SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Junior cornerback KeiVarae Russell and sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith of the University of Notre Dame were selected to the 2014 Bednarik Award Watch List. Senior quarterback Everett Golson was chosen to the 2014 Maxwell Award Watch List.
The Bednarik Award is given to college football’s defensive player of the year, while the Maxwell Award is presented to the college football player of the year.
Russell has already made 26 starts in his young Irish career. No player has started more games on the 2014 Notre Dame roster. He ranked fifth on the squad with 51 tackles in 2013 and led the Irish with his eight pass breakups. Russell added one and a half tackles for loss, one interception, one fumble recovery and one quarterback hurry. He collected a pair of tackles, one interception and three pass breakups in the 29-16 victory over Rutgers in the ’13 New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
As a freshman in 2012, Russell was named a freshman All-American by The Sporting News and Scout.com powered by FOX Sports NET.
In 2013, Smith became the first Notre Dame freshman linebacker to start a season opener since Kory Minor in 1995. He started all 13 games last fall and ranked third on the squad with 67 tackles while trailing only Stephon Tuitt for the team lead with 6.5 tackles for loss. Smith added one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception, one quarterback hurry and three pass breakups.
Manti Te’o, the 2012 Heisman runner-up and unanimous All-American, needed 39 career games at Notre Dame to record an interception, fumble recovery and forced fumble. Smith accomplished the same feat by his eighth career game. His 67 tackles were the third-most ever by an Irish freshman and most since Bob Golic set the rookie record with 82 in 1975.
Golson returns to the Irish roster in 2014. In 2012, he appeared in 12 games, started 11 and led the Irish to victories in 10 contests. The 10 straight wins for Golson to open his starting career is the second-most in school history. He was the first quarterback in school history to lead Notre Dame to road victories over top-10 foes in his first two respective road starts.
Golson completed 58.8 percent of his passes (187 of 318) for 2,405 yards and 12 touchdowns with six interceptions. He also rushed for 298 yards, the most by an Irish signal caller since Carlyle Holiday had 666 yards in 2001. He joined Joe Theismann (1970) and Jarious Jackson (1999) as the only Irish quarterbacks to pass for more than 2,000 yards and rush for more than 300 in one season. He registered a team-high six rushing touchdowns — the most by an Irish quarterback since Jarious Jackson had seven in 1999.
Golson also holds the school record for lowest career interception percentage. He’s thrown just six interceptions in 318 career pass attempts (1.89%).