The Pitt football program saw three of its defensive stars placed on the Bednarik Award watch list on Monday morning. Paris Ford, Patrick Jones II and Jaylen Twyman were the three Panthers recognized on the 90-man list compiled by the Maxwell Football Club, and the award, which is named for former Penn linebacker Chuck Bednarik, has been given to college football’s Defensive Player of the Year on an annual basis since 1995.
The 2020 Chuck Bednarik Award watch list has dropped! pic.twitter.com/IVCJrjhRhi— Maxwell Football (@MaxwellFootball) July 13, 2020
Pitt was one of just three teams in the nation that had three players included on the Bednarik watch list. The other two were USC and defending national champion LSU. In addition, a total of 17 schools placed two defensive standouts on the list, including Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech, but perennial powerhouse Clemson had just one honoree in linebacker James Skalski.
Thanks in part to the trio of standouts on Pitt’s defense, the ACC was the most well represented conference on the list, as it had 18 representatives. The Pac-12 had the second-highest total among conferences, with 13, and it was trailed by the SEC, with 11; the Big 12, with 10; and the Big Ten, with nine.
Among Pitt’s trio of watch list honorees, Twyman boasts the strongest resume as a 2019 second-team All-American and first-team All-ACC defensive tackle. The 6’2”, 290-pound lineman earned those honors by pacing the Panthers in sacks and tackles for losses, with 10.5 and 12 last season. Twyman was flanked by Jones, who had a strong season in his own right at defensive end. Jones came up with 8.5 sacks of his own and tied Twyman for the team lead in tackles for losses, earning honorable mention for All-America honors as well as second-team All-ACC honors.
Behind Jones and Twyman in the Pitt defensive backfield in 2019 was Ford, who became notorious in the world of college football as the Panthers’ hardest-hitting defender as well as one of the fiercest safeties in the country. Ford finished the season as Pitt’s leading tackler, with 97 on the year. He also came up with three picks and nine pass breakups.
The last time a Pitt player won the Bednarik Award was in 2013, when Aaron Donald earned the honor as a senior. That year, the star defensive tackle amassed 59 tackles, including 28.5 tackles for losses and 11 sacks. Donald is the only Panther to win the Bednarik Award since it was first presented in 1995.