PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Sports Network) A total of 32 players have been chosen by The Sports Network, I-AA college football's most widely recognized information service, as official "Payton Watch" and "Buchanan Battle" members. The "Payton Watch" and "Buchanan Battle" pages, which can be found at The Sports Network's website (www.sportsnetwork.com) keep track of the quest for the 16th Walter Payton Award, presented annually to the top player in I-AA football, and the 8th Buck Buchanan Award, which goes to the top defensive player in I-AA. The honors will be presented at the 16th annual I-AA College Football Awards on Thursday, December 19th in Chattanooga, TN, on the eve of the 2002 I-AA National Championship. The Eddie Robinson Award, honoring I-AA's top coach, and the Sports Network Cup, bestowed upon the nation's best I-AA mid-major program, will also be presented on Dec. 19th.
Five players who appeared on last year's final Walter Payton Award ballot are among this year's initial pool of 16 Payton candidates. Brown wide receiver Chas Gessner, Eastern Kentucky running back C.J. Hudson, Montana State running back Ryan Johnson, New Hampshire running back Stephan Lewis, and Eastern Illinois quarterback Tony Romo are each returnees to the Payton Watch list. Romo, a two-time finalist for the Payton, finished 10th in voting last season and is the leading vote-getter among returnees. Villanova's Brian Westbrook, the NCAA's all-time all-purpose yards leader and a 3rd round draft pick of the NFL Philadelphia Eagles, won the 2001 Walter Payton Award.
Six players who appeared on last year's final Buck Buchanan Award ballot are among this year's 16 Buchanan candidates. Tennessee Tech defensive tackle D.J. Bleisath, Grambling State cornerback Chris Brown, Maine linebacker Stephen Cooper, Appalachian State defensive end Josh Jeffries, Georgia Southern defensive tackle Freddy Pesqueira, and Howard linebacker Tracy White are each returnees to the Buchanan Battle list. Pesqueira, a two-time Buchanan Award finalist, who finished 5th in voting last season, is the leading vote-getter among returnees. James Madison linebacker Derrick Lloyd was the recipient of the 2001 Buck Buchanan Award.
The official "Payton Watch" and "Buchanan Battle" lists will undergo three revisions prior to the mailing of ballots on November 25th. The first revisions will be announced October 2nd, the second October 30th, and the third just prior to the mailing of ballots. The ballots will be mailed to the media and I-AA sports information directors selected for the voting process on November 25th, and will be due Monday, December 2nd. The top three finalists (in terms of votes received) for the Walter Payton Award will be invited to attend the presentation in Chattanooga, TN, with the winner of that Award not announced until the event.
Following are the 32 current members of both the "Payton Watch" and "Buchanan Battle" lists, with additional information on each player, as well as history and facts about each of the I-AA awards, available at www.sportsnetwork.com.
"Payton Watch" Candidates (Aug. 26)
David Corley, QB, William & Mary
John Edwards, QB, Montana
Chas Gessner, WR, Brown
Michael Hayes, WR, Southern
C.J. Hudson, RB, Eastern Kentucky
Ryan Johnson, RB, Montana State
Robert Kent, QB, Jackson State
Tom Koutsos, RB, Southern Illinois
Stephan Lewis, RB, New Hampshire
P.J. Mays, RB, Youngstown State
Cecil Moore, WR, East Tennessee State
Carl Morris, WR, Harvard
Rondy Rogers, RB, Jacksonville State
Tony Romo, QB, Eastern Illinois
Allen Suber, QB, Bethune-Cookman
Juston Wood, QB, Portland State
"Buchanan Battle" Candidates (Aug. 26)
Jon Ambrose, S, St. Peter's
Dante Balestracci, LB, Harvard
D.J. Bleisath, DT, Tennessee Tech
Valdamar Brower, DT, Massachusetts
Chris Brown, CB, Grambling State
Stephen Cooper, LB, Maine
Erik Dandy, LB, Western Kentucky
Josh Jeffries, DE, Appalachian State
Dan Mulhern, LB, Delaware
Freddy Pesqueira, DT, Georgia Southern
Greg Pitts, LB, Southwest Texas
Hadley Prince, S, McNeese State
Nick Ricks, LB, Eastern Illinois
Tony Tiller, CB, East Tennessee State
Tracy White, LB, Howard
Ahmad Willis, DE, Northwestern State