BUTKUS AWARD (7/25)
Sun Devil Football fifth-year linebacker Merlin Robertson lands on the Butkus Award pre-season watch list, the latest Sun Devil to be identified as one of the best in his position heading into the 2022 season.
Instituted in 1985, the Butkus Award is given to the top linebacker in college football. Robertson is in exclusive company on this list, joined by 50 of college football’s top defensemen. Very few in this group have the career resume Robertson boasts about, as he returns to Tempe having already had four productive seasons. This is his fourth career appearance on the Butkus Award pre-season watch list, previously earning a spot every year from 2019-21.
Robertson has started 38 of his 41 career games, collecting 237 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks as the Sun Devil. He’s just as effective in the passing game as he’s stopped the rush, catching at least one pass in all four seasons as he enters his fifth season with six career interceptions. Robertson also added three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries, showing a nose for the ball. He has been a consistent and reliable force, playing 2,434 snaps since 2018, the 11e especially FBS linebackers. Robertson has just 24 career missed tackles, which is tied for 16e– the fewest out of 114 FBS linebackers to have played at least 1,500 snaps in the last four years.
Last season was Robertson’s best from a pass defense standpoint, as he finished with a career-high three interceptions and added four pass deflections. Robertson also had 64 tackles, the third time he eclipsed the 60 tackle mark in his career. Among Pac-12 linebackers with more than 400 snaps, Robertson was the sixth highest (65.9). For his efforts, he was awarded the Pac-12 All-Conference Honorable Mention.
During a shortened 2020 campaign due to COVID-19, Robertson was one of the best defensemen in the conference. He had a stellar season opener against USC, collecting ten tackles, one tackle for loss, one fumble recovery and one interception en route to winning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. Robertson was one of the few Sun Devils to appear in all four games, providing needed presence while making 24 tackles without a single missed tackle credited.
He managed to build an incredible freshman campaign by having a great second season. Robertson forced three fumbles in 2019 and had 72 tackles, while missing just eight tackles, second-fewest among Pac-12 linebackers. Robertson was a big part of the ASU defense that finished the regular season 21st nationally by giving up just 116.8 rushing yards per game – the highest regular-season ending for ASU since 2009.
Robertson wasted no time in making an impact in the Maroon & Gold, as he hosted one of the best freshman seasons in program history. He led the team in tackles (77), tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (5.0) and added one interception, two breakouts, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He was the first freshman to lead the team in tackles since Jason Shivers in 2001 and the first freshman to lead the team in tackles for loss and sacks since Junior Onyeali in 2010. He became the fifth Sun Devil to win a Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honor and the third to be named Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. He joined Vontaze Burfict (2009) and Junior Onyeali (2010) as the third person to win Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. At the end of the season, he earned Freshman All-America honors from the FWAA, The Athletic and 247Sports.
PRIZE SELECTION PROCESS
An independent Butkus Prize Selection Committee made up of 51 experts, including professional, college and high school scouts, and prominent sports journalists, leads the selection process.
The Butkus award is focused on recognizing linebackers who consistently play the ball off their feet in a two-point position in traditional LB form. Outside linebackers who primarily rush the setter 30 fronts are considered setters, not linebackers.
ALLSTATE AFCA GOOD WORKS TEAM (7/21)
Sun Devil Football senior back / back cash hatch was named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team®announced the American Football Coaches Association on July 21.
Nominees are student-athletes with exemplary community service, academic dedication, and impact on and off the field. cash hatch more than meets the criteria, as he has given his time to help others all his life.
Hatch is part of several organizations and participates in community service efforts throughout the valley. Since 2019 he has been volunteering with Feed My Starving Children, attending 2-3 events a year during the holiday season. During this time, he was also involved with an organization called Work for Just Serve, which offers an ongoing list of service opportunities. He is also part of a church that organizes events for youth groups, children aged 12-18, bringing in speakers and providing support.
Since 2021, Hatch has been volunteering with Neighbors Who Care, working with the organization approximately once a month, helping less fortunate families with a variety of needs. He also recently became involved with the Arizona Animal Wellness Center with his wife, working at a shelter in Gilbert. Once a month they spend a few hours cleaning the kennels, stocking up on food and water, and interacting with the dogs.
Before coming to ASU, he served a two-year assignment in Fort Lauderdale. Hatch took advantage of several local volunteer opportunities offered by the church, using this time away from football to help the community.
Hatch is also known for his “good job” on the pitch, as captain and as team manager in 2021. He helped pave the way for Rachaad White’s 1,000 rushing yards from fullback, proud to do the dirty work. Hatch has been a major contributor on special teams throughout his career, including being named Pac-12 All-Conference First Team Specialist in 2019. His combination of physicality, versatility and intelligence will be a major asset for the new offensive coordinator. Glenn Thomas.
PRIZE SELECTION PROCESS
The final 22-member team and honorary coach are selected by a voting committee comprised of former Allstate AFCA Good Works team members and journalists. They seek exceptional leadership on and off the football field. After the final team members were announced in September, fans can vote for this year’s Allstate AFCA Good Works team captain through the official page on ESPN.com.
Established in 1992, the Allstate AFCA Good Works team is one of college football’s most coveted community service awards. Of the 114 nominees, the final list of 23 winners will feature 11 players from the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision; 11 players from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Divisions II, III and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA); and an honorary head coach. To be considered for a spot on the Allstate AFCA Good Works team, each player must be actively involved in a charitable organization or service group while maintaining a strong academic record.
DOAK WALKER AWARD (7/19)
Sun Devil Football senior running back Xazavian Valladay has been named to the 2022 Doak Walker Award pre-season watch list, the PwC SMU Athletic Forum announced on July 19.
The Forum annually awards the Doak Walker Award to the top college running back in the nation. As the top statistical rusher in the country, Xazavian Valladay claims its rightful place on the prestigious list.
Valladay joins Arizona State after four seasons in Wyoming, where he became one of the most complete running backs in the nation. The workaholic carried the ball 626 times as a Cowboy, rushing for 3,281 yards and 19 touchdowns. He left Laramie second in program history in career rushing yards and is the nation’s top returning rusher. His versatile skills make him one of the most unique offensive weapons in the land. The running back can also do damage as a receiver out of the backfield, passing 51 passes for 584 yards and two touchdowns at Wyoming.
He eclipsed 1,000 yards twice, highlighted by a 1,265-yard campaign in 2019 that was the third most in the program’s single-season history. Thanks to his efforts, he was named First Team All-MWC. He would go on to lead the Mountain West Conference in rushing in 2019 and 2020. In a stellar 2021 season, Valladay rushed for 1,070 yards to earn second-team All-MWC honors. During his Cowboy career, he had 14 100-yard performances with the Cowboys, including a 204-yard game in the Arizona Bowl victory over Georgia State in 2019.
Valladay is a perfect fit for the new offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas‘, a system that helped UNLV running back Charles Williams become the program’s all-time best rusher.
PRIZE SELECTION PROCESS
The PwC SMU Athletic Forum Board of Directors will name ten semi-finalists in November, and three finalists, as voted on by the Doak Walker Award National Selection Committee, will be announced in November. The committee will proceed to a second vote in December to determine the recipient. The National Selection Committee is made up of past recipients, former NFL All-Pro and All-America college running backs, members of the media, and selected special representatives. The 2022 Doak Walker Award recipient will be announced live on The Home Depot College Football Awards. The award is named after SMU’s three-time All-America running back, Doak Walker.
PRESEASON WATCHLIST SCHEDULE
Monday, July 18: Maxwell Prize
Tuesday, July 19: Davey O’Brien Prize
Wednesday, July 20: Doak Walker Prize
Thursday July 21: Biletnikoff Prize
Friday, July 22: John Mackey Prize, Rimington Trophy
Monday, July 25: Butkus Award & Paycom Jim Thorpe Award
Tuesday July 26: Bronko Nagurski Trophy & Outland Trophy
Wednesday, July 27: Lou Groza Prize & Ray Guy Prize
Thursday 28 July: Paul Hornung Prize & Wuerffel Trophy
Friday, July 29: Walter Camp Prize
Monday, August 1: Bednarik Prize