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In this intallment of Watch List Watch, three key components to the potential turnaround of the defense, CB Deatrick Nichols, LB Auggie Sanchez and DT Deadrin Senat, make the cut for the Bronco Nagurski Trophy.
The trio have all made at least 24 starts in their USF career, and all have over 100 career tackles.
Of the 103 players on the watch list, only nine are from the American Athletic Conference. USF is the only team with more than one representative.
The senior corner from Miami splashed onto the scene in 2015 to become the lockdown corner USF has missed since Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams roamed the secondary. He has recorded four interceptions in each of the past two seasons.
He chipped in 49 tackles in 2016 (119 career) and had seven pass break-ups. none bigger than the ones he made in the fourth quarter against Memphis at the goal line to preserve a 49-42 Bulls victory.
He battled through some minor injuries in 2016, as did most of the secondary, so he may return to his 2015 form under a new defensive coordinator, and he and fellow cornerback Ronnie Hoggins can be a dynamic duo just like Jenkins and Williams.
The team captain comes into 2017 with something to prove after a subpar season by his standards. Yeah, he collected 120 tackles, which was one off the program record, but he missed tackles and had trouble with teams targeting him in the passing game.
Sanchez is just 64 tackles shy of former linebacker Kawika Mitchell’s career mark of 367. Sanchez has posted back-to-back 100+ tackle season, so 64 should be cake.
Senat was one of the most consistent guys along the defensive line in 2016. He was rewarded by a second-team All-AAC selection, and he won the team defensive MVP award. He set a career high and led the defensive line in tackles with 49, with seven TFL.
Senat was also named to the Outland Trophy watch list, given annually to the best interior lineman, offense or defense.
If these three guys are still in the running for these accolades in November, then we know head coach Charlie Strong and defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary are a couple of magicians and deserve every penny.