Three Bulldogs find way on preseason college football watch lists

Nick Fitzgerald

Staff Writer

Weeks before the first snap of the season, the honors are already starting to come in for several Mississippi State players.

Three Bulldogs – quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and defensive linemen Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons – were all placed on preseason watch lists that were announced on Monday. Fitzgerald was put on the watch list for the Maxwell Award, an award which annually honors the nation’s college player of the year. Sweat and Simmons were selected to the Bednarik Award Watch List. The Bednarik Award is given each year to college football’s best defensive player.

The placement of Fitzgerald, Sweat and Simmons on watch lists comes as no surprise. Fitzgerald is entering his senior year as one of the country’s top quarterbacks. Meanwhile Sweat and Simmons are both potentially early picks in next year’s NFL Draft and are the centerpieces of a State defensive line expected to be one of the nation’s most dominant groups.

Fitzgerald is the owner of 11 MSU records and three Southeastern Conference records. With a year left to play, he is already one of only four SEC quarterbacks in history to throw for over 4,400 yards and rush for over 2,400 yards in a career.

Fitzgerald could be primed for his biggest year yet in maroon and white. Already a tremendous threat in the running game, he could possibly become an even more dangerous passer under the expected high-octane offense of first-year head coach Joe Moorhead.

The biggest question with Fitzgerald revolves around his health. He suffered a gruesome ankle injury in last year’s regular season finale against Ole Miss and has spent the time since recovering. He avoided all contact drills in the spring as a precaution, but teammates believe Fitzgerald will be back to his game-changing self come September when the season kicks off.

“We’ve watched him put in the rehab and been up here early in the mornings and he has worked to get himself back right,” running back Kylin Hill said of Fitzgerald during the spring.

Sweat and Simmons are looking to replicate or improve upon last season’s efforts in 2018. Both were All-SEC first team selections last year.

Sweat led the SEC with 10.5 sacks and won three different SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week awards in 2017. He could have used that success to springboard into this past April’s NFL Draft, but he instead elected to return for his senior year.

“It was a decision that I made with my family and with my coaches,” Sweat said in the spring. “We thought it would be best for me just to come back and get my degree in December and go ahead and have another great season and take it from there.”

Like Sweat, Simmons also had a strong year last season. He won a pair of SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week awards himself and finished the campaign with 60 tackles including 12 for loss. He also had five sacks.

The combination of Sweat and Simmons gives MSU as talented of a duo up front as any team in the SEC this coming year.

Fitzgerald, Sweat, Simmons and the rest of the Bulldogs open up the 2018 season on Sept. 1 at 6:30 p.m. in a home game against Stephen F. Austin.