After losing a lot of strong quarterbacks across the league, the ACC as a conference is set to have a pretty defense-oriented years that could make points pretty tough to come by. The Virginia Cavaliers will be no different, as free safety Quin Blanding and inside linebacker Micah Kiser have picked up a number of preseason award watch list honors. Starting quarterback Kurt Benkert also received some attention of his own.
A senior out of Virginia Beach, VA, Blanding, who represented the Hoos at ACC Football Kickoff, finished ninth in the country (second in the ACC behind his own teammate) last year with an average of 10.0 tackles per game. With still an entire season to go, Blanding has 358 career tackles, the most in Virginia history by any defensive back.
Blanding is on the preseason watch lists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy (top defensive student-athlete), Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year), Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player), Thorpe Award (best defensive back), and Wuerffel Trophy (community service).
A senior out of Baltimore, MD, Kiser, who represented the Hoos at the ACC Football Kickoff back in 2016, finished last season as a second-team All-American and a two-time member of the All-ACC first team. He finished first in the conference, fourth in the country in tackles per game at 11.2.
Kiser is on the preseason watch lists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, Bednarik Award, Nagurki Trophy and Butkus Award (best linebacker).
Holding the UVA single-game record for passing yards, with 421 against Central Michigan, Benkert is on the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch list, awarded to a quarterback based on both on- and off-the-field accomplishments. Benkert was the first UVA quarterback to reach 1,000 combined passing yards over his first four career starts, and tied Mat Schaub’s record for reaching 2,000 passing yards the fastest in a season (eight). The healthiest he’s ever been at Virginia, Benkert could be blowing up a few more records this year.
Preseason award watch lists are largely a marketing trick, but still, there’s reason to be excited about this trio for the upcoming season. The action kicks off on September 2 at 3:30 against William & Mary in Charlottesville. Get hype!