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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Spencer Hadley (2) runs in for a touchdown on a fumbled snap during first half action as BYU plays Idaho in the Cougar's final home football game on 2012 Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012,in Provo, Utah.

PROVO — BYU is quickly becoming linebacker U.

Three Cougars were named to the Butkus Award preseason watch list today. UCLA is the only other school that has that many included in the selection process to honor the nation's best linebackers.

BYU seniors Kyle Van Noy, Spencer Hadley and Uani Unga earned selection to highlight a strong linebacking corp for the Cougars heading into the 2013 season. UCLA picks included Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Jordan Zumwalt.

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BYU's Van Noy returns for his final season after an All-American campaign in 2012, finishing tied for second in the nation in sacks (13) and forced fumbles (6) and ranking No. 4 in tackles for loss (22). Hadley started opposite Van Noy at the strong-side position, adding nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, while 'Unga became a strong contributor at middle linebacker for BYU after transferring from Oregon State, helping the Cougars rank No. 3 overall in total defense in 2012.

Each watch list contains 51 candidates, honoring the now-retired professional jersey number of Dick Butkus, who is regarded by NFL Films as the best defensive player in football history.

Along with Hadley and Unga, BYU now has six players on preseason college football award watch lists.

Ten players from Beehive State FBS programs have been named to preseason watch lists. See them all.