More Gamecocks are getting some preseason love on the awards watch lists. Jadeveon Clowney has been named to the Nagurski Watch List for nation's best defensive player, while Kelcy Quarles has been named to the Outland Watch List for nation's best offensive or defensive interior lineman.
Clowney would have to be considered the favorite for the Nagurski Award. After all, he's not only getting attention for defensive accolades but is considered a rare defensive dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Clowney was a finalist for the award last year, but Manti Te'o won the award. In retrospect, maybe Clowney deserved the award.
Given the general perception that he's the best defender in the nation, if Clowney can at least replicate last year's stellar production, South Carolina finishes with a similar record, and another defender doesn't emerge with an unbelievable year, Clowney will probably win this award.
Quarles presents an interesting candidate for the Outland. He's obviously not the kind of odds-on favorite Clowney is, or even remotely close. First of all, in recent years the award has almost inevitably gone to the country's best offensive tackle, serving as an indicator of which tackle will go early in the NFL Draft. Ndamukong Suh is the last defensive player to win the award. In that sense, players like Michigan's Taylor Lewan and Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio should be considered the favorites.
However, what I like about Quarles for this award is that he's not your run-of-the-mill defensive tackle who simply eats up running lanes but doesn't do much else. He's a very versatile player. He could play end if needed, and he has the speed and moves to get into the backfield for the big play from time to time. These awards oftentimes go to players who have a winning combination of racking up big stats, being in on some memorable plays, and being on a team that competes for championships. Quarles has a reasonable shot at being that player in the Outland crop. What may particularly help him is that you're going to see a lot of teams put all their energy into slowing Clowney down, which should give Quarles and other USC defenders opportunities to be the guys who make opponents pay for that strategy.
What do you think of these players' chances to win these awards?