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SEC Dominates Butkus Award Watch List with 16 Players

Reggie Ragland

Reggie Ragland

Like the many college football awards handed out year after year, over the last decade the SEC has led the way when it comes to ownership of the Butkus Award, which honors the nation’s top collegiate linebacker. Over the last 10 years, Patrick Willis (Ole Miss – 2006), Rolando McClain (Alabama – 2009), and C.J. Mosley (Alabama – 2013) have each represented the SEC as the winner of the prestigious award.

If the 2015 preseason Butkus Award watch list is any indication of the odds, a SEC player could be taking home another award at the end of this season.

Related: SEC Dominates Preseason Outland Trophy Watch List with 15 Nominees

The watch list was released on Tuesday with 16 SEC players among the 51 linebackers that made the cut. Of the Power 5 Conferences the Pac-12 was second with 11, the Big Ten posted eight, the ACC had five, and the Big 12 only had three.

The SEC players that are receiving the most preseason hype at linebacker include Reggie Ragland (Alabama), Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd (Georgia), Kentrell Brothers (Missouri), OLB/DE Curt Maggitt (Tennessee), and Antonio Morrison (Florida). Of the group Brothers arguably has the strongest track record, after registering 122 tackles as a junior in 2014.

The one SEC player in the group not to sleep on is Arkansas linebacker Brooks Ellis. Ellis is moving from middle linebacker to the weak side this season. Ellis filled in at Mike for two years but despite his 6-foot-2, 237-pound frame, is better suited for the outside. In 2014 Martrell Spaight owned the outside for coordinator Robb Smith's defense, leading the SEC with 128 tackles.

The Pac-12 could very easily win the Butkus Award in back-to-back seasons. The criteria for the award are debatable, but last year UCLA Bruins senior linebacker Eric Kendricks took home the trophy after a season that included 145 tackles. The honor rightfully went to a Pac-12 player but one could argue Scooby Wright was the nation’s best linebacker last season. The Arizona Wildcat exploded on the scene with 163 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss, and 14 sacks.

Should UCLA go back-to-back, Myles Jack, the Bruins' do-everything stud linebacker and part-time running back, is the most likely candidate. Jack had 88 stops last season. His stat line should increase in 2015 with a move from the outside to the inside of UCLA's 3-4 defense.

Butkus Award Watch List (SEC players in bold)

Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
Kendall Beckwith, LSU
Zeek Bigger, East Carolina
Joe Bolden, Michigan
Kentrell Brothers, Missouri
Richie Brown, Mississippi State

Kelby Brown, Duke
James Burgess, Louisville
De'Vondre Campbell, Minnesota
Su'a Cravens, USC
Brooks Ellis, Arkansas
Kyler Fackrell, Utah State
Travis Feeney, Washington
Leonard Floyd, Georgia
Josh Forrest, Kentucky
Kris Frost, Auburn

Darien Harris, Michigan State
Myles Jack, UCLA
Cory James, Colorado State
Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
C.J. Johnson, Ole Miss
Peter Kalambayi, Stanford
Raphael Kirby, Miami
Carl Lawson, Auburn
Cory Littleton, Washington
Antonio Longino, Arizona State
Curt Maggitt, Tennessee
Blake Martinez, Stanford
Tyler Matakevich, Temple
Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn
Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
Mason Monheim, Illinois
Nyles Morgan, Notre Dame
Antonio Morrison, Florida
Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland
Jared Norris, Utah
Reggie Northup, Florida State
Montese Overton, East Carolina
Joshua Perry, Ohio State
Reggie Ragland, Alabama
Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee
Luke Rhodes, William & Mary
Pete Robertson, Texas Tech
James Ross, Michigan
Anthony Sarao, USC
Michael Scherer, Missouri
Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
Terrance Smith, Florida State
Eric Striker, Oklahoma
Jason Wittingham, Utah
Scooby Wright III, Arizona

— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.