Jody Victor: Ohio State defensive standouts James Laurinaitis, Marcus Freeman and Vernon Gholston have been named to the initial 2007 Bednarik Award watch list, and running back Chris “Beanie” Wells is on the first Maxwell Award watch list of the new season.
Both lists were released Monday by the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia. Each list consists of 65 players who were selected on the basis of their performance in 2006.
The Bednarik Award goes to the outstanding defensive player in collegiate football and has been presented since 1995. It is named for former University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Eagle standout Chuck Bednarik.
The Maxwell Award has been presented since 1937 and goes to the outstanding player in college football.
Laurinaitis led the Buckeyes in tackles (115) and interceptions (5) last year from his middle linebacker position and was a consensus All-American in a superb sophomore season.
The speedy Freeman returns at will linebacker. After being sidelined with an injury in 2005, he started for the first time last year as a sophomore and was second on the team in tackles (71) and passes broken up (6).
Gholston led the Buckeyes in tackles-for-loss (15) and sacks (8.5) last year. The stellar defensive end, the lone returnee from last year's defensive front, finished the season with 49 total tackles.
The 6-1, 230-pound Wells rushed for 576 yards, seven touchdowns and a team-best 5.5 yards per carry last year as a true freshman and is the Buckeyes' leading returning ground gainer. His seven tallies included a 52-yard score in the Buckeyes' 42-39 win over Michigan that wrapped up the outright Big Ten championship for the Buckeyes.
Semifinalists for the two awards will be announced in early November and three finalists for each honor will be announced Nov. 26. Winners will be announced as part of the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show on Dec. 6.