3 Florida players named to national award preseason watch lists

Defensive lineman Cece Jefferson and defensive back Duke Dawson on Monday were named to the watch list for the Bednarik Award, given annually to the best defensive player in the country. Graduate transfer quarterback Malik Zaire was put on the watch list for the Maxwell Award, given annually to the college player of the year.

Jefferson, a junior, started six games last season and is expected to play a big role on Florida’s defensive line in 2017. Overall, the Glen St. Mary, Fla. native recorded 59 tackles (15 for loss), 5 sacks and 7 quarterback hurries in his first two seasons.

Dawson, a senior, played in 12 games last season with 7 starts at nickel corner. He recorded 1 interception (which he returned for a touchdown) and a team-high 7 pass breakups along with 24 tackles (3.5 for loss) and a forced fumble in 2016. Dawson will be one of Florida’s starting cornerbacks in 2017.

Zaire has been named to the Maxwell Award watch list for the third straight year. However, during his career at Notre Dame, he played in only 16 games with 3 starts. He showed his potential in a pair of those starts, though. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2014 Music City Bowl after going 12 for 15 with 96 yards and a touchdown and also rushing for 96 yards and a touchdown. He started the first two games of the 2015 season — wins against Texas (313 passing yards, 3 touchdowns) and Virginia (115 passing yards, 1 touchdown) — before suffering a season-ending broken right ankle in the Virginia game.