Cody, McClain on 2009 Lombardi Watch List

Spring practice isn’t here yet, but prep for 2009 season is. The first award watch lists was released today. Alabama boasts two defensive players on the 2009 Lombardi Watch List, according to this release from the University of Alabama that just arrived in my inbox:

TUSCALOOSA — Alabama football players Terrence Cody and Rolando McClain highlight the preliminary watch list for the 2009 Rotary Lombardi Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top down lineman or linebacker.

McClain and Cody led the nation’s second-best rush defense in 2008, allowing just 74.1 yards per game and the No. 3 total defense at 263.5 yards per game. The Alabama defense did not allow an opposing running back to gain 100 yards all season and held the opposing team under 100 rushing yards in 11-of-14 games.

Cody was a consensus All-America selection from his nose guard position after making 24 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He was a disruptive force anchoring the middle of the Tide defensive line. Cody was also a semifinalist for the 2008 Chuck Bednarik Award and a unanimous first-team All-SEC choice.

McClain, the Tide’s middle linebacker, led the team in total tackles with 95 and tackles for loss with 12 (-45 yards). He also registered three sacks, one interception, six pass breakups, two quarterback hurries and two fumble recoveries, including one for a touchdown. The 2008 Butkus Award finalist was a first-team All-SEC selection by both league coaches and the Associated Press while earning third-team All-America honors from the AP.

Alabama is one of eight teams to have multiple candidates on the initial watch list. The Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 tied for the most players with eight, followed by the Sun Belt with six and the Western Athletic with five. The Big Ten and the Pac-10 have four each.

Former Alabama All-American left tackle and Outland Trophy recipient Andre Smith was a finalist for the 2008 Rotary Lombardi Award. He was the sixth Lombardi finalist in school history and the first since Demeco Ryans in 2005. Cornelius Bennett is the only Alabama player to win the Lombardi Award, capturing the honor in 1986.

Founded in the weeks following the 1970 death of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi from cancer, the Rotary Lombardi Award has consistently delivered upon the mission set forth by Marie Lombardi when she granted the use of her late husband’s name. Her only stipulation was that all net proceeds from the event be donated to the American Cancer Society. Millions of dollars have been raised since that time.

While the Watch List highlights those players who have already received national recognition, any Division-1 player who meets the position requirements is eligible for consideration from the Rotary Lombardi Selection Committee. This committee is comprised of more than 500 members, including all past winners and finalists, all Division 1-A head coaches and a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. The Rotary Lombardi Watch List, intended as a reference tool for the Selection Committee, will be periodically updated and revised through the conclusion of the voting to determine the 12 Semifinalists for 2009.