Maxwell Football announced its 2018 Maxwell Award and Bednarik Award Watch Lists.
Three Michigan State Spartans in total were recognized and added to the preseason lists. Quarterback Brian Lewerke and running back LJ Scott made the Maxwell Watch List, while linebacker Joe Bachie made the Bednarik list.
The Maxwell Award is given out annually to the College Football Player of the Year, and is in its 82nd year. The trophy is named after Robert W. “Tiny” Maxwell, a former football player, coach referee and reporter. Last year’s winner was Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma. Michigan State’s only Maxwell winner was linebacker Brad Van Pelt in 1972.
The Bednarik Award, named after the great Chuck Bednarik, is given to the nation’s top defensive player. This is only the 24th year of the trophy. Last year’s winner was Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama. MSU has never had a Bednarik winner in the award’s short history.
Lewerke was a pleasant surprise for Spartan fans last year, with his impressive ability to make plays with both his arms and legs. Lewerke finished third in the Big Ten in total offense last season. He threw 20 touchdown passes and ran for five more scores. Will he be able to ascend his game to the Maxwell Award level? That is a tall and unlikely task, but time will tell.
After impressive seasons as a freshman and sophomore, Scott struggled for much of his junior campaign in 2017. Fumbles were an issue and his 4.5 yards per carry average was the lowest of his career. However, he put together a couple of masterful performances, including in the Holiday Bowl against Washington State. Scott is yet to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season, but with the majority of his offensive line returning, he should be in for a much better 2018.
Bachie, who was a big question mark in the middle of the defense entering the year, had an outstanding season in 2017. He led the team in tackles (100), and also had 2.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He helped lead the Spartans to the No. 7 ranking in the country in terms of total defense. I am excited to see what he does this season.
Michigan State players do not often receive national individual awards, for various reasons, so I wouldn’t expect to see any of these players as finalists at the end of the year. Although I think Bachie has the best shot.
More award watch lists will be released throughout the week. Check out the Maxwell Football Club’s website for the complete schedule.
Update: Lewerke was also named to the Davey O’Brien Award Watch List, which is awarded to the nation’s top quarterback.