Six players representing schools from the state of Michigan landed Thursday on the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top interior lineman.
Michigan and Western Michigan each have two candidates: Center Mason Cole and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst from the Wolverines, and center John Keenoy and offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor from the Broncos. Michigan State center Brian Allen and Eastern Michigan guard Jimmy Leatiota.
There are 81 players on the preseason watch list.
Allen and Keenoy also earned spots on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top center, released earlier this week. Hurst made the watch list for the Bednarik Award, given to the nation’s top defensive player, which also was announced this week.
Cole, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound rising senior, has made 38 consecutive starts on the Wolverines’ offensive line, including 13 last season at center after moving from left tackle.
The 6-foot-2, 282-pound Hurst had 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last season on a deep Michigan defensive line.
Allen (6-2, 305) has been a versatile lineman for the Spartans, earning starts last season at center, left guard and right guard. He’s played in 38 games at MSU, including 25 starts. Only four have been at center.
Keenoy (6-3, 300) has started 26 games in his first two seasons at Western, and was a second-team all-Mid American Conference selection.
The 6-6, 330-pound Okorafor, a Southfield product, had made 27 starts the past two seasons, helping lead an offensive line that allowed just 16 sacks last season.
Leatiota (6-3, 295), a redshirt junior, started all 13 games last season at right guard and helped lead an offensive line that allowed the second-fewest tackles for loss and ninth-fewest in FBS.
Six to seven semifinalists will be announced Nov. 15, with three finalists announced the following week. The winner will be announced Dec. 7.
Offensive tackle Cam Robinson of Alabama was last season’s winner. The only player to win the Outland representing a school from Michigan was Michigan State guard Ed Bagdon in 1949.