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Bednarik Award: Reigning winner Scooby Wright highlights preseason watch list

Arizona's Scooby Wright won the Bednarik a year ago and is the favorite to do it again as the 81-player watch list was released Tuesday.

The Chuck Bednarik Award has been given to college football's best defensive player every season since 1995.

Several semifinalists from last season join the returning winner in Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III.

WATCH LISTS: Maxwell Award | Hornung

Those semifinalists include Ohio State's Joey Bosa, Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III, Baylor's Shawn Oakman, Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun and Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith.

Here's a look at the preseason favorites and the complete watch list:

  • Why he's here: Because he has to be — he won this award last season. He did that by piling up 163 total tackles with 29.0 tackles for loss and 14.0 sacks. That's ridiculous.

    Of note: Wright was just the second Pac-12 player to win the Bednarik since it started in 1995. The other? USC LB Ray Maualuga.

    MORE: Top 25 front seven defensive players for 2015

  • Why he's here: Hargreaves is considered the best cover man in college football. Last season he recorded 50 tackles, intercepted three passes and had 13 pass breakups. He's always going to find himself matched up against the opponent's best receiver.

    Of note: Hargreaves was a semifinalist for the Bednarik last season, is a preseason SN All-American and was an SN Freshman All-American two seasons ago.

    MORE: SN Top 25 defensive backs for 2015

  • Why he's here: Because he dominated last season for the Buckeyes. He lived in opponents' backfields, totaling 21.0 tackles for loss for a staggering 116 yards in losses. He also had 13.5 sacks.

    Of note: Also an SN Preseason All-American, Bosa is joined on this list by teammate Joshua Perry.

    MORE: SN's updated Top 50 players for 2015

  • Why he's here: A semifinalist for this award a year ago, Calhoun had 12.5 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks in Mark Dantonio's defense.

    Of note: Tackled an opponent behind the line of scrimmage in 10 of the Spartans' 13 games last season. Considered a high round draft pick in 2015, but instead, Calhoun returned to East Lansing for his senior season.

    MORE: Preseason Top 25

  • Why he's here: As a freshman in 2014, Garrett was as disruptive as anyone on the defensive side of the ball in the SEC. He had 11.5 sacks and 14.0 tackles for loss.

    Of note: How good was Garrett's first college season? He set the SEC and A&M mark for sacks in a season by a freshman — the previous record in the SEC was held by eventual No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney, who had 8.0 as a freshman.

    MORE: Will September make or break these 12 teams?

  • Mackensie Alexander, Clemson

    Kevin Anderson, Stanford

    Budda Baker,Washington

    Dante Barnett, Kansas State

    Derek Barnett,Tennessee

    Kendell Beckwith,LSU

    Vince Biegel,Wisconsin

    Zeek Bigger,EastCarolina

    Andrew Billings,Baylor

    Quin Blanding,Virginia

    Briean Boddy-Calhoun,Minnesota

    Kentrell Brothers,Missouri

    Kelby Brown,Duke

    DeForest Buckner,Oregon

    Michael Caputo,Wisconsin

    Lloyd Carrington, Arizona State

    Jeremy Cash,Duke

    Brandon Chubb,Wake Forest

    Kenny Clark,UCLA

    Maliek Collins, Nebraska

    Kamalei Correa, Boise State

    Su’a Cravens, USC

    Ed Davis, Michigan State

    Sheldon Day,Notre Dame

    Kyler Fackrell,Utah State

    Leonard Floyd, Georgia

    Josh Forrest,Kentucky

    Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech

    Adam Gotsis,Georgia Tech

    Darius Hamilton,Rutgers

    Tylor Harris,Wake Forest

    Myles Jack, UCLA

    William Jackson,Houston

    Adoree’ Jackson, USC

    Jordan Jenkins,Georgia

    Chris Jones,Mississippi State

    Karl Joseph,West Virginia

    Bronson Kaufusi,BYU

    Derrick Kindred,TCU

    Shaq Lawson, Clemson

    William Likely,Maryland

    Curt Maggitt,Tennessee

    Blake Martinez,Stanford

    Tyler Matakevich,Temple

    Cassanova McKinzy,Auburn

    Jalen Mills,LSU

    Antonio Morrison,Florida

    Eric Murray, Minnesota

    Dadi Nicolas,Virginia Tech

    Robert Nkemdiche,Ole Miss

    Jared Norris,Utah

    Shawn Oakman,Baylor

    Emmanuel Ogbah,Oklahoma State

    Will Parks,Arizona

    Joshua Perry,Ohio State

    Davion Pierson,TCU

    Reggie Ragland,Alabama

    Jalen Ramsey,Florida State

    Sheldon Rankins,Louisville

    Will Redmond,Mississippi State

    Pete Robertson,Texas Tech

    A’Shawn Robinson,Alabama

    Mike Rose,NC State

    KeiVarae Russell,Notre Dame

    Zack Sanchez,Oklahoma

    Jovan Santos-Knox,Massachusetts

    Terrance Smith,Florida State

    Jaylon Smith,Notre Dame

    Eric Striker,Oklahoma

    Cameron Sutton,Tennessee

    Charles Tapper,Oklahoma

    Darian Thompson,Boise State

    Jeremy Timpf, Army

    Nick Vigil,Utah State

    Scooby Wright, III,Arizona

    Anthony Zettel,Penn State

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