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Washington State defenders Ron Stone Jr., Daiyan Henley on watch lists for national awards

By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

Two standout defenders from Washington State are in the running for national honors.

Junior edge rusher Ron Stone Jr., who emerged as a Pac-12 star and earned first-team all-conference accolades last year, was placed on the watch list Tuesday for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy – given annually to the best defensive player in college football.

A day earlier, senior linebacker Daiyan Henley landed on the watch list for the Butkus Award – presented every year to the top linebacker in the country.

The expectations are especially high for Stone this year after his breakout 2021 campaign. The third-year starter from San Jose, known for his energetic leadership qualities and spirited style of play, spearheaded the Cougars’ defensive resurgence last season. He was a consistent disruptor in opponents’ backfields, totaling 11.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and 63 tackles.

He joins 84 other defensive stars and 16 edge rushers on the watch list. Stone is one of eight Nagurski Trophy candidates from the Pac-12. Finalists will be announced on Nov. 16 and the winner revealed Dec. 5.

Henley is entering his first season at WSU after spending five years at Nevada – he was a receiver/return man for his first two collegiate seasons, then shifted to defensive back before making the transition to LB in 2020.

The Crenshaw, California, native led the Wolf Pack with 103 tackles last season, adding four interceptions and three fumble recoveries, and claimed All-Mountain West second-team honors.

WSU hired Nevada defensive coordinator Brian Ward this offseason to fill the Cougs’ DC role, and Henley transferred to the Pullman school shortly after. A bruising hitter with skill-player speed and a well-rounded knowledge of the game, Henley quickly locked up starting duties at outside linebacker during spring camp.

Henley is one of 51 players – nine from the Pac-12 – to be named to the watch list for the Butkus Award, which only recognizes LBs who line up in the traditional two-point stance behind the line of scrimmage. Finalists will be released in November and the winner crowned in either December or January.

Stone and Henley are the first Cougars to be named to the watch lists for the Nagurski Trophy and Butkus Award since Jahad Woods was selected to both ahead of the 2020 season.