Three Spartans appear on college football award watch lists

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Big Ten Media Day is nearly upon us, which can only mean one thing: college football is right around the corner.

While it’s never too early to speculate on college football awards, official “watch lists” have recently been released which includes three Spartans—running back LJ Scott for the Maxwell Award, linebacker Joe Bachie for the Bednarik Award and quarterback Brian Lewerke for the Davey O’Brien Award.

Scott is coming off an impressive year, where he racked up nearly 900 rushing yards and 146 through the air. He is also the lone Spartan to be selected to Sports Illustrated’s top 100 college football players, ranking No. 87. The offense has trusted Scott with more carries each year since his arrival at MSU, although 2017’s 4.5 yards per carry was his lowest of his of his three years as a starter. He also lost five fumbles.

Scott can be a wrecking ball, but he is at his best when displaying patience, balance and change of speed. If he wants to compete for the Maxwell Award, which honors college football’s best all-around player, each one of these skills must be in full swing in addition to greater contributions in the passing game. Chances are the field is too strong for Scott, with any offensive player eligible for the Maxwell.

Bachie, who is in the running for the best defensive player in the nation, is probably MSU’s best overall player. He was voted team MVP last season (Governor’s Award) and racked up a team-leading 100 tackles and forced five turnovers. Bachie is undoubtedly the anchor of the Spartan defense and often the most energetic player on the field.

Bachie will face some serious competition for the Bednarik and must first establish himself as a Big Ten force before going national. He was voted third-team All-Big Ten a year ago and will likely be in the shadows of Michigan’s Devin Bush and Wisconsin’s TJ Edwards just for Big Ten linebackers alone. Still, if the Spartans make it to Indianapolis, it’s only a matter of time until Bachie gets recognized as one of football’s most elite defenders.

Lewerke will look to compete for the nation’s top quarterback award after an impressive 2017 coming-out party. He posted 6.7 yards per pass for 2,793 total passing yards and a 59-percent completion percentage. But Lewerke is perhaps most famous for his speed and ability to use his feet especially when the pocket collapses. He had a couple huge rushes this year, one for 61 yards against Western Michigan and another for 52 yards against Notre Dame.

Lewerke is a rare breed. He is one of the few dual-threat quarterbacks whose initial instinct is to pass. He does a few designed quarterback runs in addition to the read option. But often, he tries to make the pass and only runs as a last resort. Ironically, these types of plays were often his biggest. MSU is typically a run-first type of offense, which makes it difficult for QBs to shine, and they’ll probably have to rely a lot more on Lewerke’s athleticism if he is to compete for the O’Brien Award.

Both Scott and Lewerke will join Khari Willis and MSU head coach Mark Dantonio at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago on Tuesday. Dantonio is scheduled for a press conference at 9:30 a.m. EST and will be available for interviews from 4:45-5:45 p.m. that same day. The three players will be available from 4-5 p.m. Willis was also chosen to be a featured speaker at the annual Kickoff Luncheon on Tuesday.

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