Michigan State is expected to have one of the top defenses in the nation in 2012, and it shows on the Bednarik Award watch list, given to the top defensive player in the nation.
The Spartans have four players on the list -- tied with Alabama and LSU for the most nationally.
Headlining the list from MSU was junior defensive end Will Gholston.
Gholston was named second team All-Big Ten by the coaches and media in 2011 after recording 70 tackles, including 16 for a loss and five sacks in 2011. College Football News lists Gholston as its No. 5 candidate for the Lombardi trophy, as well.
Gholston was joined by senior cornerback Johnny Adams and junior linebackers Denicos Allen and Max Bullough.
Adams was a first team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches in 2011 and, after deciding to return for his senior year, is coming in with high expectations. College Football News put Adams as a preseason third team All-American, while Phil Steele placed Adams on his second team.
Yahoo! Sports' Mike Huguenin ranked Adams as his No. 86 player in the country heading in to the 2012 season. Adams had three interceptions in 2011.
Allen burst onto the scene in 2011 with 83 tackles, including 18.5 for a loss. He also had 11 sacks on his way to being named second team All-Big Ten by the media.
Allen is ranked as No. 7 player on the list of Butkus Award candidates (top linebacker) by College Football News.
Bullough anchored the MSU defense in 2011, with 89 tackles, including seven for a loss. He was named second team All-Big Ten by the coaches. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Bullough as the No. 3 junior inside linebacker on his big board.
The watch list includes 14 players from Big Ten schools.
Le'Veon Bell made the Maxwell Award watch list, given to the top offensive player in the nation. Bell was named honorable mention All-Big ten by the coaches and the media.
Bell rushed for 948 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2011.