With college football season inching closer, national pundits and organizations have been releasing award watch lists in abundance.

While it's been several years since a college football player from a Utah school has earned one of the nation's premier individual awards, several local athletes have found their names included among the nation's elite.

Here is a look at 22 players from Utah FBS schools that have made these recently released award watch lists:

Editor's note: The list has been updated to include two additional players named to watch lists after the article's initial posting.

Email: bjudd@deseretnews.com; Twitter: @brandonljudd

Dres Anderson

Team, position: Utah, wide receiver

Watch list: Biletnikoff Award (nation's top college receiver)

Watch list: Maxwell Award (college player of the year)

Watch list: CFPA Wide Receiver Trophy (nation's top wide receiver)

The speedster Anderson had a breakout season in 2013, catching 53 passes for a team-leading 1,002 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. His 18.9 yards-per-catch average was tops in the Pac-12 (he earned honorable mention all-league honors) and 12th in the country.

Anderson, a senior, is the Pac-12's leading returning receiver, after he averaged 83.5 yards per game last year. In addition, four of his seven touchdown receptions covered more than 45 yards.

The versatile wide receiver was also the Utes' top kickoff returner last season. He averaged 21.1 yards on 11 kickoff returns.


Craig Bills

Team, position: BYU, safety

Watch list: Bronko Nagurski Trophy (nation's most outstanding defensive player)

Bills has plenty of on-game experience. The senior has played in 38 games for BYU and started 18 of them. That is a big part of why he is expected to be a leader on defense for the Cougars this season.

Last year, Bills had a career-best 78 tackles and had a hand in five turnovers with two interceptions, recovered two fumbles and forced a fumble. He was named to the Phil Steele all-Independent First Team. For his career, Bills has 148 tackles, 12 pass breakups, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.


Nick Diaz



Team, position: Utah State, placekicker

Watch list: CFPA Placekicker Trophy (nation's top placekicker)

In his first full season as Utah State’s placekicker, Diaz hit 17 of 23 field-goal attempts last year — including 4 of 6 from 40 to 49 yards — and made 51 of 52 extra-point tries to account for 102 points. He earned honorable mention All-MWC honors in 2013 and was named a Lou Groza Award Star of the Week after hitting all four field-goal attempts in a victory over San Jose State on Sept. 27.

Diaz, a senior, ranks second in Utah State history with 91 extra-points made.


Kyler Fackrell

Team, position: Utah State, linebacker

Watch list: Bednarik Award (college defensive player of the year)

Watch list: Bronko Nagurski Trophy (nation's most outstanding defensive player)

Watch list: Butkus Award (top linebacker in college football)

Watch list: Rotary Lombardi Award (college football's top lineman or linebacker)

Watch list: CFPA Linebacker Trophy (nation's top linebacker)

Fackrell, who will be a junior this season, has started all 27 games he has played for the Aggies. Last year, he had 82 tackles, a team-leading 13 tackles for loss and five sacks, two fumble recoveries and a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown to help him earn All-MWC second team honors. Fackrell was also named a College Football News Sophomore Honorable Mention All-American.

His freshman year in 2012, Fackrell’s 87 tackles tied for third-best from a freshman in USU history. He earned Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-American honors that season.


Alani Fua

Team, position: BYU, linebacker

Watch list: Bronko Nagurski Trophy (nation's most outstanding defensive player)

Watch list: Butkus Award (top linebacker in college football)

Watch list: Rotary Lombardi Award (college football's top lineman or linebacker)

Watch list: CFPA Linebacker Trophy (nation's top linebacker)

Fua enters his final season as a Cougar with a chance to become a leader in the absence of Kyle Van Noy. He started nine games last year and had 63 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks. Fua also intercepted two passes, taking one back for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Georgia Tech. The second capped the Cougars' narrow win over Houston.

Against Boise State, he recorded a career-high 12 tackles in a 37-20 BYU win and also had six tackles and a sack in a loss at Wisconsin. Fua earned third-team all-Independent honors from College Sports Madness in 2013.


Edward Fusi

Team, position: BYU, center

Watch list: Rimington Trophy (nation's premier center)

After not seeing much action early in the year, Fusi played in 10 games for the Cougars last season. The junior college transfer started in six games for BYU and is listed as the team's starter at center on the post-spring depth chart.

Tom Hackett

Team, position: Utah, punter

Watch list: Ray Guy Award (college punter of the year)

Watch list: CFPA Punter Trophy (nation's top punter)

Hackett was the premier punter in the Pac-12 in 2013, leading the league in punt yards (3,300), average (43.4), punts inside the 20 (27, tied for first) and 50-plus yard punts (19). His career-best 70-yard punt also tied for the best in the conference. He earned first-team all-Pac 12 honors.

The former walk-on is only halfway through his Utah career as well, heading into his junior season in 2014.


Joe Hill

Team, position: Utah State, running back

Watch list: Doak Walker Award (nation's top running back)

Hill started five games last year before a knee injury ended his season. He finished the year with 252 yards and a touchdown on 53 carries; Hill has 566 career rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He also has 25 receptions for 303 yards and three touchdowns.

Hill was also named to the Doak Walker watch list last season.


Taysom Hill

Team, position: BYU, quarterback

Watch list: Heisman Trophy (best player in college football)

Watch list: Davey O’Brien Award (college football's best quarterback)

Watch list: Maxwell Award (college player of the year)

Watch list: Walter Camp Award (nation's most outstanding player)

Watch list: CFPA Quarterback Trophy (nation's top quarterback)

Hill heads into his second full season as a starter for the Cougars in 2014. Last year, he showed how dynamic he can be as a dual threat, especially during his 259-yard, three-touchdown effort on the ground in a victory over Texas.

The junior completed 53.9 percent of his passes for 2,938 yards and 19 touchdowns and he added 1,344 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Hill's 329.4 yards of total offense per game ranked 10th in the country.

In addition to being on several award watch lists, Hill has also been named a player to watch by Sporting News and the Touchdown Club of Columbus.


Adam Hine

Team, position: BYU, running back/kick returner

Watch list: CFPA Kickoff Returner Trophy (nation's top kickoff returner)

The junior running back has been most dangerous during his time at BYU as a kick returner. Last year, Hine had a 90-yard kickoff return against Middle Tennessee and averaged 27.19 yards on 31 kick returns, good for 14th nationally. He earned all-Independent first team honors as a kickoff returner from Phil Steele, FBS and College Sports Madness.

Hine was also fifth on the team in rushing, with 224 yards and a touchdown on the ground.


Wyatt Houston

Team, position: Utah State, tight end

Watch list: John Mackey Award (nation's top collegiate tight end)

As a true freshman, Houston played in Utah State’s final seven games last season and earned three starts after D.J. Tialavea went down with an injury. During that time, he had seven receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns.


Bronson Kaufusi

Team, position: BYU, linebacker

Watch list: Rotary Lombardi Award (college football's top lineman or linebacker)

Kaufusi, a junior, has transitioned from defensive end to outside linebacker during this offseason to help replace Van Noy. He started 13 games last year and recorded 37 tackles, seven tackles for loss, six pass breakups, four sacks and three quarterback hurries. Kaufusi also had his first career interception, returning it 12 yards for a touchdown.

Heading into the 2014 season, he is listed as a starter at the will (weakside) linebacker position for the Cougars.


Chuckie Keeton

Team, position: Utah State, quarterback

Watch list: Heisman Trophy (best player in college football)

Watch list: Davey O’Brien Award (college football's best quarterback)

Watch list: Maxwell Award (college player of the year)

Watch list: CFPA Quarterback Trophy (nation's top quarterback)

Keeton is expected to return to the field after being cleared earlier this year for action. He missed the final eight games of Utah State’s 2013 season after suffering a season-ending knee injury against BYU.

Despite missing more than half of the year, Keeton had an impressive 18-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio when his 2013 season ended. The dual-threat quarterback has thrown for 5,961 yards and 56 touchdowns in his career, and has rushed for 1,153 yards and 14 more touchdowns.

Keeton had a 69.4 completion percentage in 2013, breaking his own single-season school record. He’s also been named the Davey O’Brien Honorable Mention National Quarterback of the Week twice and earned first-team All-WAC honors in 2012.


Devin Mahina

Team, position: BYU, tight end

Watch list: John Mackey Award (nation's top collegiate tight end)

Mahina has endured several injuries during his time as a Cougar, but he appears to be healthy heading into his senior season. He has 26 career catches for 310 yards and two touchdowns.

Mahina's best year with BYU came during his freshman season in 2010 when he played in 12 games and had 11 receptions for 118 yards.


Bruce ‘JoJo’ Natson

Team, position: Utah State, wide receiver/punt returner

Watch list: CFPA Punt Returner Trophy (nation’s top punt returner)

The diminutive Natson made a big impact for the Aggies last season. His 11.3-yard average on punt returns ranked 22nd in the country and he tied for second nationally with two punt returns for touchdowns. Natson was named the honorable mention all-MWC punt returner at year’s end.

He also started eight games at wide receiver and finished the season with 59 receptions for 395 yards and three touchdowns. Natson had 98 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 28 attempts as well, becoming the lone player in the country to have multiple touchdowns returning, receiving and rushing.


Geoffrey Norwood

Team, position: Utah, wide receiver/punt returner

Watch list: CFPA Punt Returner Trophy (nation’s top punt returner)

Norwood, a walk-on headed into his senior year, was the primary punt returner for the Utes in 2013. He averaged 8.6 yards on 27 returns and had a career-best 40-yard return against USC. Norwood also had a career-high 67 punt return yards vs. the Trojans.

He also had 13 receptions for 173 yards and started two games at wide receiver.


Remington Peck

Team, position: BYU, defensive end

Watch list: Rotary Lombardi Award (college football's top lineman or linebacker)

Peck earned his first significant playing time at BYU as a sophomore in 2013, playing in 12 games and recording 38 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. He also had two fumble recoveries and earned College Sports Madness All-Independent Second-Team honors.

Peck is the team's lone returning starter on the defensive line in 2014 with Kaufusi moving over to outside linebacker.


Andy Phillips

Team, position: Utah, placekicker

Watch list: Lou Groza Award (nation's top placekicker)

Watch list: CFPA Placekicker Trophy (nation's top placekicker)

Phillips made waves as a freshman last year, hitting 17 of 20 field goals, including 9 of 11 from 40-plus yards. He was also perfect on point-after attempts, hitting all 41, and his field-goal percentage (85 percent) was second in the Pac-12.

This helped Phillips earn Third-Team Freshman All-American honors from Athlon Sports and he was selected honorable mention All-Pac 12. Phillips also was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza award.


Brian Suite

Team, position: Utah State, safety

Watch list: Jim Thorpe Award (nation's best defensive back)

The senior Suite has been a mainstay on the Aggies’ defense the past two seasons, starting all but one game during that stretch. His five interceptions in 2013 led the Aggies and was fifth in the Mountain West Conference. He also had 77 tackles, six pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble in earning All-MWC honorable mention honors.

Suite also made the SI.com All-Bowl Team, as he had an interception and recovered a fumble in Utah State’s 21-14 upset victory over No. 24 Northern Illinois.


Zach Vigil

Team, position: Utah State, linebacker

Watch list: Rotary Lombardi Award (college football's top lineman or linebacker)

Watch list: CFPA Linebacker Trophy (nation's top linebacker)

Vigil enters his final season as an Aggie in 2014. He’s started every game for Utah State the past two years. Last season, Vigil proved to be disruptive. He had 124 tackles — second-best on the team — 12.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. He earned second team All-MWC honors.

In 11 of the team’s 14 games in 2013, Vigil recorded at least eight tackles. He also finished with 105 tackles his sophomore season.


Jamaal Williams

Team, position: BYU, running back

Watch list: Doak Walker Award (nation's top running back)

Watch list: Maxwell Award (college player of the year)

Watch list: CFPA Running Back Trophy (nation's top running back)

Williams has thrived during his first two seasons with the Cougars, rushing for 2,008 yards and 19 touchdowns while earning All-Independent first team honors from College Sports Madness both seasons. He was named to the Doak Walker Award watch list last season as well.

The junior is 1,447 yards shy of BYU's all-time leading rusher, Harvey Unga, and will again be the Cougars' feature back in 2014.


Michael Yeck

Team, position: BYU, offensive tackle

Watch list: Outland Trophy (college football's most outstanding interior lineman)

Yeck heads into his final season as a Cougar in 2014. He is the lone BYU offensive lineman to start all 13 games for the Cougars last season. He started 11 games at left tackle and two at right tackle — though he is listed as second-string behind De'Ondre Wesley at left tackle on the post-spring depth chart.

Yeck earned Phil Steele all-Independent first team honors last season, and was recognized by FBS and College Sports Madness as well.