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Saturday, October 28, 2017

PSU’s Smith and Bucknell’s Pyles, Campbell Semifinalists

By Shawn Carey – Two Central Pennsylvania college football players, Penn State linebacker Brandon Smith and Bucknell University’s Mark Pyles, are in the running for the premier student-athlete in college football.  Smith and Pyles have been named two of 181 semifinalists for the 2017 William V. Campbell Trophy, widely regarded as the “Academic Heisman,” the National Football Foundation announced.

The finalists will be announced on November 1 and each will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship. The winner will be announced on December 5 in New York City, and his scholarship will increase to $25,000.

John Urschel was the last Penn State Nittany Lion to win the award in 2013. Finalists come from both the NAIA and from all divisions of the NCAA.

Smith, a Lewisburg High School graduate and Winfield native, is one of nine semifinalists from the Big Ten Conference. The other 8 are Wisconsin’s Joe Ferguson, Nebraska’s Chris Weber, Northwestern’s Justin Jackson, Michigan’s Mike Wroblewski, Michigan State’s Brian Allen, Maryland’s Adam Greene, Illinois’ Malik Turner and Minnesota’s Andrew Stelter.

Smith, who was recently selected to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, has 11 tackles, including two tackles for loss, in four games this season. Last year, Smith started the season as the third-string Mike linebacker but was thrust into starting in the third game of the season due to a series of injuries to the three opening day starting linebackers. Smith shined in his expanded role, ranking sixth on the team with 54 tackles and leading the squad with two interceptions. He also had three pass breakups and 4.0 tackles for loss. Smith was selected as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after posting 14 tackles in a win over Maryland. His interception and 22-yard return on the first defensive possession of the second half at Purdue sparked a 45-7 second-half surge by the Nittany Lions.

One of only nine Bison to serve as team captain more than once, Pyles, a Bucknell co-captain, is a two-time All-Patriot League selection. In 2015, he finished fifth in the Patriot League with a team-best 95 tackles. This season, he currently ranks second among Bison with 30 tackles, a team-high 3.5 of which were for a loss.  Pyles has racked up 188 tackles (107 solo) in 35 career games. He has started 24 contests, including the past 13 in a row at SAM linebacker.

Pyles is one of two selected from the Patriot League.  The other is Lehigh’s Jimmy Mitchell.

Brandon Smith Photo – Abby Drey (Centre Daily Times).

 

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