The past four winners of the Jim Thorpe Award have come from the SEC, and three SEC defensive backs, including Florida true freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, are among the 15 semifinalists for the award, given annually to the nation's top college defensive back.
The semifinalists were announced Monday, and the other SEC players on the list were Alabama sophomore free safety Landon Collins and Ole Miss junior free safety Cody Prewitt.
The Pac-12 and Big 12 also had three semifinalists apiece.
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The other 12 semifinalists: Ohio State senior free safety C.J. Barnett, Washington State senior strong safety Deone Bucannon, Oklahoma senior cornerback Aaron Colvin, Michigan State senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard, Oregon junior cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olumu, Virginia Tech senior cornerback Kyle Fuller, Florida State senior cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, Oregon State junior cornerback Steven Nelson, Louisville junior free safety Calvin Pryor, TCU senior cornerback Jason Verrett, Northern Illinois senior strong safety Jimmie Ward and Kansas State senior free safety Ty Zimmerman.
Nelson and Ward are tied with three others for the national lead with five interceptions. Verrett, who has two picks, is third nationally with 12 pass breakups. Fuller, who also has two interceptions, is tied for fourth nationally with 10 pass breakups. Bucannon has four picks, three forced fumbles, 73 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. Prewitt leads the SEC with four picks, and Ekpre-Olumu might be the most pro-ready of any corner in the nation.
Verrett seems to be the best bet to win, at least at this stage of the season. He has been a key component of a good defense for most of his career, has good numbers this season and is considered a big-time pro prospect, too.
A committee of Jim Thorpe Association members picks the semifinalists, and the committee will meet again to select the three finalists, who will be announced Nov. 25. The finalists are submitted to a national panel of more than 50 sports writers, sportscasters, former players and coaches that vote to determine the winner. The winner will be announced December 12.