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Illinois defensive end Dawuane Smoot named to 2016 Bednarik Award Watch List

The honor is presented annually to the nations' top defensive player.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois' Dawuane Smoot is shaping up to be one of the top defensive players in the Big Ten, if not the country, and he received more national attention. The senior lineman was named to the 2016 Bednarik Award Watch List on Tuesday, joining 99 of college football's other top defenders.

Yes, that's a huge number of names for such a relatively specific award.

During his junior season, Smoot recorded a total of 40.0 tackles which included 8.0 sacks and 15.0 tackles-for-loss. He's being projected as an early-mid First Round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft as a result of those outstanding performances.

Here's some more information on the Bednarik Award.

The Maxwell Football Club presents the Bednarik Award to the top defensive player in college football. The award is presented in honor of Pro and College Football Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik. Voters for the Maxwell College Awards are NCAA Head College Football Coaches, members of the Maxwell Football Club and sportswriters and sportscasters from across the country.

Led by Jabrill Peppers (Michigan) and Desmond King (Iowa), the Big Ten had a total of 16 players named to the watch list. You can view all 100 names right here.