Stanford football certainly will be a team to watch this season. Heading into this week, five players have been named to preseason "watch" lists that feature the nation's top players for individual postseason honors.
The latest Stanford players to be honored are juniors David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin, anchors of the offensive line that has been considered among the best units in the nation for the past two seasons. Both were named to the preseason watch list for the prestigious Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the best interior lineman in college football.
Every Division I Bowl Subdivision conference, along with independents BYU and Notre Dame, had at least one player on the annual list, which includes only tackles, guards and centers on both sides of the ball. Of the 65 players on the watch list, 16 defensive tackles occupied spots. The rest of the linemen were on offense.
The Outland Trophy winner is chosen from three finalists who are part of the FWAA All-America Team. The Football Writers Association of America All-America Committee, after voting input from the entire membership, selects the 25-man team and eventually the three Outland finalists to be named on Nov. 21. Committee members, then by individual ballot, select the winner.
DeCastro and Martin, both of whom earned first team all-conference honors last season as sophomores, have combined to make 50 starts over the past two seasons in which Stanford has posted a combined record of 20-6. Their play has enabled the Cardinal to post two of the top three rushing marks in school history while allowing quarterback Andrew Luck complete 64.4 percent of his passes and compile a 170.2 passing efficiency rating. Stanford's offensive line has allowed just 13 sacks over the last two seasons.
The Outland Trophy, presented annually since 1946, is the third-oldest award in major college football. The winner of the 66th 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. 8 on ESPN.
Earlier last week, Stanford's Shayne Skov and Delano Howell were included on the preseason watch list for the Bednarik Award, which is presented annually to the top defensive player in college football.
The incumbent starter at one of the inside linebacker positions, Skov has made 18 career starts over the past two seasons. He ranks as Stanford's leading tackler among active players with 146 stops.
An honorable mention all-conference selection last season, Skov led Stanford in tackles (84) as a sophomore, despite missing the first two games of the season with injury. He also had 7.5 sacks among his 10.5 tackles-for-loss and ranked eighth in the Pac-10 Conference in tackles per game at 7.64.
Howell, Stanford's returning starter at strong safety, has made 23 starts in the secondary over the past two seasons after transitioning from running back in spring of 2008. He has recorded 138 career total tackles to rank second behind Skov among the team's active leaders (146) heading into the 2011 season, A two-time all-conference selection, Howell leads all returning players with six career interceptions.
He earned second team All-Pac-10 honors last season after finishing the year with 60 total tackles, including 46 solo efforts. He ranked as the team's fourth-leading tackler behind Skov, Chase Thomas (70) and Michael Thomas (61). He also had a team-high five interceptions.
The Bednarik Award watch list features three of last season's semifinalists, including DE Brandon Jenkins of Florida State, LB Luke Kuechly of Boston College and LB Manti Te'o of Notre Dame.
Semifinalists for the Maxwell and Bednarik Awards will be announced October 31st and the three finalists will be unveiled November 21st. The winners of the 2011 Bednarik Award will be announced as part of the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show held on Dec. 8.
Previously announced, Stanford's Coby Fleener was named to the Mackey Award watch list for the nation's top tight ends.