NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Two top Vanderbilt seniors, cornerback Myron Lewis and linebacker Patrick Benoist, have been named to preseason watchlists for prestigious college football awards.
Lewis, named to numerous All-Southeastern Conference preseason teams, is included in the preliminary watchlist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded each year by the Football Writers Association of America and Charlotte (N.C.) Touchdown Club to the nation’s defensive player of the year. Benoist, a second team All-SEC recipient in 2008, was named to the watchlist for the 40th Rotary Lombardi Award given by the Houston (Texas) Rotary Club.
Vanderbilt Head Coach Bobby Johnson said both Lewis and Benoist are deserving of national consideration.
"I'll very pleased for both of these young men. Myron and Patrick were tremendous contributors to our success last year and they’re going to play large roles in our success this season," Johnson said. "Both of them are outstanding on and off the field, and serve as fantastic representatives for Vanderbilt University.”
Lewis, a two-year starter who played opposite All-America D.J. Moore in 2008, came into his own last year, contributing career highs with five interceptions, 76 total tackles and seven tackles for loss. Lewis also shared the team lead with five quarterback sacks.
The Pompano Beach, Fla., resident also delivered at clutch moments for the Commodores. Early in the 2008 season, Lewis' interception in the closing minutes sealed Vanderbilt's 14-13 victory over #13 Auburn. In the season finale, his last-minute pick against Boston College capped the Commodores' 16-14 victory in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl.
A native of Southlake, Texas, Benoist was named All-SEC by both writers and league head coaches in 2008 after finishing the year as one of the conference's top tacklers.
Benoist accumulated 109 total tackles, tops on the team, and set career bests with 6.5 tackles for loss and five deflected passes. Benoist also receiving National Defensive Player of the Week honors from the Nagurski Trophy organization after a 15-tackle effort that sparked Vanderbilt's 24-17 victory over South Carolina. He later came back to win the SEC's top weekly defensive honor after his performance against Auburn.
Back to Work
After scrimmaging Saturday in Vanderbilt Stadium and enjoying Dore Jam fan day activities Sunday, the Commodores were back at work Monday and Tuesday at the John Rich Practice Facility. Johnson put the squad through its second two-a-day session on Monday, then brought the team back for two hours on work in the heat on Tuesday.
The Commodores limited full contact both days, spending extra periods on a variety of special teams work and expanding the offensive playbook.
During the second practice Monday, the offense witnessed the return of Jamie Graham, who contributed a major role at receiver and running back as a redshirt freshman in 2008. Graham received limited repetitions at wide receiver during some team drills. Though the team's first 10 preseason practices, Graham worked with the defense, impressing coaches with his stellar play at cornerback.
Stone To Miss Time With Injury
The Commodore defense suffered a key loss Monday afternoon when Steven Stone went down with a foot injury that was later diagnosed as a foot fracture. The injury is expected to sideline the senior end about six weeks.
Stone has been extremely productive since being inserted him into the Commodore defensive line as a sophomore. As a junior in 2008, he shared the team lead in quarterback sacks with fellow end Broderick Stewart and Lewis. He has started 25 consecutive games for the Vanderbilt defense.
"I just feel really bad for Steven," the coach said. "It's just a tough injury to deal with. Steven is a hard worker and has just been a model player since he got here."