anything on the football field and his contribution to the sport helped in the formation of the NFL, and he is in the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
The biggest challengers to ending the SEC’s dominance in the defensive backfield are cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu from Ohio State and Oregon, respectively. Both of these guys are bonafide studs and future first-round picks in the 2014 NFL Draft.
This year’s crop of SEC defensive backs may not have the same name recognition or star power of the previous four winners, but the Tide’s Clinton-Dix is the top contender to keep the streak alive.
Clinton-Dix is easily the top safety in the nation with his combination of size, speed, range and physicality on one of the best defenses for the top team in the nation and is my pick o win the award. He would become the first safety since Berry started the SEC streak in 2009 to win the award.
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