Watch List Watch: Kyren Williams, Kyle Hamilton lead Notre Dame in preseason recognition
The annual blitz of preseason watch lists recently wrapped up giving us one of the last signs that college football season is almost here.
Eight Notre Dame players and head coach Brian Kelly were recognized on various preseason watch lists for some of the top awards in the sport.
Running back Kyren Williams and safety Kyle Hamilton received the most mentions from Notre Dame with both represented on four different watch lists. Here’s a rundown of all the watch list nods for the Irish.
RB Kyren Williams
• Walter Camp Award
Notre Dame’s offense will enter the 2021 season with a certified No. 1 running back in Williams. That’s a big reason why the junior was one of 35 names on the preseason watch list for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.
Williams was named ACC Rookie of the Year as a sophomore last season for accumulating 1,125 yards and 13 touchdowns on 211 carries and 313 yards and one touchdown on 35 catches.
Four Notre Dame players have previously been named Walter Camp Player of the Year, which was first awarded in 1967: tight end Ken MacAfee (1977), wide receiver Tim Brown (1987), wide receiver Raghib Ismail (1990) and linebacker Manti Te’o (2012).
Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith won the award last season.
• Maxwell Award: Williams was one of 80 players named to the Maxwell Award watch list. The Maxwell Football Club has given the Maxwell Award to the player deemed to be the best overall player in college football since 1937.
Six Notre Dame football players have won the Maxwell Award since its inception: Leon Hart (1949), Johnny Lattner (1952 and 1953), Jim Lynch (1966), Ross Browner (1977), Brady Quinn (2006) and Te’o (2012).
Former Irish quarterback Ian Book was one of 18 semifinalists last season for the Maxwell Award, which went to DeVonta Smith.
• Doak Walker Award: Williams was selected as one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award last season, so it was basically a given that he’d make the 2021 preseason watch list for the award that honors college football’s top running back. Williams joined 81 other running backs on the list.
No Notre Dame running back has ever won the Doak Walker Award, which was created in 1990. Alabama’s Najee Harris won the award last season.
• Paul Hornung Award: Williams was one of 57 players named to the preseason watch list for the award named after the former Heisman Trophy winner from Notre Dame. The annual honor, which was first given in 2010, goes to most versatile college football player who impacts the game in multiple ways.
No Notre Dame player has won the award. Alabama’s DeVonta Smith won it last season.
S Kyle Hamilton
• Bednarik Award: Hamilton made a much shorter list for the Bednarik Award when he was named one of 18 semifinalists last year, but the 90-man watch list will have to suffice for now. The Bednarik Award has identified the best defensive player in college football every year since 1995.
Former Irish linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was one of the three finalists last year for the Bednarik Award, which was won by Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins.
Te’o became the only Notre Dame player to win the Bednarik Award following the 2012 season.
Hamilton recorded 63 tackles, seven pass breakups, 4.5 tackles for a loss and one interception as a sophomore last season.
• Bronko Nagurski Trophy: Hamilton also made the 90-player watch list for the other defensive player of the year award, which was created in 1993.
Te’o also became the only Notre Dame player to win the Bronko Nagurski Trophy following the 2012 season. Tulsa’s Zaven Collins won the award last season.
• Jim Thorpe Award: Somewhat surprisingly, Hamilton didn’t make the cut to 12 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award last season. A healthy junior season should change that this year.
Hamilton will start the season having appeared on the 40-player watch list for the best defensive back in college football. A Notre Dame defensive back has never won the award since its inception in 1986.
TCU safety Trevon Moehrig won the Jim Thorpe Award last season.
• Walter Camp Award: Hamilton joined Williams on the watch list for the Walter Camp Award.
DE Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa
• Wuerffel Trophy: Tagovailoa-Amosa will take on a new role in his fifth season at Notre Dame by moving from defensive tackle to defensive end. But he will continue to serve in his role as a leader both on and off the field for the Irish and in the community.
That’s why Tagovailoa-Amosa was one of 93 players included on the watch list for the Wuerffel Trophy, which identifies the FBS player who best combines exemplary community service with leadership achievement on and off the field.
The Irish graduate student helped organize Notre Dame’s Juneteenth Rally in 2020 and has participated in a number of team activities with the community including Football 101, Uplifting Athletes’ annual bowling event and Shop-with-a-Player event during the winter holiday season.
Tagovailoa-Amosa recorded 17 tackles, six tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks last season.
Following the 2018 season, linebacker Drue Tranquill became the only Notre Dame player to win the Wuerffel Trophy, which was created in 2005. New Mexico offensive lineman Teton Saltes took home the award last season.
• Good Works Team: The 2021 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team will recognize players who demonstrate leadership on and off the football field with community service and academic dedication.
Tagovailoa-Amosa was one of 109 players across all divisions of college football who were announced as nominees to make the team.
• Bronko Nagurski Trophy: Tagovailoa-Amosa joined Hamilton on the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy.
• Polynesian College Football Player of the Year: Tagovailoa-Amosa was one of 63 players named to the preseason watch list for the award that started in 2014. Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley won the award in 2015.
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson and USC safety Talanoa Hufanga shared the award last season.
TE Michael Mayer
• Biletnikoff Award: The watch list for the Biletnikoff Award included 45 wide receivers when it was released in July. But the award that recognizes the most outstanding pass catcher in college football can also be won by a tight end or running back.
That’s how Notre Dame sophomore tight end Michael Mayer made the list. He was one of five tight ends to receive the preseason nod.
Mayer finished the 2020 season tied for a team high with 42 receptions, which set a program record for receptions by a freshman tight end. Mayer's receptions totaled 450 yards and two touchdowns.
Alabama’s DeVonta Smith won the Biletnikoff Award, which was created in 1994, last season. Wide receiver Golden Tate became the only Notre Dame player to win the award in 2009.
• John Mackey Award: Mayer was named as one of 56 players on the John Mackey Award watch list. The honor given to the top tight end in the country was first bestowed in 2000.
In 2012, Tyler Eifert became the only Notre Dame player to win the award. Florida’s Kyle Pitts took home the honor last season.
OL Jarrett Patterson
• Rimington Trophy: Patterson will start the 2021 season in the same way he started the 2020 season — on the preseason Rimington Trophy watch list.
The award given to the top center in college football included 40 players on its preseason watch list.
Patterson has started 21 games at center for the Irish, but his 2020 season was cut short after eight games with a foot injury. Patterson, a senior, missed spring practice this year while he was still recovering from the surgery on his left foot.
The Irish considered moving Patterson out to left tackle this year, but he appears set to return to center with the emergence of freshman Blake Fisher at left tackle.
No Notre Dame player has won the Rimington Trophy since its inception in 2000. Alabama’s Landon Dickerson was given the award last season.
• Outland Trophy: Left tackle Liam Eichenberg couldn’t end Notre Dame’s Outland Trophy drought last season, but Patterson found himself on the watch list of 80 players for the best interior lineman in college football.
Eichenberg, who was one of three finalists, couldn’t beat Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood for last year’s Outland Trophy. An Irish player hasn’t won the award since Browner in 1976.
Notre Dame tackle George Connor won the first Outland Trophy in 1946. Guard Bill Fisher also won the award in 1948.
• Lombardi Award: Winners of the Lombardi Award can come from multiple positions — offensive line, tight end, defensive line and linebacker — but they most possess a high-level of ability and exemplify the character of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. Patterson fit the criteria along with 79 other players on the preseason watch list.
Five Notre Dame players have previously won the Lombardi Award, which was created in 1970: defensive tackle Walt Patulski (1971), Browner (1977), defensive tackle Chris Zorich (1990), offensive tackle Aaron Taylor (1993) and Te'o (2012).
OL Cain Madden
• Outland Trophy: Madden brought an impressive résumé with him to Notre Dame as a graduate transfer from Marshall. The 2020 second-team All-American, as named by the Associated Press and Walter Camp Foundation, joined Patterson on the watch list for the Outland Trophy.
• Lombardi Award: Madden joined Patterson on the watch list for the Lombardi Award.
QB Jack Coan
• Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award: Coan joined 62 other quarterbacks on the preseason watch list for the award given to the top senior or graduating upperclassman quarterback in college football.
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book was one of five finalists last season for the award, which was granted to Alabama's Mac Jones.
A Notre Dame quarterback has won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award twice since its inception in 1987: Tony Rice (1989) and Brady Quinn (2006).
P Jay Bramblett
• Ray Guy Award: The first 21 years of rewarding the best punter in college football with the Ray Guy Award hasn’t included a Notre Dame winner. Maybe Bramblett, a junior, can change that for the Irish.
Bramblett averaged 42.8 yards per punt last season, but his net average ranked even higher nationally with the help of sustained hang time, directional punting and coverage help from his teammates. Notre Dame ranked No. 18 in the FBS in net punting with 41.28 yards.
Bramblett pinned 12 of his 43 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Irish punt team surrendered only 44 net return yards.
Georgia Tech’s Pressley Harvin III won the Ray Guy Award last season.
WR Avery Davis
• Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award: A breakout senior season and Texas roots made Davis a candidate for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award. Davis was named to a watch list of 53 players for the award given to the top offensive player with Texas ties who exhibits the characteristics of legendary running back Earl Campbell. Those characteristics include integrity, performance, teamwork, sportsmanship, drive, community and tenacity.
Davis caught 24 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns last season. He also rushed for 57 yards on three carries.
No Notre Dame player has won the award since its creation in 2013. Winners must be born in Texas, graduated from a Texas high school, or played at a junior college or college in Texas. Florida quarterback Kyle Trask won the award last season.
LS Michael Vinson
• Patrick Mannelly Award: Former Notre Dame long snapper John Shannon won the inaugural Patrick Mannelly Award following the 2019 season. Now current Irish long snapper Michael Vinson is in the running to win the award for college football's best long snapper.
Vinson made the preseason watch list alongside 30 other long snappers. Vinson, a walk-on, took over the starting role last season following Shannon's departure and prevented scholarship freshman Alex Peitsch from taking on the job immediately.
Alabama's Thomas Fletcher won the award last season and was drafted in the sixth round by the Carolina Panthers.
HC Brian Kelly
• Dodd Trophy: A spot on the preseason watch list for the Dodd Trophy has become an annual tradition for Kelly.
Since winning the coach of the year award following the 2018 season, Kelly has been named to its preseason watch list every year. The Dodd Trophy is meant to honor the coach who best combines football success with the importance of scholarship, leadership and integrity.
Kelly was one of 17 coaches on this year’s preseason watch list alongside Indiana’s Tom Allen, North Carolina’s Mack Brown, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell, Wisconsin's Paul Chryst, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, Penn State’s James Franklin, Washington’s Jimmy Lake, Florida’s Dan Mullen, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, Alabama’s Nick Saban, Georgia’s Kirby Smart and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.
Kelly was one of five finalists last season for the Dodd Trophy, which was won by Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald.
The following preseason watch lists did not include a Notre Dame player.
• Davey O’Brien Award: The watch list for the national quarterback award consisted of 30 players including five Notre Dame opponents — Sam Howell (North Carolina), Graham Mertz (Wisconsin), McKenzie Milton (Florida State), Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati) and Kedon Slovis (USC) — and former Notre Dame quarterback Phil Jurkovec (Boston College).
• Butkus Award: No Notre Dame linebackers were included on the 51-player watch list less than a year after Irish linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah won the award for college football’s best linebacker. All four of Notre Dame’s linebacker commits did make the watch list for the high school version of the Butkus Award: Joshua Burnham, Jaylen Sneed, Niuafe Tuihalamaka and Nolan Ziegler. Notre Dame freshman Prince Kollie won the high school Butkus Award last season.
• Lou Groza Award: Graduate senior Jonathan Doerer did not make the 30-player watch list for college football’s best place-kicker.
Follow ND Insider Tyler James on Twitter: @TJamesNDI.