CHICAGO (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – One of the top linebacker duos in the country, juniors Erroll Thompson and Willie Gay Jr., landed on the preseason watch list for the 35th annual Butkus Award on Monday morning.
MSU, Alabama and LSU are the SEC programs with multiple players on the list.
A smart, instinctive, hard-hitting playmaker, Thompson enters 2019 with 133 total tackles, including 14.5 for loss and six sacks, in 26 games played. He has started 16 straight games, including all 13 last season for the nation's top-ranked defense. The Florence, Alabama, product was voted the defensive team captain for the 2019 season by his teammates. Last season, Thompson ranked second on the team in total tackles (87), tied for third in tackles for loss (9.0), added 3.5 sacks and collected a pair of interceptions. He earned second-team All-SEC honors from The Associated Press for his efforts. Thompson is also a candidate for the Bednarik Award, which has been presented to the College Defensive Player of the Year since 1995. He was named preseason first-team All-SEC by media following SEC Media Days last week.
Using his speed to wreak havoc in coverage, Gay played in all 13 games as a sophomore in 2018 and earned a starting role midway through the season. The Starkville product collected 48 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and a fumble recovery. Targeted 20 times, Gay reeled in two interceptions and forced a pass breakup. He allowed just 5.3 yards per reception, earning a 90.6 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus.
Semifinalists for the award will be named Nov. 4, finalists Nov. 25, and the winner on or before Dec. 10.