Pitt defensive ends Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones II have lived up to all their preseason hype by terrorizing opposing quarterbacks all season and their production has earned them plenty of attention, including nationally.
On Monday, it was announced that Jones and Weaver are now semifinalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which is presented 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.
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 Jaylen Twyman was added mid-season, but Ohio State defensive end Chase Young won the award.
Weaver has rebounded from a knee injury that forced him to sit out all of last season by registering 34 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and 42 quarterback pressures, which is the most among Power 5 players. Jones has shown NFL front offices that 2019 wasn’t a fluke by collecting 37 tackles and nine sacks this season.
Weaver received some national publicity for the award over the weekend when FOX analyst Matt Leinart gave him his endorsement and vote.
“He has been the best defensive player in my opinion this year.”@MattLeinartQB of @CFBONFOX touts Pitt’s Rashad Weaver as the favorite for the @BednarikAward 🏆#H2P • @R_Weaver17 pic.twitter.com/XnsJ34dpVC
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) December 5, 2020
The list of Bednarik semifinalists will be pared to a group of three finalists on Dec. 21. The winner will be announced on ESPN on Jan. 7, along with the winners of the other major college football awards.