Six Penn State Football Players Named to Preseason Watch Lists

Saquon Barkley
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State football had total of five players on the preseason watch lists for the Maxwell Award, the Bednarik Award, the Butkus Award and the Mackey Award.

(Photo of Saquon Barkley by Paul Burdick. View more of Burdick’s work here)

Sophomore running back Saquon Barkley and junior wide receiver Chris Godwin are among the candidates for the Maxwell Award for the National Player of the Year, while junior linebacker Jason Cabinda is a nominee for both the Bednarik Award for the National Defensive Player of the Year and the Butkus Award, which recognizes the nation’s top linebacker. Also on the Butkus Award watch list is senior Nyeem Wartman-White. Junior Mike Gesicki is among the candidates for the 2016 John Mackey Award for the best tight end in the nation.

Penn State is tied for the national lead among all colleges and universities with its seven Maxwell Award winners. The Nittany Lions’ four Bednarik Award recipients are the most of any school in the nation. Cabinda and Wartman-White, meanwhile, will be vying to become the first Nittany Lion to earn the honor since Paul Posluszny in 2005. LaVar Arrington also won the award in 1999, and five have previously been named finalists: Shane Conlan (1986), Andre Collins (1989), Brandon Short (1999), Posluszny (2006) and Dan Connor (2007).

The Maxwell Award, named in honor of Robert W. “Tiny” Maxwell, has been given to America’s College Player of the Year since 1937. Maxwell’s contributions to the game of football were extensive, including time as a player, a sportswriter and an official.

The Bednarik Award has been presented to the College Defensive Player of the Year since 1995. Chuck Bednarik, former standout at Penn and with the Philadelphia Eagles, is a member of both the College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of ’69 and the NFL Hall of Fame’s Class of ’67.

The Butkus Award honors legendary linebacker Dick Butkus.

The Mackey Awards is given annually to the most outstanding collegiate tight end. The award is named after NFL Hall of Fame member John Mackey, who is considered to be the best to have played the tight end position.

Barkley is coming off of one of the most prolific seasons by a freshman running back in Penn State history. He broke the Penn State freshman (true or redshirt) record with 1,076 yards, surpassing the mark set by D.J. Dozier (1,002) in 1983. Barkley’s 1,076 yards place him 16th on Penn State’s season rushing chart and 40th in program history in career rushing yards. Barkley scored seven rushing touchdowns (eight overall) to tie Dozier’s record for rushing scores by a freshman and had five 100-yard rushing games to equal Dozier’s rookie mark.

For his efforts, Barkley was named All-Big Ten second team, Freshman All-America by Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), Sporting News and USA Today, ECAC Rookie of the Year and Big Ten Freshman of the Year by the Big Ten Network. He finished 34th in FBS and third in the Big Ten with 97.8 rushing yards per game, which was skewed by having just one career in the season opener versus Temple and missing nearly three quarters in the San Diego State game. Barkley also ranked 34th in FBS and fourth in the Big Ten in yards per carry (5.9) and was second among true freshmen running backs.

Barkley tallied 194 rushing yards against the then-No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus, becoming just the second back to rush for more than 175 yards at Ohio State since 2000, joining Indiana’s Tevin Coleman (228; 2014). With his performances against Buffalo (115 yds.) and Rutgers (195 yds.), Barkley became the first Penn State player to have back-to-back games with a 100-yard rushing quarter since Larry Johnson in 2002 (Indiana and Michigan State).

With 1,101 receiving yards and five touchdown catches, Godwin was named All-Big Ten second team by the media and third-team all-conference by the media. Godwin joined an elite group last season, becoming the third player in Penn State history to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving in a season, joining Bobby Engram and Allen Robinson. Godwin finished second on Penn State’s season receiving yards chart and fourth on the season receptions list with 69 catches. In two seasons, he has moved into 17th in career receiving yards (1,422) and tied for 14th in career receptions 94).

Godwin finished 24th in FBS an second in the Big Ten in receiving yards, while ranking 49th in FBS and fifth in the Big Ten in receptions per game (5.3) in 2015. Godwin has at least one catch in 25 of 26 career games, including four or more grabs in 12 of his last 14 games. He also owns six career 100-yard performances. Godwin owns the Penn State record for career bowl receiving yardage (273 yards in two bowls). He ranks second (140; 2014 Pinstripe Bowl) and third (133; 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl) in individual bowl game receiving yardage. As a true freshman, Godwin was named to the All-Freshman team and the All-Bowl Team.

Cabinda garnered All-Big Ten honorable mention accolades and was an ECAC first team All-Star as a sophomore. He is also on the preseason watch list for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which honors the top defensive player in college football who makes the biggest impact for his team, both on and off the field. Starting all 13 games, Cabinda led the team and was 15th in the Big Ten with 7.7 tackles per game. He had three games with 10 or more tackles last season after entering 2015 with a career high of eight tackles during his freshman season in 2014.

The native of Flemington, New Jersey had a career-high 14 tackles and recorded his first career sack and forced fumble against Army. He also had the game-clinching sack of A.J. Schurr on fourth-and-5. Cabinda also had 10 stops against Maryland and 13 tackles against Michigan State. In the TaxSlayer Bowl against Georgia, Cabinda piled up eight tackle with 1.5 tackles for loss. He combined with Garrett Sickels for a stop behind the line on fourth-and-2 in the fourth quarter to give Penn State the ball with a chance to tie the game with under two minutes remaining.

Wartman-White missed the majority of the 2015 season after suffering an injury early in the second quarter season opener at Temple, but was second on the team in tackles in 2014. In his last complete game, he piled up a team- and career-best 11 stops vs. Boston College in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. His 75 tackles in 2014 more than doubled his previous career high, with his 6.2 stops per game ranking 28th in the conference.

Gesicki is the veteran of the Penn State tight end corps after appearing in 25 of 26 games in his career. As a sophomore, he had 13 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 10.4 yards per game. Gesicki pulled in a career-high three catches for 14 yards against Buffalo and hauled in a 33-yard touchdown catch against Army. As a true freshman, Gesicki was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team after making 11 catches for 114 yards.

Penn State opens the 2016 campaign against Kent State at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 3.

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