Pitt defensive standouts Paris Ford, Patrick Jones II and Jaylen Twyman all earned preseason recognition with placement on the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list on Tuesday afternoon, according to an announcement from the Football Writers Association of America. The trophy, named for Minnesota great and NFL Hall of Famer Bronko Nagurski, has been awarded to college football’s Defensive Player of the Year annually since 1993.
The inclusion of Ford, Jones and Twyman on the 98-man list was enough to push the ACC ahead of the SEC as the conference with the most Nagurski candidates. The ACC leads the nation with 17, and the SEC comes in second with 15. In third is the Pac-12 with 13, and appropriately, the Big 12 has 12, while the Big Ten has 10, placing it just ahead of Conference USA, which has seven candidates.
This is the second preseason list that the three Pitt stars have landed on together this summer, as Ford, Jones and Twyman were also included on the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award last week. The similar award also recognizes a Defensive Player of the Year in college football but as voted on by the Maxwell Football Club.
Twyman is arguably the strongest candidate for the honor at Pitt and perhaps one of the strongest candidates in the nation. Last season, the 6’2”, 290-pound lineman earned second-team All-America and first-team All-ACC honors after amassing a team-high 10.5 sacks and 12 tackles for losses. Close behind him was Jones, who came up with 8.5 sacks and tied Twyman in tackles for losses, with 12. The 6’5”, 250-pound defensive end would earn honorable mention for All-America honors and a second-team All-ACC nod.
Ford was also a major factor in a Pitt defense that ranked among the nation’s best in stifling opposing quarterbacks in 2019. As part of a secondary that ranked among the top 10 in completion percentage allowed, at 51 percent, and yards allowed per pass, with 6.1, Ford had 97 tackles and three interceptions, leading the Panthers in both categories. The Pitt safety also came up with 11 pass breakups.
The last Pitt player to win the Bronko Nagurski Trophy was Aaron Donald in 2013. That season, the defensive tackle had 28.5 tackles for losses, 11.0 sacks, four forced fumbles and three pass breakups and would be selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams just a few months later.