UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State football landed a total of three players on the preseason watch lists for the Maxwell Award and the Bednarik Award Tuesday.
Junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg and redshirt sophomore wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton were among the candidates for the Maxwell Award for the National Player of the Year, while senior defensive tackle Anthony Zettel is a nominee for the Bednarik Award for the National Defensive Player of the Year.
Penn State is tied for the national lead among all colleges and universities with its seven Maxwell Award winners. The Nittany Lions' four Bednarik Award recipients are the most of any school in the nation.
The Maxwell Award, named in honor of Robert W. "Tiny" Maxwell, has been given to America's College Player of the Year since 1937. Maxwell's contributions to the game of football were extensive, including time as a player, a sportswriter and an official.
The Bednarik Award has been presented to the College Defensive Player of the Year since 1995. Chuck Bednarik, former standout at Penn and with the Philadelphia Eagles, is a member of both the College Football Hall of Fame's Class of '69 and the NFL Hall of Fame's Class of '67.
Entering the season poised to become the top passer in Penn State history, Hackenberg capped his sophomore season by breaking or tying nine PSU single game bowl records. He has stated all 25 career games under center and enters the season ranked No. 3 in career passing yards (5,932), attempts (876) and completions (501), and is No. 4 in career total offense (5,770). He is one of just eight Nittany Lions to amass over 5,000 passing yards and is the only Penn State signal caller to break the 400-yard mark in a game, throwing for a school-record 454 yards in a victory over UCF at the Croke Park Classic in Dublin. Ireland. In 2014, Hackenberg led the Big Ten with 20.7 completions per game, ranking 23rd nationally, and finished second in the conference and 39th nationally with 2,977 passing yards.
Hamilton earned third-team Freshman All-America accolades from Athlon Sports last season after leading the Big Ten and ranking 28th nationally with 6.3 receptions per game. His 82 receptions set the school record for catches by a freshman and rank No. 2 on the all-time charts behind Allen Robinson's school-record 97 catches from 2013. He became the third straight Penn State wide receiver to lead the Big Ten in receptions and was named second-team All-Big Ten following his first season on the field. His 899 yards also set the PSU freshman record, while his 14-catch effort vs. Ohio State are the most catches in a game by a Nittany Lion in program history.
After moving from defensive end to defensive tackle in 2014, Zettel enjoyed his most productive season on the field in the blue and white. A fourth-team All-America selection by Athlon Sports and an All-Big Ten first-team pick by both the coaches and media, Zettel logged career-best totals with 17 tackles-for-loss and 8.0 sacks. His 16.0 career sacks rank tied for No. 15 in Penn State history and his 27.0 career TFLs are just five shy of entering the top-15 in the PSU record books.
Zettel was the only FBS player to rank among the national leaders in sacks and interceptions per game in 2014. The athletic defensive lineman nabbed three interceptions, the most by a PSU defensive lineman since at least 1959, to tie for the team lead in the category and added one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and eight pass deflections.
Semifinalists for the Maxwell and Bednarik Awards will be announced November 2, 2015, while the three finalists for each award will be unveiled November 23, 2015. The winners of the 2015 Maxwell and Bednarik Awards will be announced as part of the Home Depot College Football Awards Show held on December 10, 2015. The formal presentations of these awards will be made at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala hosted by Tropicana Hotel & Casino Atlantic City on March 11, 2016.
The Nittany Lions open the 2015 campaign on the road against Temple at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Saturday, Sept. 5 at 3:30 p.m.