Pirates named to more watch lists
East Carolina senior linebackers Zeek Bigger and Montese Overton have been named to the 2015 Dick Butkus and Rotary Lombardi Award Watch Lists, while junior center J.T. Boyd and senior tackle Ike Harris have garnered inclusion on the Lombardi Watch List both organizations announced Tuesday. Bigger, who earned Second-Team All-American Athletic conference honors as a junior, led the American Conference and ranked ninth nationally with 10.8 tackles per game. The Gastonia, N.C. native registered a team and league-high 140 tackles and recorded double-digit stops on eight occasions, including a career-best 17 against in-state foe North Carolina. He also returned an interception 46 yards for a score against the Tar Heels helping him earn Walter Camp National Defensive-Player-of-the-Week honors. During his three-year career, Bigger has tallied 235 stops (113 solo) with 8.0 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, nine pass breakups and five quarterback hurries to go along with three interceptions. He has started 23 of 39 career games, including all 13 a year ago, and has recorded multiple tackles on 30 occasions. A preseason All-AAC selection by Athlon Sports and Phil Steele Magazine, Overton started all 13 games as a junior tallying 68 tackles (34 solo) to rank fourth on the squad in 2014. The Greenville, N.C. native booked multiple tackles in all 13 contests (five or more in seven outings), while standing second in TFLs (11.5/-36 yards) and third in sacks (3.0/-19 yards). Overton averaged 5.2 stops per games, which ranked among the top 40 defenders in the league. In three seasons with the Pirates, Overton has played in 34 games (16 starts) and recorded 147 tackles (82 solo). He has registered at least one stop in all 34 contests and credited with at least a half TFL on 18 occasions. Both he and Bigger have keyed a defensive unit that has held nine opponents to 17 or fewer points and 13 to less than 100 yards rushing since the start of the 2013 campaign. Both Boyd and Harris, who earned second-team all-conference honors a year ago, helped anchor an offensive line that produced four 100-yard rushers, while providing pass protection for six 400-yard efforts by 2014 quarterback Shane Carden. The duo were key members of a unit that produced 500 yards or more of total offense eight times and stood among the national team leaders in passing offense (3rd/371.9 pg), total offense (5th/533.0 pg) and scoring (22nd/35.8 ppg). They also helped ECU turn in its first 2,000-yard rushing campaign since 2009 last fall, while averaging 4.8 yards per run – the unit’s highest per-carry total since 2007. So far this season, six Pirates have been named to a preseason watch list, surpassing the previous high of five in 2013: Bigger (Chuck Bednarik Award, Dick Butkus Award, Rotary Lombardi Award), Boyd (Rotary Lombardi Award, Outland Trophy), Harris (Rotary Lombardi Award, Outland Trophy), Isaiah Jones (Paul Hornung Award), Overton (Dick Butkus Award, Rotary Lombardi Award) and Bryce Williams (John Mackey Award). The 31st annual Butkus Award winner, which honors the nations best linebacker, will be announced as part of the Home Depot College Football Awards Show held on Dec. 10 on ESPNU. Semifinalists will be named Nov. 2 and the finalists will be announced on Nov. 23. A selection panel of 51 deeply experienced coaches, evaluators and journalists will narrow the field by private ballot. The 46th Rotary Lombardi Award will be held on December 9, 2015 at the Bayou Music Center in Houston, Texas. Eligibility for the Rotary Lombardi Award is limited to down linemen, end-to-end, either on offense or defense, who set up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball, or linebackers who set up no farther than five yards deep from the line of scrimmage. The candidates earned a place on the preliminary Watch List by earning All-American honors, being named to their respective all-conference teams or receiving 2015 preseason honors.
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