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NCAA Football

5 Players Who Should be Bednarik Award Semifinalists

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The Chuck Bednarik Trophy

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Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Five weeks remain in the 2013 college football regular season, and the races for the numerous awards that will be handed out to the top players from the season are heating up. The Chuck Bednarik Award is annually given to the nation’s top defensive player. As the 2012 winner of the award, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, has moved onto the NFL, we know for sure that a new face will claim the award in 2013.

75 players were announced to the preseason watch list by the Maxwell Football Club, the organization that grants the award. Of those 75, the vast majority of them have made their mention worthwhile, having seasons that make them stand out among their peers. The Maxwell Club is busy selecting semifinalists as you read this article, as that announcement is due on October 29.

Making the cut from being on the watch list to being a semifinalist does somewhat depend on what team a player is on, but history has shown that the Maxwell Club is willing to look beyond the win/loss column and the media hype to reward outstanding play. If a player is among the national leaders in relevant defensive statistical categories and was on the preseason list, they’ll likely be a semifinalist.

Before the number of candidates gets cut by more than two-thirds a week from tomorrow, here’s a look at five players that were on the preseason watch list and have done everything in their power to stay on it through the next cut.

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5. Vic Beasley

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Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson's junior defensive end is tied for the national lead with nine sacks.

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4. E.J. Gaines

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Mizzou senior cornerback is among the best in the nation with three interceptions and has made a number of plays for the undefeated Tigers.

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3. Yawin Smallwood

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Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

UConn's junior linebacker ranks third in the country with 77 tackles and is the centerpiece of the Huskies' defense.

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2. Chidera Uzo-Diribe

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

A senior at defensive end for the Buffaloes, he leads all of FBS in forced fumbles.

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1. Nikita Whitlock

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Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Demon Deacon senior defensive end's 13.5 tackles for loss is the best in the country.