Center Mario Benavides and safety Hakeem Smith of the University of Louisville, were named to national watch lists on Thursday. Benavides was named to the Outland Trophy Award Watch List, while Smith earned placement on the Jim Thorpe and Bronko Nagurski Award Watch List.
The Outland Trophy honors the nation's top interior linemen, while the Thorpe Award is presented to the nation's top defensive back and the Nagurski is given to the nation’s best defensive player. All three accolades are coordinated by the National Football Awards Association.
Benavides, a three-year starter at center for the Cardinals, has been the anchor of the offensive line. A native of Los Fresnos, Texas, Benavides has started 34 of 38 games during his career, missing four contests due to injury. He missed the entire spring due to injury, but is back working out and running with the team during summer conditioning.
Smith, also a rising junior, has started 25 straight games at safety. He earned first team All-BIG EAST Conference accolades last season after finishing tied for second on the team with 84 pass breakups and a team-best nine pass breakups. As a red shirt freshman in 2010, Smith was tabbed the league Newcomer of the Year after leading the squad with 88 tackles.
The Cardinals are set to begin practice on Aug. 3.