The start of college football season is still four months away, but already the first preseason watch list has been announced. Players from NC State, Duke and Wake Forest, along with two North Carolina natives playing out of state, are among the 42 players named Monday as early candidates for the Lott IMPACT Trophy honoring the defensive player that makes the biggest impact for his team both on and off the field. Those nominated are Wolfpack linebacker Airius Moore, Blue Devil cornerback Bryon Fields and Deacon defensive end Duke Ejiofor, along with Fayetteville’s Harold Landry and Tarboro’s Tyquan Lewis. Moore, a 6-foot, 237-pound senior, was the Defensive MVP of his team’s Independence Bowl victory against Vanderbilt last December. He recorded 86 tackles for the 2016 season, including a team-leading 13.5 for losses. Fields, a 5-11, 185-pound senior, has made 142 career tackles and returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns while Ejiofor, a 6-4, 270-pound senior, led Wake with 10.5 sacks a year ago to go along with 17.5 tackles for loss. Landry, who plays at Boston College, is a second-team All-American who led the nation with 16.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles last season. The 6-3, 250-pound senior prepped at Pine Forest High School. Lewis, a 6-4, 265-pound senior, was the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year at Ohio State in 2016, who helped the Buckeyes rank fourth nationally in total defense and scoring defense. Named after Pro Football Hall of Fame member Ronnie Lott, The Lott IMPACT Trophy is the only college football award to equally recognize athletic performance and the personal character attributes of the player. The award is presented to the player who exhibits the same characteristics Lott embodied during his distinguished career: Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity. The winner of the Lott IMPACT Trophy will be presented at a banquet at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach, Calif., next December.
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