Penn State football players have seen their share of national recognition over the years, most recently coming from Carl Nassib's Lombardi Award-Winning 2015 season. With the 2016 season fast approaching, many national awards are starting to release their annual preseason watch lists. Here's a brief round-up of contenders:
Barkley's inclusion on the list should come as no surprise. Last year, the freshman phenom set a new school freshman rushing record with 1,076 yards. He also set an unofficial Penn State record for most Vine-worthy plays in a season.
Barkley enters 2016 as the Nittany Lions' feature back. If first-year offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead can fix Penn State's recent offensive woes, look for Barkley to have a monster year.
Joining Barkley on the Maxwell watch-list is Chris Godwin. The junior receiver was Christian Hackenberg's top target in 2015, finishing the season with 1,101 receiving yards (2nd in the B1G). He was ranked the No. 1 wide receiver in the Big Ten by a panel of Scout experts.
Cabinda might not be a household name, but he will look to change that in 2016. Last year, the true sophomore linebacker was forced into a greater role than expected following the season-ending injury of teammate Nyeem Wartman-White. Cabinda stepped up in a major way, leading the team in tackles with 7.7 per game.
Penn State has an impressive legacy with the Bednarik award. Four Nittany Lions have taken home the award, twice as many as any school. Can Cabinda become the first Nittany Lion to win the award since Dan Connor in 2007?
Gesicki's inclusion on the list might come as a bit of a shock for Nittany Nation. Though he started eight games in 2015, his performance was seen as lackluster by some fans, lowlighted by dropped catches and inconsistent blocking. However, with the departure of tight end Kyle Carter to the NFL, Gesicki should have an increased role in Penn State's offense. Look for the junior to improve his hands and become a reliable pass-catching target in 2016.