Nine Pac-12 linebackers land on the preseason Butkus Award watch list
Only the SEC has more selections than the Pac-12 on the preseason Butkus Award watch list, released Monday.
The league has nine included on the 51-man list for the award, given annually to the country’s best linebacker. The Butkus Award says its focus is on recognizing linebackers who consistently play off the ball on their feet in a two-point stance in traditional form. Oregon and UCLA each have two players on the list, while Arizona State, Stanford, Utah, Washington, and Washington State each place one.
The group of Pac-12 players:
- Merlin Robertson, Arizona State
- Noah Sewell, Oregon
- Justin Flowe, Oregon
- Levani Damuni, Stanford
- Carl Jones Jr., UCLA
- Darius Muasau, UCLA
- Mohamoud Diabate, Utah
- Edefuan Ulofoshio, Washington
- Daiyan Henley, Washington State
Sewell is one of three players on the 51-man list that was a semifinalist for the award last season. No finalists return. (Georgia’s Nakobe Dean was the 2021 winner.) He’s joined by Flowe, who won the high school Butkus Award in 2019.
Oregon is hoping for a fully healthy season from both as coach Dan Lanning embarks on his first season in Eugene.
Jones is expected to step into a featured role on the Bruins’ defense this season after appearing in every game (31) over his first three years with the program. Muasau joined the team this offseason by way of Hawaii, where he was a first-team All-Mountain West selection each of the last two seasons. In 2021 and 2020, Muasau put up a combined 213 tackles as the heart of the Rainbow Warrior defense.
Robertson was an honorable mention all-conference selection for the Sun Devils last season after finishing in a tie for third on the team with 58 tackles.
Damuni started all 12 games at inside linebacker for Stanford last season, leading the team with 88 tackles.
Diabate and Henley are both first-year players in the Pac-12 this season, transferring in from Florida and Nevada, respectively. Both are expected to assume featured roles with their new teams.
Ulofoshio, when healthy, is one of the league’s very best linebackers. He was an All-Pac-12 Second Team selection in 2020 as well as an honorable mention All-American by PFF and Phil Steele. In 2021, PFF tabbed him as a preseason first-team All-American, but a shoulder injury limited him to six games and 51 tackles. The 6-foot-1 linebacker was dealt another bit of injury misfortune this offseason (knee) and is expected to miss the start of the 2022 season.
Semifinalists for the award will be named on Oct. 31, with three finalists then coming on Nov. 21. The winner of the award will be announced live on ESPN during The Home Depot College Football Awards show on Dec. 7.
The full watch list for the Butkus Award can be found here.