Jordan Matthews refrained from jumping to the NFL prematurely and returned for his senior season.
Already some peg the Vanderbilt wide receiver to be one of the best in the country.
On Monday, Matthews was one of seven wide receivers on the 75-player watch list for the Maxwell Award, which is given annually to the country’s best player.
The Maxwell Football Club also announced its watch list for the Bednarik Award, which is presented annually to the college defensive player of the year. Vanderbilt senior cornerback Andre Hal was one of 16 Southeastern Conference standouts on the 76-player watch list.
Matthews returns after hauling in 94 receptions for a school-record 1,323 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. This is the second straight year a Vanderbilt player has been named to the Maxwell Award watch list. All-time leading rusher Zac Stacy, now with the St. Louis Rams, made the list last year.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Matthews needs 804 receiving yards to break the SEC career record of 3,093 yards set by Georgia’s Terrence Edwards (1999-2002). Matthews, a Madison, Ala., product, was the team’s first consensus All-SEC first team receiver since Earl Bennett in 2007. With 87 receptions this year, Matthews will break Bennett’s school record of 236 career catches.
Hal, a Port Allen, La., native, is the first Vanderbilt player named to the Bednarik watch list since three-time All-SEC linebacker Chris Marve in 2011. Hal ranked second in the SEC last year with 16 passes defended, including two interceptions.
He also made 48 tackles, including 36 unassisted. The 6-foot, 184-pounder also returns kicks for the Commodores. He has a career average of 23.4 yards a return and ran back a 96-yard touchdown in 2011.
Vanderbilt, coming off its first nine-win season since 1915, opens the season on Thursday, Aug. 29 against Ole Miss at Vanderbilt Stadium.