LOGAN, Utah – Utah State senior inside linebacker Justin Rice was named to the watch list for the Bednarik Award, presented annually to the outstanding defensive player in college football, it was announced Monday by the Maxwell Football Club.
Rice is in his first year with the Aggies after transferring from Arkansas State, where he earned first-team all-Sun Belt Conference honors during the 2020 season after finishing with 76 tackles, including a nation-leading 18.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks, to go along with one pass breakup in 11 games.
Prior to playing at Arkansas State, Rice spent four seasons at Fresno State (2016-19) and earned first-team all-Mountain West honors as a junior after starting all 12 games in his first full year on the defensive side of the ball. He recorded 112 tackles, including 8.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks, to go along with four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions, eight pass breakups and one safety.
The Chuck Bednarik Award has been presented to the College Defensive Player of the Year since 1995 and is named in honor of Chuck Bednarik, a former standout at the University of Pennsylvania and with the Philadelphia Eagles. Bednarik is a member of both the College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of ’69 and the NFL Hall of Fame’s Class of ’67.
The Bednarik Award watch list is comprised of 90 candidates on the defensive side of the ball. Last year’s winner, Zaven Collins (Tulsa), and fellow finalists Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame) and Patrick Surtain II (Alabama), have all moved on to the NFL. The list features two returning semifinalists from 2020 in Myjai Sanders (Cincinnati) and Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame). There are 11 schools that have two candidates on the Bednarik watch list.
Rice is one of eight candidates from the MW on the watch list, joining Colorado State defensive end Scott Patchan, Hawai’i linebacker Darius Muasau, Nevada linebacker Lawson Hall, San Diego State defensive end Cameron Thomas, SDSU linebacker Caden McDonald, San José State defensive end Cade Hall and Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma.
Semifinalists for the Bednarik Award will be announced on Nov. 1, 2021, while the three finalists for the award will be unveiled on Nov. 22. The winner of the 2021 Bednarik Award will be announced as part of the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show held on Dec. 9, 2021. The formal presentation of the award will be made at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala hosted by Tropicana Hotel & Casino Atlantic City on March 11, 2022.