CHICAGO – Michigan State senior linebacker Max Bullough has been named to the third-annual Big Ten preseason Players to Watch list, as selected by a media panel attending the conference's football media days. The preseason watch list features a total of 10 student-athletes, with five players each selected from the Legends and Leaders Divisions.
Bullough is one of five student-athletes who represent the Legends Division on the Big Ten preseason Players to Watch list, joining Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez and Northwestern running back Venric Mark. Representing the Leaders Division on the preseason Players to Watch list are Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson and Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Bullough has been named to 2013 preseason watch lists for five national awards: Butkus Award (top collegiate linebacker), Lombardi Award (college lineman of the year), Bronko Nagurski Trophy (nation's best defensive player), Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year) and Lott IMPACT Trophy (defensive impact player of the year). In addition, he is featured on the College Football Performance Awards Linebacker Trophy watch list.
A preseason All-America selection by Phil Steele's College Football Preview (second team) and Athlon Sports (third team), Bullough enters his third season as Michigan State's starting middle linebacker in 2013. The three-year letterwinner has 223 tackles, including 21 for losses (77 yards) and 6.5 sacks (41 yards), in 40 career games. Bullough has started every game at middle linebacker since the beginning of the 2011 season (27 consecutive games), a streak that ranks tied for longest on the Spartan defense (strong safety Isaiah Lewis; defensive end Marcus Rush).
The Traverse City, Mich., native anchors a Spartan defensive unit that joins Alabama and Florida State as the only NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams to rank in the Top 10 in total defense, rushing defense and scoring defense each of the last two seasons. MSU also has led the Big Ten in rushing defense and total defense each of the past two years.
A first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and a second-team pick by the media in 2012, Bullough led the team in tackles for the second-straight year with a career-high 111 stops (51 solo, 60 assists), which ranked ninth in the Big Ten (8.5 avg.). He also ranked second on the team and tied for ninth in the Big Ten with 12.5 tackles for loss (45 yards), and in conference games, he ranked fourth in the league in tackles (76; 9.5 avg.).
"Max Bullough is simply a complete football player and one of the elite players at his position in the country," MSU assistant coach coach/defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. "Max is the unquestioned leader of our defense. With his football IQ, it's like having a coach on the field. He's is an instinctive player, who makes difficult plays look routine. Max consistently plays at a high level, and he possesses the unique ability to make the players around him better."
A semifinalist for the Butkus Award a year ago, Bullough produced at least a half tackle for loss in each of the last eight games and tied for the team lead with nine tackles in the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU. He was named recipient of the team's Outstanding Underclass Back Award (defense), Biggie Munn Award (most inspirational player) and Iron Man Award (strength and conditioning).
Bullough registered a team-high seven stops at Minnesota and recorded eight tackles against Northwestern, with one tackle for loss (2 yards). His half sack (combined with junior defensive end William Gholston) against Kain Colter resulted in a 1-yard loss and a safety in the first quarter.
He reached double figures in tackles for the fourth time in 2012 and sixth time in his career, with 10 stops against Nebraska.
Bullough recorded nine tackles while setting career highs for both tackles for loss (2.5 for 15 yards) and sacks (2 for 14) in Michigan State's 16-13 overtime victory at No. 25 Wisconsin, as the Spartans recorded their first win in Madison since 2001 while snapping the nation's second-longest active home winning streak at 21 games. MSU limited Wisconsin to 19 yards rushing (37 carries) - nearly 182 fewer than its season average.
He posted 10 stops, a career-high two pass break-ups and recorded his first interception of the season at Michigan.
Bullough recorded 11 stops against Iowa and posted a season-high 12 stops against No. 14 Ohio State to go along with two pass break-ups and a forced fumble.
The MSU football team reports to campus on Friday, Aug. 2 for physicals, compliance and academic meetings as well as a media workshop. The Spartans open preseason practice on Saturday, Aug. 3.
Michigan State's 2013 season and home opener is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 30 against Western Michigan, with kickoff set for 8 p.m. ET on BTN.
The complete list of 2013 Big Ten football preseason Players to Watch appears below:
Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State
Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska
Venric Mark, RB, NorthwesternLEADERS DIVISION
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State*
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin