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Five Tide players named to Nagurski, Outland Trophy preseason list

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

During the final portion of media days for the Southeastern Conference, five Alabama players were named to the preseason watch lists for Bronko Nagurski and Outland awards – per the Football Writers Association of America.

The trio of linebacker Rashaan Evans and safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison were selected to the Nagurski Trophy watch list. Evans, who returns as a senior in the fall, emerged as one of the team’s leading tacklers last season. He recorded 53 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Evans was also credited six quarterback hurries, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. Through two seasons, Fitzpatrick has become one of the most dominant defenders in college football. Hailing from Old Bridge, N.J., he recorded 111 total tackles, three sacks, 18 pass breakups and eight interceptions, especially four for touchdowns.

Harrison finished his sophomore campaign with 85 tackles. He would also collect 1.5 tackles for loss, seven pass breakups, two quarterback pressures, two interceptions and two touchdowns. Named after Bronko Nagurski, who played at the University of Nebraska and the Chicago Bears, the Bronko Nagurksi Trophy is presented to college football’s best defensive player via Charlotte Touchdown Club.

Offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman and defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne both were selected as nominees to the Outland Trophy watch list. Bozeman, a three-star recruit, returns for his second year as the Tide’s starting center.

He opened holes for four 500-plus yard rushers, including quarterback Jalen Hurts – who totaled 954 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. Bozeman also protected Hurts to throw for 2,780 passing yards and 23 touchdowns, en route to winning the Southeastern Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year. Payne, a five-star from Birmingham, Ala., is one of the strongest players on the team. After a good freshman season, he returned with 36 total tackles, 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries. Behind Payne, the Tide allowed 64 rushing yards and 13 points per game in 2016.

Named after John Outland, the Outland Trophy goes to the nation’s top interior lineman.

Stephen M. Smith is a managing editor and senior writer foTouchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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