6 Lineman from Michigan schools named to Outland Trophy watch list

The latest preseason award watch list featuring players from Michigan-based programs is the Outland Trophy, given to the country's most outstanding interior lineman by the Football Writers Association of America.

In total, 81 players across the nation have been named to the list. Of the 81 are six players deriving from Michigan-based schools: two from Michigan, two from Western Michigan, one from Michigan State and one from Eastern Michigan.

This is the season consecutive season that Mason Cole has been named to the Outland Trophy watch list. The 6-5, 305-pound lineman opted to return for his senior year versus entering the NFL Draft. Cole has started in 38 straight games for the Wolverines over his first three seasons, including all 13 last season at the center position after his first two years at left tackle. It is expected that he will return to LT come the start of the season.

This is the second appearance on a watch list this week for defensive tackle Maurice Hurst. He was named to the Chuck Bednarik Award (top defensive player) watch list as well for the second time in his collegiate career. The three-time Academic All-Big Ten member will be leaned on heavily to not only lead a relatively young defensive front for Michigan, but an entire defense.

Like Hurst, this is the second watch list showing for Michigan State senior Brian Allen. He was named to the Rimington Trophy (top center) watch list earlier in the week. Allen has started in 14 straight games for the Spartans and was the only lineman for MSU to play in all 12 games last year, two of which were at center. He is expected to be the full-time starter at center in 2017.

Western Michigan junior John Keenoy is also a Rimington Trophy watch list recipient for the upcoming 2017 season. The East Kentwood High School product has started 26 out of a possible 27 games in his first two seasons with the Broncos, including all 14 last year.

His teammate on the line, senior Chukwuma Okorafor, enters the season as one of the higher-rated offensive lineman in the Mid-American Conference and a potential high draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Okorafor has started in all but one game over his first three seasons, playing at both left and right tackle. He was named to the All-MAC first-team last season.

Eastern Michigan redshirt junior Jimmy Leatiota is one of six MAC lineman, along with his Western Michigan counterparts, to make the Outland Trophy watch list. Leatiota is the easily the most experienced returning lineman for the Eagles in 2017, after starting in all 13 games last season. He was part of a line that allowed the second-fewest tackles for loss in all of FBS in 2016.

The list of the 81 players will be cut down to half a dozen come mid-November before deciding on three finalists a week after that. The presentation of the Outland Trophy by the FWAA will be one of many awards presented on December 7, as part of ESPN's live College Football Awards presentation show.