A few hours after Sam Darnold was listed on the Maxwell Award watch list, it was announced that three Trojans were named on the watch list for the Bendarik Award, annually awarded to college football’s best defensive player.
Middle linebacker Cameron Smith, pass-rusher Porter Gustin, and cornerback Iman Marshall were all included, giving USC the second most names on the list as Ohio State and Florida State tied with four apiece.
All three players will look to build on solid 2016 campaigns. Last year, Smith lead the team with 83 tackles and earned an All- PAC- 12 second team nod. Meanwhile, Gustin added 7.5 tackles for loss with 5.5 sacks and Marshall emerged as one of the best coverage men in conference, snagging three interceptions and forcing eight breakups. Together they helped USC finish third in the PAC-12 for total defense.
Rey Maualuga is the only Trojan to win the Bendarik Award since it was introduced in 1995, receiving the honor after his excellent 2008 season. Now Smith, Gustin, and Marshall are looking to join him provided they each make even more strides in 2017.