Keith Srakocic, AP
In this image made with a slow shutter speed, Utah running back John White IV (15) rushes past Pittsburgh defensive back K'Waun Williams (2) in the fourth quarter of the NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011, in Pittsburgh. White ran for 171 yards on 31 carries as Utah won 26-14. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
BYU senior quarterback Riley Nelson and University of Utah senior running back John White have been named to the 2012 Maxwell Award preseason watch list. The Maxwell Award is given each year to America's most outstanding college football player.
Nelson is one of 23 quarterbacks included on the list, and he led BYU to a 6-1 record as a starter in 2011. The Logan, Utah, product passed for 1,717 yards, 19 touchdowns and rushed for 392 yards and one score during the 2011 campaign.
His pass efficiency rating of 152.93 was No. 16 in the country and helped BYU rank fifth in the country in third-down conversions. Nelson threw at least three touchdown passes in a game on five occasions, including a career-best 363 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-20 win at Hawaii.
White, a Heisman candidate who finished second in the Pac-12 and 11th in the nation in rushing (116.8 yards per game) a year ago as a junior, broke a 29-year-old school record by rushing for 1,519 yards last season. Second-team all-Pac-12, honorable mention SI.com All-American and the Sun Bowl MVP, White led the league and ranked third in the nation in carries (316) in his first NCAA season.
Returning Maxwell Award semifinalists from 2011 include USC QB Matt Barkley, Clemson QB Tajh Boyd, Oklahoma QB Landry Jones and USC WR Robert Woods.
Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is one of 65 preseason candidates for the Bednarik Award, presented to the nation's top defensive player since 1995. Defensive players are also eligible for the Maxwell Award and will be considered once the season gets under way.
Lotulelei has been named a preseason first-team All-American by Phil Steele and Blue Ribbon Football Yearbook and is Blue Ribbon's preseason Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Both Lotulelei and White are preseason first-team all-Pac-12 picks by Phil Steele and Blue Ribbon.
Lotulelei, considered by many to be the best interior defensive lineman in the country, was named first-team all-Pac-12 in 2011 when he won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12's best defensive lineman. Some scouting services have projected the 6-foot-4, 325-pound senior as the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Semifinalists for the Maxwell and Bednarik Awards will be announced Oct. 29, and the three finalists for each award will be unveiled Nov. 19. The winners of the 2011 Maxwell and Bednarik Awards will be announced as part of the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show held on Dec. 6.