Tennessee redshirt senior Jeremy Banks was one of 51 players named to the preseason watch list for the 38th annual Butkus Award, honoring the nation’s top linebacker.
The watch list features 51 linebackers, mirroring the legendary “51” pro jersey associated with the award’s namesake, Dick Butkus, who was recognized by NFL Films as the best defensive player in football history. The SEC led all conferences with 12 players on the watch list, followed by the Pac-12 with nine.
Banks is coming off a breakout 2021 season in which he led the team and ranked second in the SEC and tied for seventh in the nation in total tackles with 128 (59 solo, 69 assisted). He averaged 9.85 tackles per game, good for 12th in the nation, and his 128 total tackles were the most by a Vol in a season since A.J. Johnson logged 138 in 2012. Banks produced six double-digit tackle performances, including six out of his last seven contests on the year.
The Cordova, Tennessee, native capped the 2021 season by tying the UT bowl record for tackles with 20 in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl against Purdue, becoming the first Vol with 20 tackles in a game since Daniel Bituli vs. Georgia Tech on Sept. 4, 2017. Banks also spent plenty of time in opponent’s backfields, finishing the season tied for first on the team with 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He added one interception, three pass breakups and three quarterback hurries to his stat line, as well.
The Butkus Award semifinalists are expected to be named on Oct. 31 with finalists to follow Nov. 21. The winner will be named on or before Dec. 7. A 51-member expert panel of coaches, scouts and journalists guides the selection process.
Tennessee has never had a player win the Butkus Award but has had two finalists – Raynoch Thompson (1999) and Keith DeLong (1988). Banks will look to become the seventh Vol to at least make the list of semifinalists and first since Johnson in 2014.