Maryland tackle Joe Vellano is on the Bednarik Award watch list. The award goes to the nation’s top defensive player. Virginia Tech has three players on the list – cornerback Kyle Fuller, linebacker Bruce Taylor, and end James Gayle. LSU, Michigan State, and Alabama are the only teams in the nation with four players on the 65-player list.
Last year’s winner, LSU cornerback Tyran Mathieu, will try to become the third player to capture the award back-to-back since it was established in 1995. The others were Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern/1995-96) and Paul Posluszny (Penn State 2005-06).
Vellano was all-ACC and second-team all-America last year as a junior, leading FBS linemen with 7.8 tackles per game. Vellano has started 25 straight games for the Terps, making 157 tackles, including 18 for a loss and 7.5 sacks. Duplicating the numbers of his junior year might be difficult in Maryland’s new scheme, a 3-4 set in which Vellano will play end under new defensive coordinator Brian Stewart.
Other players from ACC teams on the watch list are end Brandon Jenkins (Florida State), safety Lamarcus Joyner (Florida State), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (Florida State), linebacker Kevin Reddick (North Carolina), cornerback David Amerson (North Carolina State), and cornerback Ray-Ray Armstrong (Miami).
Semifinalists will be announced on Oct. 29.