Alabama football had four players named to the 2017 Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list on Thursday.
Senior linebacker Rashaan Evans, junior defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison and junior defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne were all tabbed by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
The four are among 103 candidates from around the country named to the preseason list. Jonathan Allen became the first Alabama recipient of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy in 2016.
Evans spent his first season at inside linebacker in 2016 after playing on the outside as a freshman and sophomore and provided critical depth to the Tide linebacking corps. He started the final two games his junior campaign – the Peach Bowl and the College Football Playoff Championship Game – and totaled 53 tackles with four sacks (-16 yards), 4.5 tackles for loss (-17 yards), a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He added 6 quarterback hurries and 2 pass breakups to his season totals in 2016.
The leader of the Crimson Tide secondary after a pair of standout seasons in his first two years in Tuscaloosa, Fitzpatrick made the move to safety midway through the season in 2016 and will once again direct the Tide secondary in 2017. He has returned 4 interceptions for touchdowns during his career to set the Alabama all-time mark for pick-sixes.
Fitzpatrick was a first team All-American by the Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association and Pro Football Focus in 2016 and earned second-team honors from Walter Camp and The Sporting News. He led the team in interceptions (6) and interception return yards (186) as a sophomore and his 186 return yards ranked near the top nationally while his six picks tied for seventh in the FBS.
Harrison totaled 86 tackles to rank second on the team, and added 2 interceptions – one of which he returned for a touchdown – 2 fumble recoveries, including one that was returned for a 55-yard score, and 2 quarterback hurries. Harrison also had 1.5 tackles for loss (-8 yards) and 7 pass breakups. He blocked one field goal on the season, tied for the team lead with eight tackles on kickoff coverage and tied for third on the team with eight stops overall on special teams.
One of the key cogs along the Crimson Tide’s vaunted defensive front, Payne totaled 36 tackles, three quarterback hurries, one pass breakup and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in 2016. He added 3.5 tackles for loss (-13 yards) and 1.5 sacks (-10 yards) from his nose guard spot on one of the top defenses in Alabama history. Payne scored a touchdown in Alabama’s come-from-behind victory at Ole Miss last season with a three-yard return early in the third quarter to highlight his sophomore campaign.