Ball named to Maxwell Award watch list

RB candidate for nation's top player, junior LB up for top defensive player honors
Ball named to Maxwell Award watch list

Two of Wisconsin’s on-field leaders are among the preseason leaders for a pair of major college football awards.

Senior running back Montee Ball was named to the preseason watch list for the Maxwell Award, while junior linebacker Chris Borland is among the candidates for the Chuck Bednarik Award.

Both preseason watch lists were announced Monday by the Maxwell Football Club as the National College Football Awards Association began a two-week rollout of preseason lists for its major awards.

Ball was one of 65 players named to the watch list for the Maxwell Award, which is presented annually to the outstanding collegiate player of the year. He returns for his senior season seeking to join former Badger Ron Dayne, who claimed the trophy in 1999, as a winner of the Maxwell Award.

One of eight Big Ten players named to the Maxwell Award list, the Wentzville, Mo., native is also among 30 running backs who enter the season as challengers for the award.

Ball is the top returning rusher in the nation with 3,310 career rushing yards. He needs 17 total touchdowns and 18 rushing touchdowns to tie the NCAA career records in each category.

The 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist was also a finalist for the Doak Walker Award last season and was a consensus first-team All-American. A unanimous, consensus first-team All-Big Ten pick, Ball claimed the Graham-George Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Award and also was named the inaugural winner of the Ameche-Dayne Big Ten Running Back of the Year Award.

He rushed tied Barry Sanders’ NCAA record with 39 touchdowns last season and led the nation in rushing with 1,923 yards — averaging 6.26 yards per carry. Adding in his 306 receiving yards, Ball’s 2,229 yards from scrimmage also led the nation.

In five games against ranked teams last season, Ball averaged 164.0 all-purpose yards and scored 15 touchdowns.

Borland returns to the watch list for the Bednarik Award, presented annually to college football’s outstanding defensive player of the year, for second-consecutive year after a prolific defensive season in 2011.

He finished second in the Big Ten with 143 tackles — trailing only teammate Mike Taylor — en route to consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors last season. The Kettering, Ohio, native ranked third in the Big Ten and tied for 12th nationally with 19.0 tackles for loss, the most by any middle linebacker. His total was also the highest for a linebacker in UW history.

In addition, Borland forced five fumbles, a number that ranked second in the Big Ten and tied for seventh in the country. He has forced 10 fumbles in his career, dating back to a rookie season that saw him named 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and earn freshman All-America honors.

Borland led the way for a UW defense that ranked No. 15 in total defense and No. 13 in scoring defense nationally last season.

Semifinalists for the Maxwell and Bednarik awards will be announced Oct. 29, and the three finalists for each award will be unveiled Nov. 19. The winners of the 2012 Maxwell and Bednarik awards will be announced as part of the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show on Dec. 6.