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Western Michigan offensive linemen John Keenoy and Chukwuma Okorafor named to Outland Trophy Watch List

Both helped lead the Broncos to top rushing attack last season

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Wisconsin vs Western Michigan
Chukwuma Okorafor (77) in the Cotton Bowl
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Western Michigan offensive linemen, junior John Keenoy and senior Chukwuma Okorafor have each been named to the Outland Trophy Watch List, awarded to the top standout linemen in the country.

This is the second preseason honor for Keenoy after also being named to the Rimington Watch List earlier this summer, awarded to the top center in the country. Okorafor’s honor is the first for him this year. Previously, he was ranked the No. 4 tackle in the country entering the 2017 season by ESPN’s Mel Kiper.

The two linemen led the Broncos to the No. 24 rushing attack in the nation last season. They have started nearly every game each of the last two seasons.

The Outland Trophy is awarded to the best college football interior lineman in the United States as adjudged by the Football Writers Association of America. It is named after John H. Outland. One of only a few players ever to be named an All-American at two positions, Outland garnered consensus All-America honors in 1898 as a tackle and consensus honors as a halfback in 1899.

Outland had always contended that football tackles and guards deserved greater recognition and conceived the Outland Trophy as a means of providing this recognition. A member of the National College Football Awards Association, the award has become one of college football's most prestigious. Former winners of the Outland Trophy include the likes of Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace, and Ndamukong Suh who went on to impressive NFL careers.

The ACC (17) led all conferences with members on the Watch List, followed by the Big Ten and SEC (11 each), Pac-12 (10), American Athletic (9), Big 12 and Mid-American (6 each), Independents and Mountain West (4 each), Conference USA (2) and Sun Belt (1).

The list includes 24 offensive tackles, 21 defensive tackles, 20 centers and 16 offensive guards.

The Outland Trophy winner is chosen from three finalists who are a part of the annual FWAA All-America Team. The FWAA All-America Committee, after voting input from the entire membership, selects a 26-man first team and eventually the three Outland finalists. Committee members, then by individual ballot, select the winner. Only interior linemen on offense or defense are eligible for the award; ends are not eligible.

The list will be trimmed to six or seven semifinalists on Wed., Nov. 15. Six days later, three Outland Trophy finalists will be named by the FWAA. The winner of the 72nd Outland Trophy – named after the late John Outland, an All-America lineman at Penn at the turn of the 20th century – will be announced live on ESPN at The Home Depot College Football Awards on Thurs., Dec. 7. For the third straight year, the show will air from the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

The Outland Trophy presentation banquet, sponsored by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee, will be held on Jan. 10, 2018 in Omaha, Neb. Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will receive the Tom Osborne Legacy Award at the same banquet.