Pitt safety Paris Ford, defensive end Patrick Jones II and defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman have all been placed on the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award, given annually to the best defensive player in college football.
The Bednarik Award is judged by the members of the Maxwell Football Club, who also vote for the Maxwell Award for player of the year. It is named after former Penn and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker and center Chuck Bednarik, a member of the college and pro football halls of fame.
Ford led Pitt in tackles with 97 as a redshirt sophomore during a stellar 2019 season. He also had a team-high three interceptions, broke up 11 passes and forced three fumbles. Ford has been named a preseason All-American by multiple selectors.
Jones had a breakout season in 2019 in his first year as a full-time starter. He was named to the second-team All-ACC and was an All-American honorable mention after garnering 43 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in 13 games. Jones has also been placed on the watch list for the Lott Trophy.
A full-time starter for the first time in his career in 2019, Twyman started all 13 games after making just one start in 2018. He recorded 12 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks and has been named a preseason All-American by three selectors.
All three players considered leaving for the NFL as underclassmen before ultimately deciding to return to Pitt.
Only one Pitt player has won the Bednarik Award: defensive lineman Aaron Donald in 2013. Last year, Pitt safety Damar Hamlin was on the preseason watch list, and Twyman was added mid-season, but Ohio State defensive end Chase Young won the award.