Three Penn State players received excellent news earlier today by being recognized as preseason candidates for major individual awards.
Sophomore running back Saquon Barkley and junior wide receiver Chris Godwin were placed on the watch list for the Maxwell Award, given annually to the best player in college football, while junior linebacker Jason Cabinda was placed on the Bednarik Award watch list, which is awarded to the nation's most outstanding defensive player.
All three players had breakout seasons in 2015 and have high expectations heading into the fall. Barkley became just the second freshman in Penn State history to break the 1,000-yard rushing barrier (D.J. Dozier being the other) while creating several instant-classic highlight reel plays, despite missing several games with injuries. After a relatively quiet true freshman campaign, Godwin emerged as one of the top receivers in the Big Ten with 69 receptions for 1,101 yards and five touchdowns. He was Penn State's most consistent receiver throughout the season and recorded six 100-yard receiving games. He's expected to lead a very talented, albeit somewhat inexperienced, group of wide receivers in 2016.
Cabinda started the season as an outside linebacker but was moved inside following Nyeem Wartman-White's season ending knee injury in the horrific week one loss to Temple. He would go on to lead the team in tackles for the season, averaging 7.7 per game.
History bodes well for all three players as Penn State has the most Bednarik Award recipients among all college football programs, and is tied for the national lead with seven Maxwell Award winners. Richie Lucas '(59), Glenn Ressler ('64), Mike Reid ('69), John Cappelletti ('74), Chuck Fusina ('78), Kerry Collins ('94) and Larry Johnson ('02), have each taken home the Maxwell Award as Nittany Lions. Lavar Arrington ('99), Paul Posluzny ('05 and '06) and Dan Connor ('07) were all selected for the Bednarik. Posluzny is the only player to win multiple Bednarik Awards outside of former Northwestern linebacker and current head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who was awarded with the first two Bednarik Awards in 1995 and 1996.
Congratulations and best of luck, Saquon, Chris and Jason!