PHILADELPHIA (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat were both named semifinalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award on Monday by the Maxwell Football Club.
The Bednarik Award is presented annually to the college defensive player of the year by the Maxwell Football Club. The field of contenders is comprised of 20 candidates, featuring a representative from every Power 5 conference. Simmons is one of two returners from last year’s semifinal list. MSU is one of just five schools with multiple semifinalists, joining Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Washington.
College football’s most feared pass rusher, Sweat is tied for second in the Southeastern Conference and seventh in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 8.5 sacks through eight games this season. He has also racked up 11 tackles for loss, which is the third-most in the SEC. No player in the Power 5 has tallied more sacks since the start of the 2017 season than Sweat, who has 19 in his 21 career games played in that span. Sweat, who led the SEC in sacks with 10.5 in 2017, is looking to become the second player since at least 2002 to lead the league in sacks back-to-back years.
A dominant interior force, Simmons leads all SEC defensive linemen with 39 tackles this season and ranks tied for fourth in the conference with 9.5 tackles for loss. He boasts a 90.8 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, which is fifth in the FBS among defensive interior linemen, and he also owns a 91.8 grade in the run game that ranks fourth nationally. Simmons has recorded 18 stops and 16 total pressures, including 12 hurries according to PFF.
In the 21 games played together, the pair of first-round NFL prospects have combined for 48 tackles for loss (28 vs. SEC). Sweat has 26.5, while Simmons has 21.5 (Simmons has 25.0 in his career). The tandem has also combined for 24 sacks (16.5 vs. SEC) as Sweat has 19 and Simmons has five. On ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest Big Board for the 2019 NFL Draft, Simmons is No. 11 and Sweat is No. 13.
Semifinalist voting for the award will begin Wednesday and will close on Nov. 18. Three finalists will be announced on Nov. 19 and a second round of voting will take place at that time. Eligible voters include Maxwell Football Club members, NCAA head football coaches, sports information directors and selected national media.
The winner will be announced as part of the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show presented by Gildan which will be broadcast live on ESPN on Dec. 6. The formal presentation of these awards will be made at the Maxwell Football Club's Awards Dinner on Friday, March 8, 2019 at the Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
2018 Chuck Bednarik Award Semifinalists
DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama
S Deionte Thompson, Alabama
DE Zach Allen, Boston College
DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
DE Jachai Polite, Florida
DE Brian Burns, Florida State
CB Deandre Baker, Georgia
DT Ed Oliver, Houston
LB Josh Allen, Kentucky
DE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
S Grant Delpit, LSU
LB Devin White, LSU
DE Chase Winovich, Michigan
DE Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
NG Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State
NG Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
DT Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State
CB Byron Murphy, Washington
LB Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington