Two Penn State football players have already raised eyebrows months before the 2013 season kicks off.
Senior running back Zach Zwinak and sophomore defensive end Deion Barnes were both named to preseason award watch lists, Penn State announced on Monday.
Zwinak, a rugged runner who ascended to a starting role in the offensive backfield last season when he racked up 1,000 rushing yards, was named to the Maxwell Award watch list. Barnes was identified as a candidate to win the Chuck Bednarik Award.
The Maxwell Award is bestowed upon the nation’s top player and presented by the Maxwell Football Club, while the Bednarik Award is given to the nation’s top defensive player.
Zwinak will lead a Penn State running back corps that returns Bill Belton and adds newcomer Akeel Lynch when the Nittany Lions open the season against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Aug. 31.
Barnes will return as Penn State’s top sack-getter. In his redshirt freshman season, Barnes turned in six sacks, was third in the Big Ten with three forced fumbles and earned the Thompson-Randle El award, given to the Big Ten’s top freshman.
Seven former Nittany Lions have won the Maxwell Award in the past — tied for most in the nation with Notre Dame. In addition, Penn State has won a nation’s-best four Bednarik Awards.