Two new additions to Northwestern’s 2013 preseason award watch list contingent were revealed Thursday. The Outland Trophy, presented annually to the top interior lineman (offensive or defensive), included junior center Brandon Vitabile, who on Tuesday was named to the Rimington Award's preseason group, on its list. Returning Big Ten sack runner-up Tyler Scott is a preseason honoree for the Bronko Nagurski award, which goes to the nation’s best defender.
Both players face stiff competition within their own conference. Michigan tackle and likely first-round draft pick Taylor Lewan is arguably the best of the Big Ten’s Outland representation. Scott gained widespread recognition for his nine-sack season in 2012, but will have to compete with the likes of Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier and Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland for inter-conference Nagurski recognition.
That’s just the Big Ten. Expand the argument nationally, the parameters used for both awards, and the competition is much stiffer. Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, Notre Dame's Louis Nix, Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio and Lewan are all strong candidates to claim the Outland, but the Nagurski award is sort of a foregone conclusion. I mean, when your tackles spawn long columns and turn running backs into pixie dust, there’s a pretty good chance the national award committees of the world are going to take notice.