Chapel Hill, N.C. – North Carolina offensive guard Jonathan Cooper, offensive tackle James Hurst and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams have been named to the 2012 Outland Trophy preseason watch list.
The award goes to the best interior lineman in college football, as selected by the Football Writers Association of America.
Cooper and Hurst were named second-team all-conference selections in 2011. A senior from Wilmington, N.C., Cooper has started 35 career games, primarily at left guard. He saw action on 864 plays and graded out at 86 percent a year ago.
A junior from Plainfield, Ind., Hurst started 25 of 26 career games at left tackle. Last year, he participated in 851 plays and graded out at 88 percent for the season, the best mark on the team.
Running behind Cooper and Hurst, tailback Giovani Bernard rushed for 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns.
In just one season with the Tar Heels, Williams posted 54 tackles, 7.0 tackles for losses, 2.5 sacks, five quarterback hurries, three pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. A native of Jefferson City, Mo., Williams started all 13 games and was one of the most consistent performers a year ago.
Of the players on the watch list, 18 defensive tackles occupied spots. The rest of the linemen were on offense. Every Division I Bowl Subdivision conference, along with independents BYU and Notre Dame, had at least one player on the list.
The Outland Trophy winner is chosen from three finalists who are part of the FWAA All-America Team. The FWAA All-America Committee, after voting input from the entire membership, selects the 25-man team and eventually the three Outlandfinalists to be named on Nov. 19. Committee members, then by individual ballot, select the winner.
The Outland Trophy, presented annually since 1946, is the third oldest award inmajor college football. The winner of the 67th Outland Trophy, named after the late John Outland, an All-America lineman at Penn and Kansas at the turn of the century, will be announced on The Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 6 on ESPN.
The Outland Trophy presentation banquet, sponsored by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee, will be held on Jan. 10, 2013, in Omaha, Neb.
The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,300 men and women who cover college football for a living. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include gameday operations, major awards and its annual All-America team.