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Calijah Kancey placed on Nagurski Trophy watch list

Last season, the Pitt defensive tackle had 27 tackles, seven tackles for losses and 1.5 sacks in 11 appearances

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt defensive tackle Calijah Kancey was placed on the Nagurski Trophy watch list on Tuesday. The award has been given annually since 1993, and it honors the best defensive player in college football as voted on by the Football Writers Association of America.

Kancey is one of 90 players in the nation included on the watch list. And of that 90, eight are from the ACC. The other seven ACC representatives on the list include Miami safety Bubba Bolden, Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Breese, Clemson defensive end Myles Murphy, Clemson linebacker James Skalski, Clemson safety Nolan Turner, North Carolina defensive tackle Raymond Vohasek and NC State linebacker Payton Wilson. No Power Five conference had fewer players on the watch list than the ACC. The SEC led the way, with 20.

The 6’0”, 275-pound defensive lineman made his first appearance for Pitt in the 2019 Quick Lane Bowl victory over Eastern Michigan. Since then, he played in all 11 of Pitt’s games in 2020, starting four. In that span, Kancey totaled 27 tackles, seven tackles for losses and 1.5 sacks and earned freshman All-America honors from Rivals, the Athletic and the FWAA. In 2021, Kancey is expected to take on a larger role, and this could see his production rise.

The most recent winner of the Nagurski Trophy was Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins in 2020. ACC players have won the trophy four times in its 28-year history, and all of those wins came during the 2010s. The award went to a Pitt player once in 2013, when Aaron Donald won the honor in Pitt’s first year in the ACC.