Pitt defenders Paris Ford, Patrick Jones II and Jaylen Twyman have been placed on the 2020 watch list for the Nagurski Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive player in all of college football.
The Nagurski Trophy, named for former Minnesota, Chicago Bears two-way star and College Football and Pro Football Hall of Famer Bronko Nagurski, has been awarded annually since 1993 by the members of the Pro Football Writers Association of America, including Alan Saunders of Pittsburgh Sports Now.
A redshirt junior, Ford led Pitt in tackles with 97 during a breakout 2019 season. He also had a team-high three interceptions, broke up 11 passes and forced three fumbles.
Ford’s breakout 2019 at boundary safety came after playing sparingly as a reserve cornerback in 2018 and not at all while redshirting in 2017. In 2019, he made 11 starts in 13 games, missing two assignments due to targeting penalties.
Ford has been named a preseason All-American by Athlon Sports, Phil Steele and The Sporting News. He has also been named to the watch lists for the Bednarik Award for the best defensive player in the country and the Thorpe Award for the nation’s top defensive back.
Jones, a redshirt senior, 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.
A native of Chesapeake, Virginia, Jones came to Pitt as a three-star prospect in 2016 and redshirted as a true freshman, but began to show promise as a redshirt sophomore in 2018, when he was Pitt’s top reserve defensive end and had 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and a forced fumble in minimal playing time.
With a season-long injury to Rashad Weaver, Jones spent 2019 as Pitt’s top outside linemen and anchored a defense that tied for the NCAA lead with 51 sacks.
Jones has been named a preseason All-American by Phil Steele and is on the watch list for the Lott Trophy, given to the defensive player that shows the best on-and off-field performance.
Twyman was named a second-team All-American by six selectors after a breakout campaign in 2019 as a redshirt sophomore. He was also named a first-team All-ACC selection.
Twyman was a full-time starter for the first time in his career in 2019, starting all 13 games after making just one start in 2018. He recorded 12 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks, becoming the first defensive tackle to lead the Panthers in quarterback sacks since Aaron Donald in 2013.
Twyman has been named a preseason All-American by the Athlon Sports, Phil Steele, The Sporting News and The Walter Camp Foundation. He’s also been placed on the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award two consecutive years and was placed on the 2020 watch list for the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s top interior lineman.
The only Pitt player to win the award since its inception was Donald in 2013. Ohio State defensive end Chase Young won in 2019.