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UNC football: M.J. Stewart and Bentley Spain named to preseason award watch lists

MJ Stewart and Bentley Spain were named to preseason watch list’s for the upcoming season

North Carolina v Duke Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Prior to the upcoming 2017-2018 college football season, UNC senior cornerback M.J. Stewart was named to the Bednarik Award Watch List for the College Defensive Player of the Year Award. Senior tackle Bentley Spain was named to the Outland Trophy Watch List for the nation’s top interior lineman.

Stewart was sixth on the North Carolina defense in 2016 with 66 tackles and had a team-best 11 pass breakups, while causing a team-high two forced fumbles. In his career, Stewart has tallied 154 tackles (96 solo) and recorded six interceptions. The Arlington, Virginia native will be the veteran of the Tar Heel defense as they seek their third straight winning season. Stewart was named honorable mention All-ACC a season ago and will look earn All-ACC honors as well All-American honors in 2017.

Clemson v North Carolina Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Bentley Spain, a Charlotte, North Carolina native, started all 13 games for the Tar Heels in 2016 and has accumulated 23 starts in his collegiate career. Spain earned the starting spot at left tackle in 2016 and played in the first two games of the season before succumbing to injury. Spain has recorded action in double-digit games in his first three years in the program, receiving playing time in 34 games.

NCAA Football: James Madison at North Carolina
Bentley Spain (75) blocks at Kenan Memorial Stadium for Tar Heels wide receiver Ryan Switzer (3).
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With the watch lists for both the Bednarik Award and the Outland Trophy being trimmed as the season progresses, look for both Stewart and Spain to be listed among the nation’s best consistently as they shine on Saturdays in the fall. As the Tar Heels bring forth new faces on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, look for Spain to guide the young offense and Stewart to captain the North Carolina defense.