The preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award was released Monday, with UNC senior cornerback MJ Stewart among 45 candidates for the honor given annually to the nation’s top defensive back.

The watch list is not final, since players can earn their way into contention with outstanding play on the field.

Stewart led the Tar Heels with 11 pass breakups in 2016, and ranks third in school history with 29 over his first three seasons.

He was an honorable mention All-ACC selection last year, and looks to make huge strides in 2017 as he takes on a much bigger leadership role under new coordinator John Papuchis.

In total, seven ACC defensive backs–including Stewart–were included on the Thorpe Award watch list.

The winner will be announced live from a pool of three finalists on ESPN’s College Football Awards Show–which takes place on Dec. 7.

For the full watch list, click here.


Photo via Jeffrey A. Camarati (UNC Athletics)