Pitt has one Chuck Bednarik Award winner since the honors’ conception in 1995, and the Maxwell Football Club believes there’s a chance that another Pitt player can win the award.
M.J. Devonshire has been named to the preseason watchlist for the Bednarik Award, which is given annually to the most outstanding defensive player in college football.
It’s the second major award list that Devonshire has been tabbed for, following his inclusion on the Paul Hornung Award watchlist.
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) August 14, 2023
Devonshire might be the fastest player on Pitt’s roster, scoring three touchdowns last season defensively and on special teams, and it makes sense that he’s receiving national attention.
The 2022 season was a breakout campaign for Devonshire as he slid into the starting role alongside Williams — who may be the most underrated player on Pitt’s roster. And his biggest goal over the offseason was to get stronger and more physical ahead of this season.
Devonshire possesses an elite physical trait. Speed. He’s very, very fast, and that’s always a calling card for NFL defenses. He was productive as a cornerback and a punt returner last season, and he should put together a strong 2023 campaign.
He recorded 34 tackles (23 solo), three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) and broke up eight passes. According to PFF, when opposing quarterbacks targeted Devonshire (or he was assigned as the nearest defender), he allowed 33 receptions on 62 targets (just 53% completion) for 407 yards.
He was also a difference maker with the football in his hands last season, and he showed it with 233 yards (9.7 yards per return) and a touchdown in 24 punt returns.
With excellent vision and explosive speed when carrying the ball, as shown by two additional interceptions returned for touchdowns, Devonshire — if he’s able to focus on staying away from too much lateral movement — should be a weapon in the return game in 2023.
Aaron Donald was the last — and only — Pitt player to win the Bednarik Award, bringing home the honor in 2013. Calijah Kancey (2022) and Rashad Weaver (2020) were recent semifinalists for the honor.