College football watch lists.
What are they good for?
Absolutely nothing … unless all the greed-filled conference juggling, the money grab by school administrators, the arguing between coaches, the transfers, the massive NIL deals, the doldrums of a buzzard-hot summer have pushed you to lunacy’s edge and getting pumped in the pre-preseason by way of hype is what soothes your football-craving soul.
Then it might mean a little something.
But every July, as sure as fireworks are set off by careless folks who pay no attention to the fact that Utah neighborhoods and vast expanses of land are parched and ready to ignite, schools — in this case, BYU, Utah and Utah State — send out notifications about their players who have been named to this watch list or that, this preseason All-America team or that.
Such watch lists have lost their meaning, if they ever had any, on a few accounts.
First, there are so many players on so many lists for so many awards that it’s gotten to the bloated point where it might be easier — or at least more notable, more selective — to name players who have been left off the lists.
The unwatched lists.
For example, these are some of the watch-list awards for which certain local players can be, will be, or have been nominated: the Maxwell Award, the Doak Walker Award, the Bednarik Award, the Lou Groza Award, the Ray Guy Award, the Biletnikoff Award, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Butkus Award, the Outland Trophy, the Davey O’Bien Award. And a slew of preseason All-America teams.
Did we leave any out? Yep. Lots.
There are awards for darn-near every position on the field, for coaches, too, and the number of preseason nominees for each varies from a lot to a whole lot. The Nagurski Trophy, for instance, has 85 players on its watch list. The Butkus Award has 51 from 43 schools.
Everybody’s in the pool.
Utah players on watch lists, a few of them on multiple lists, with some yet to be announced, include: Cam Rising, Clark Phillips III, Junior Tafuna, Braeden Daniels, Mohamoud Diabate, Cole Bishop, Dalton Kincaid, Brant Kuithe, and Tavion Thomas. There are more on preseason all-conference lists.
Utah State: Calvin Tyler Jr., Logan Bonner, Andre Grayson, Stephen Kotsanlee.
Second, what kind of season-specific “honor” is it to be named to a 2022 list singing praises for athletes who haven’t even suited up yet?
It’s ridiculous, when you think about it, honoring players for the coming season for either what they’ve done in the past or what they’ve shown potential to do in the unplayed games ahead.
The question can be reasonably asked: Before the season starts, shouldn’t every player on every team be watched? You never know who might emerge in a fresh slate of games.
And that’s the point here, really. It’s not to demean any of the nominees. If they’re on any of these lists, they’ve achieved personal success in their past. You can see the names and, in most cases, have seen their games.
They’re good. Are they better than their unnamed teammates? Probably, maybe.
I talked to a player a few seasons back who was not named to any such watch list, and, like most competitive athletes, he at first acted like it was no big deal, but then he whispered that he was, in his opinion, every bit as valuable to his team, every bit as talented and hard working in his own realm as his teammates who had been named. He admitted he was a mix of miffed and ticked off about the deal.
Third, in a team sport like college football, there’s so much attention paid to individual players, a constant push to single them out with accolades and awards. Everybody’s looking for a star. I get it. That’s the way it is. That’s what draws eyeballs. But sometimes it’s too much.
And I write that — full disclosure here — as a Heisman Trophy voter. Been doing that for years. But every time I sit down to fill out that ballot, naming in order my top three players, the thought ricochets off the corners of my mind: Is this guy, are these guys, really the best CFB players in all the land? Really? At least I’ve had a chance to watch a season’s worth of games by then.
The preseason stuff is worse.
Ultimately, these lists are meaningless, and everyone’s fully aware.
Honoring players for a coming season for what they might do, or for what they’ve done in other seasons, is about as silly as an awards-crazed environment gets. Even if said players go on to great success in the months ahead, for the time being it is empty, it’s senseless, it’s hype.
Even if it makes you feel better about your team, about your team’s prospects, about yourself, in a period of avarice in college football, a time when the emphasis on the sport centers on money, on school and conference positioning, on business, go ahead and use it for what it’s worth.
Not a lot.