Three LSU players on Bednarik Award watch list

Staff reports
LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne returns an interception.

BATON ROUGE - Three LSU football players - cornerback Morris Claiborne, cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and linebacker Ryan Baker - are on the watch list for the 2011 Bednarik Award, which goes annually to the nation's top college defensive player.

The Tigers ranked second in the Southeastern Conference with three players on the list of 65 that was released by the Maxwell Football Club.

The College Defensive Player of the Year Award is named in honor of Chuck Bednarik, College and Pro Football Hall of Famer. Voters for the award include NCAA head coaches, members of the Maxwell Football Club and sportswriters and sportscasters from across the country.

LSU produced its first Bednarik Award winner last season when junior cornerback Patrick Peterson took home the honor at the ESPN College Football Awards in December.

Claiborne, a native of Shreveport, heads into his junior season as a preseason All-America cornerback selection by some publications. A year ago, he led the Tigers and ranked third in the SEC with five interceptions while adding 37 tackles and six pass breakups. Claiborne started 12 games as a sophomore.

Mathieu shined as true freshman in the Tigers' talented secondary, playing in all 13 games and ranking fourth on the squad in tackles with 57. He contributed 8.5 tackles for loss and added 4.5 sacks to go along with two interceptions and a team-high seven pass breakups. His five forced fumbles was tops in the SEC a year ago.

Mathieu was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the 2011 Cotton Bowl when he forced two fumbles, collected an interception and seven tackles in the 42-24 win over Texas A&M. He is one of only two sophomores who made the watch list. Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes is the other.

Baker ranked second on the team and 13th in the SEC with 87 total tackles, including 11 tackles for loss. He led the squad in sacks with seven while starting 12 games at will linebacker, a position he will once again man in 2011. In 37 career games, the senior has tallied 120 tackles.

All three players played a key role in a Tiger defense that ranked in the top 10 in four defensive categories during the 2010 season.

Bednarik Award Watch List

Ray Ray Armstong, Jr., S, Miami

Ryan Baker, Jr., LB, LSU

Mark Barron, Sr., S, Alabama

Jake Bequette, Sr., DE, Arkansas

Brandon Boykin, Sr., CB, Georgia

Nigel Bradham, Sr., LB, Florida State

Tanner Brock, Jr., LB, TCU

Vince Browne, Sr., DE, Northwestern

Vontaze Burfict, Jr., LB, Arizona State

Tank Carder, Sr., LB, TCU

Morris Claiborne, Jr., CB, LSU

Quinton Coples, Sr., DT, North Carolina

Jared Crick, Sr., DT, Nebraska

Vinny Curry, Sr., DE, Marshall

Lavonte David, Sr., LB, Nebraska

Alfonzo Dennard, Sr., CB, Nebraska

Tony Dye, Sr., S, UCLA

Donnie Fletcher, Sr., CB, Boston College

Jerry Franklin, Sr., LB, Arkansas

Stephon Gilmore, Jr., CB, South Carolina

Zaviar Gooden, Jr., LB, Missouri

Casey Hayward, Sr., CB, Vanderbilt

Dont'a Hightower, Jr., LB, Alabama

Jayron Hosley, Jr., CB, Virginia Tech

Jaye Howard, Jr. DT, Florida

Delano Howell, Sr., S, Stanford

Bruce Irvin, Jr., DE, West Virginia

Brandon Jenkins, Jr., DE, Florida State

Coryell Judie, Sr., CB, Texas A&M

Mychal Kendricks, Sr., LB, Cal

Dre Kirkpatrick, Jr., CB, Alabama

Jake Knott, Jr., LB, Iowa State

Luke Kuechly, Jr., LB, Boston College

Robert Lester, Jr., S, Alabama

Travis Lewis, Sr., LB, Oklahoma

Brandon Lindsey, Sr., DE, Pitt

Mike Martin, Sr., DT, Michigan

Chris Marve, Sr., LB, Vanderbilt

Jonathan Massaqoui, Jr., DE, Troy

Tyrann Mathieu, Soph., CB, LSU

T.J. McDonald, Jr., S, USC

Chase Minnifield, Sr., CB, Virginia

Roosevelt Nix, Soph., DT, Kent State

Donte Paige-Moss, Jr., DE, North Carolina

Shaun Prater, Sr., CB, Iowa

Kheeston Randall, Sr., DT, Texas

Kevin Reddick, Jr., LB, North Carolina

Greg Reid, Jr., CB, Florida State

Kendall Reyes, Sr., DT, Connecticut

Xavier Rhodes, Soph., CB, Florida State

Keenan Robinson, Sr., LB, Texas

Shayne Skov, Jr., LB, Stanford

Sean Spence, Sr., LB, Miami

Alameda Ta'amu, Sr. DT, Washington

Keith Tandy, Sr., CB, West Virginia

Kenny Tate, Sr., S, Maryland

Bruce Taylor, Jr., LB, Virginia Tech

Devin Taylor, Jr., DE, South Carolina

Manti Te'o, Jr., LB, Notre Dame

Danny Trevathan, Sr., LB, Kentucky

Courtney Upshaw, Sr., LB, Alabama

Prentiss Waggner, Jr., S, Tennessee

Korey Williams, Sr., LB, Southern Miss

Billy Winn, Sr., DT, Boise State

Jerel Worthy, Sr., DT, Michigan State