Appalachian State’s Clifton Duck, the Sun Belt Conference’s Rookie of the Year and a freshman All-American last season, is one of two players from state colleges named Friday to the watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award. North Carolina’s M.J. Stewart is the only other named as a preseason candidate for the honor recognizing the best defensive back in college football. The good news is that names will be added as the season goes on, which means that Wake Forest’s Jesse Bates, Duke’s Bryon Fields and others should eventually get their just due. Duck intercepted five passes, tied with Bates for the most among freshman last season, while recording eight pass breakups and 54 tackles — a total that ranked fourth on the Mountaineers. Stewart recorded a team-leading 11 pass breakups and two forced fumbles last season while making 66 tackles. His 29 career pass breakups ranks third on the Tar Heels’ all-time list. The Thorpe Award winner will be announced as part of a made-for-television awards show on Thursday, Dec. 7.
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