COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The wait is almost over. The season is finally creeping closer again, and the annual release of preseason watch lists for the biggest awards in college football confirms it -- and helps provide a useful distraction during the final month leading up to the start of training camp. BuckeyeNation will be tracking all the Ohio State players being tracked by the various committees and will be handicapping their odds of bringing trophies back to campus along the way.
What: The nation's best lineman or linebacker
Credentials: The attention on Shazier is increasing with his inclusion on every watch list he's eligible for, though that's hardly a surprise, given the season he turned in as a sophomore. But another appearance on a preseason hype list for Norwell is starting to give the impression that of all the veteran offensive linemen to choose from on the Ohio State roster, the imposing guard might be held in the highest regard heading into his senior season. Getting credit and praise for a thankless job in the trenches is difficult enough on its own, but it's even tougher for an offensive guard. Norwell has clearly made a name for himself on the interior with his physical play and critical role for one of the nation's best rushing attacks. It might not help him win an award with as deep a pool of candidates as the Lombardi draws from, but simply getting noticed in the first place can sometimes be tribute enough.
Head to head: Showcase opportunities against other candidates currently being watched for the honor -- Chris Borland (linebacker, Wisconsin), Jake Fely (linebacker, San Diego State), David Gilbert (defensive end, Wisconsin), Ryan Groy (offensive line, Wisconsin), Anthony Hitchens (linebacker, Iowa), Taylor Lewan (offensive line, Michigan), Khalil Mack (linebacker, Buffalo), Jake Ryan (linebacker, Michigan), Tyler Scott (defensive end, Northwestern), John Urschel (guard, Penn State), Brandon Vitabile (center, Northwestern).
Odds: Even with another banner season for Ohio State's rushing attack, Norwell is a longshot to win an individual award -- mostly because there are three other returning starters around to share the credit with him for the Buckeyes. But Shazier's ability to rack up gaudy numbers and his importance to a defense with so many new faces in the front seven should make him an intriguing candidate if he's able to duplicate or exceed the statistics he posted as a sophomore.