Wicks named to Thorpe Watch List

Eric Wicks has been named to the 2006 watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's finest defensive back. The preseason list has Wicks as a strong safety and one of two Big East players.

The other is Pitt's Darrelle Revis, a junior cornerback. The list was finalized via a point system based on ten preseason All-America teams. Miami strong safety Brandon Meriweather – who was leveled and then hurdled by then-WVU tailback Quincy Wilson during the 2003 College Play of the Year – was the only player to be named first-team on all lists.

The Thorpe Award is given annually to the nation's top secondary player by the Jim Thorpe Association. Thorpe was also a running back, passer and kicker on offense and a defensive back. Recognized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame simply as "The Legend", Thorpe also played professional baseball and won Olympic gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon.

The watch list will be narrowed to 10 semi-finalists the first Monday in November and then to three finalists the Monday before Thanksgiving. The winner will be announced on ESPN's College Football Awards Show, telecast from Disney World on December 7. The official presentation of the award will be in Oklahoma City on February 7. This list is not official in that it can be expanded should other players perform better than expected.

Wicks, a 6-1, 210-pound senior out of Pittsburgh, has shown the ability to play multiple positions in the secondary. He moved from spur to bandit safety upon the graduation of Mike Lorello. The move showcased Wicks' ability to play in space and handle wide receivers and tight ends and to match-up in the running game as well. The move allows the highly-talented Johnny Holmes to move from the a stacked defensive front three to an area where his long arms and excellent speed can be utilized.

Wicks was second-team All-Big East last season. He tallied 61 tackles, 6.5 of which were for a loss. He also had three sacks, three pass deflections and four forced fumbles. His biggest play of the season might have come in the opener against Syracuse, when he intercepted quarterback Perry Patterson's out pass and returned it 31 yards for West Virginia's first points of the year to tie the game at 7-7. His only two career interceptions have been for scores (34 yards versus Virginia Tech, 2004).

WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez has said that Wicks might be the "best defensive back I have ever coached when his career is over." There isn't truly a timetable for that, because Wicks, as a Prop player when he came to West Virginia, can earn another season of eligibility if he graduates this year.

The complete watch list is as follows: Fred Bennett, S. Carolina; Joe Burnett, UCF; Bobby Blackshire, Tulsa; Antoine Cason, Arizona ; Zach Cantanese, Arizona State; Marquice Cole, Northwestern; Joe Garcia, Nevada; Josh Gattis, Wake Forest; Nick Graham, Tulsa; Michael Griffin, Texas; Leon Hall, Michigan; Marcus Hamilton, Virginia; Daymeion Hughes, California; David Irons, Auburn; LaRon Landry, LSU ; Marcus McCanley, Fresno State; Brandon Meriweather, Miami (FL).

J.D. Nelson, Oregon; David Overstreet, Missouri; Sabby Piscitelli, Oregon State; Kenny Phillips, Miami (FL); Darrelle Revis, Pittsburgh; Anthony Reddick Miami (FL); Roderick Rogers, Wisconsin; Reggie Smith, Oklahoma; Wesley Smith, Memphis; John Talley, Duke; Eric Weddle, Utah; John Wending, Wyoming; Eric Wicks, West Virginia; C.J. Wilson, Baylor; and Tom Zbikowski, Notre Dame.

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