Three LSU players - cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu and linebacker Ryan Baker - are among the 65 players on the watch list for the 2011 Bednarik Award, which goes annually to the top defensive player in college football.?
LSU produced its first Bednarik Award winner last season when cornerback Patrick Peterson was selected.
Claiborne, a native of Shreveport, heads into his junior season as a preseason All-America selection by some publications. A year ago, he led the Tigers and ranked third in the SEC with five interceptions and had 37 tackles and six pass breakups.
Mathieu played in all 13 games as a true freshman last season. He ranked fourth on the team with 57 tackles. He had 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, two interceptions and a team-high seven pass breakups. His five forced fumbles led the SEC.
Mathieu was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the 2011 Cotton Bowl for forcing two fumbles and making an interception and seven tackles in the 42-24 win over Texas A&M. He is one of only two sophomores who made the watch list. Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes is the other.?
Baker, who returns as the starting will linebacker, ranked second on the team and 13th in the SEC last season with 87 total tackles, including 11 tackles for loss. He led LSU in sacks with seven. In 37 career games, the senior has made 120 tackles.
TIGHT END GREEN ON MACKEY LIST: In Lafayette: Ladarius Green of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette is among 34 players named to the 2011 John Mackey Award preseason watch list. The Mackey Award is presented annually to the top tight end in college football.
Green enters his senior season as one of three players on the list who was a 2010 semifinalist.
A native of Pensacola, Fla., Green is seventh in Ragin’ Cajuns history in career receiving yards (1,595), tied for fourth in career receiving touchdowns (14) and needs 26 catches to reach fifth in career receptions (currently has 98).
In 2010, Green led all tight ends nationally in receiving yardage (794), receiving yards-per-game (79.4), receiving yards-per-catch (18.0), games with 80 yards or more receiving (7) and receiving touchdowns (7). He made a catch of 20 yards or longer in all but one game, despite being double-teamed on over 90 percent of his routes. Green led all players in the Sun Belt with four 100-yard receiving games and in yards-per-reception (18.0).
KICKER GETTING ?PROFESSIONAL’ HELP: In Ruston, Louisiana Tech kicker Matt Nelson is getting some professional help, which he hopes he can parlay into two more memorable seasons with the Bulldogs and maybe a pro career of his own.
Nelson has been getting advice from several current and former NFL kickers who once kicked for the Bulldogs. They include Alexandria native and current Dallas consultant Chris Boniol, longtime NFL kicker Matt Stover and Jacksonville kicker Josh Scobee, who is Tech’s all-time leader in field goals made.
Scobee says Stover reached out to him, so he wanted to do so the same with Nelson.
Nelson, a former soccer player from Texas, will be a junior this season. He made 14 of 18 field goal attempts in 2010, including a career-long 47-yarder.
Scobee says Nelson has pro potential.