Two University of Florida football players were named to preseason watch lists for national awards this week. Senior defensive lineman Dominique Easley was named to both the Outland Trophy watch list and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list, and junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy was named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list as well.
The Outland Trophy is awarded annually to the best interior lineman in college football. Texas A&M offensive lineman Luke Joeckel was last year’s winner. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is awarded annually to the national defensive player of the year. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o won the award in 2012. No Florida Gator has ever won either award.
Easley has played in 29 games throughout his career, with 23 starts. He has recorded 67 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks in his first three seasons. This season finally looks like Easley’s chance to shine after being somewhat overshadowed by former Gator Sharrif Floyd, who was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of last April’s NFL draft.
Purifoy has played in 26 games for the Gators, with 12 starts. He has made 78 tackles, had five pass breakups, recorded four forced fumbles, and blocked two kicks in his career. He is often mentioned as one of the most dynamic cornerbacks in the SEC.
These preseason watch lists are often inflated, as seen by the 81 players named to this season’s Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list. However, the fact that two Gator defenders were named to the list speaks volumes about the talent of the team’s defensive unit as a whole. The Gators offense should be much improved in 2013, however, if they struggle to put up points like last season then the talented defense looks more than capable of leading the way once again.