The annual watch list for college football’s Bednarik Award–given annually to the nation’s top defensive player–was announced Monday, with UNC cornerback MJ Stewart making the cut.

Stewart chose to return to school for his senior season following the Tar Heels’ loss to Stanford in last year’s Sun Bowl.

A native of Arlington, Virginia, he led UNC with 11 pass breakups in 2016–and ranks third in school history with 29 pass breakups in his career.

Stewart is expected to take on a big leadership role this upcoming season, as the Tar Heels look to rebuild their defense following the departure of former coordinator Gene Chizik.

Semifinalists for the Bednarik Award will be revealed around midseason, on October 30.

The field will then shrink down to three finalists on November 20, before the winner is announced during the Home Depot College Football Awards Show on December 7.

For the full list of preseason candidates, click here.


Photo via Smith Cameron Photography