LeBeau, Riley on Buchanan Award Watch List
Preseason All-SWAC picks Joseph LeBeau of Jackson State and Kejuan Riley of Alabama State are among 20 players on the watch list for the 18th annual Buck Buchanan Award. The annual award is presented to the outstanding defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision. The candidates for the season were announced on Thursday when The Sports Network announced the group, which included six finalists from last season.
LeBeau, who was also named preseason SWAC Defensive Player of the Year, transferred to JSU from Arkansas Baptist Community College a year ago. The senior defensive end, earned SWAC Newcomer of the Year honors in 2011, becoming the second straight Jackson State player to win the honor, following quarterback Casey Therriault. LeBeau gets off the ball very quickly as a game-changing edge rusher.
In his first season with the Tigers, he totaled 15.5 sacks (his 1.41 per game ranked second-best in the FCS) and 24.5 tackles for loss (2.23 per game, ranking fourth in the FCS right behind teammate Donavan Robinson). He also forced three fumbles, while making 75 tackles. Among the FCS leaders last season, LeBeau ranked second in sacks per game and fourth in tackles for loss per game, while Peiffer and Bumpas ranked third and fourth, respectively, in tackles per game. Oliaro and Jefferson tied for fourth in sacks per game.
Riley, a senior free safety, is the number two top-returning vote-getter for the Buck Buchanan Award, finishing fifth in last season's balloting. With 17 career interceptions, he is the FCS leader among active players. He had nine last season to rank second nationally. The All-America first-team selection, who broke up four other passes for 13 passes defended, is quick to the ball. Alabama State safeties coach Dominique Stephenson says when the ball is in the air, Riley is like "a hawk circling overhead looking for his prey and he feels like it is his ball and no one else's." Only one player in the FCS had more than Riley's nine interceptions last season.
This season's winner will join a list of Buchanan Award greats such as Dexter Coakley, Jared Allen, Rashean Mathis and Kroy Biermann. Coakley, the original Buchanan recipient in 1995, won again a year later and remains the only two- time winner of the award.
The Buchanan Award Watch List can undergo revision during the 2012 season. Ballots will be sent to a panel of about 175 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season on Nov. 19. The top three vote-getters will be invited to The Sports Network FCS Awards Presentation.
The Sports Network also presents the Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson awards. The Payton Award honors the FCS player of the year, the Rice Award goes to the FCS freshman of the year and the Robinson Award honors the FCS coach of the year.