NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mike Wright, Ben Bresnahan, Anfernee Orji, Matthew Hayball and Wesley Schelling lead the way as the Vanderbilt football program has been represented on college football preseason watch lists.
Wright earned a spot on the Maxwell Award watch list, given to the player of the year by the Maxwell Football Club, while Bresnahan has been named to the Mackey Award watch list, Wuerffel Trophy watch list and selected as a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. Orji was picked to the Bednarik Award watch list and the Butkus Award watch list, given to the nation’s best linebacker by the Butkus Foundation. Hayball landed on the Ray Guy Award watch list. Schelling was named to the Patrick Mannelly Award watch list for long snapper of the year.
Head coach Clark Lea opens his second season at the helm of his alma mater Aug. 27 when the Commodores travel to Hawai’i. The home portion of the schedule begins Sept. 3 against Elon. Tickets are on sale now.
Fall camp begins July 29.
• Maxwell Award Watch List
Wright started just five games under center for the Commodores a season ago, but still managed to eclipse 1,000 passing yards with eight touchdowns, while also rushing for just shy of 400 yards. In his first collegiate start at South Carolina, he threw for 206 yards and ran for 43 while falling just one point shy of a victory. He rushed for a career-high 152 yards versus Missouri. Lea declared Wright the starter entering fall camp at SEC Media Days on July 19.
The Maxwell Award is presented to the nation’s best player annually at the ESPN College Awards Show in December.
• Butkus Award Watch List
• Bednarik Award Watch List
Orji led the Commodores with 93 total tackles a season ago, while also pacing the team with 13 tackles for loss. He started all 12 games and finished 12th in the SEC in total tackles. His 13 tackles in the victory at Colorado State were the most by a Vandy player in a single game last season.
In his career, the Rockwall, Texas, native has played in 30 games and made 21 straight starts entering the 2022 opener at Hawai’i. He’s registered 164 career tackles with a pair of forced fumbles.
• Mackey Award Watch List
Bresnahan earned a spot on the Mackey Award watch list, given annually to the nation’s outstanding tight end by Friends of John Mackey. The Cumming, Georgia, product has appeared in 31 games during his time in Nashville, making 20 starts. In that time, he’s caught 45 passes for 509 yards and four touchdowns. Bresnahan’s most productive season was 2020 when he caught 80 percent of passes thrown to him and rated as one of the top-10 tight ends in the SEC per pro football focus. While he missed multiple games due to injury last season, Bresnahan remain sure-handed with a PFF DropRating of 81.5. That placed him among the top-40 tight ends in the nation and top-25 tight ends in the Power 5.
• Allstate AFCA Good Works Team Nominee
• Wuerffel Trophy Watch List
In addition to returning to his on field play, Bresnahan has continued to be a leader off the field. He has been one of the team leads with Turner’s Heroes, an organization founded in memory of late Vanderbilt football player Turner Cockrell.
In addition to funding cancer research, the organization aims to celebrate pediatric cancer patients as the heroes they are, providing super hero capes at special events. Bresnahan has led the Commodores in connecting with patients at the Monroe Carrel Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, while also helping coordinate an annual Turner’s Heroes game for the Commodores where players where capes at Star Walk to raise awareness.
In addition to Turner’s Heroes, Bresnahan has been the team lead for Dores Aligned, which takes Vanderbilt players to schools throughout Middle Tennessee to greet students at school drop-off, as well as an active volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club.
The Good Works Team, featuring 11 FBS players, will be selected from the list of nominees in September. Elijah McAllister represented Vanderbilt on the final team a season ago.
• Ray Guy Award Watch List
Hayball spent three seasons at Florida Atlantic prior to joining the Vanderbilt football program this fall. Last season for the Owls, he recorded 61 punts for a total of 2,875 yards, averaging 45.7 yards per punt. He landed 28 of his punts inside the 20-yard line, while 17 punts traveled over 50 yards. Hayball made a career-high nine punts for a total of 465 yards against UTEP last season, including a long of 62 yards. He concluded the season by receiving Conference USA Honorable Mention honors, and also being named to the 2021 Conference USA All-Academic Team.
The Ray Guy Award is presented to the nation’s top collegiate punter annually at the ESPN College Awards Show in December.
• Patrick Mannelly Award Watch List
Schelling executed 108 snaps in his first season as the Vandy long snapper in 2021, appearing in all 12 games. He was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll, made a tackle in punt coverage and snapped on two game-winning field goals. The Nashville, Tenn., native was a five-star prospect and won snapping competitions at Kohl’s National Kicking Underclassman Challenge and Midwest Challenge. In addition to the Mannelly watch list, Schelling was named preseason All-SEC by Phil Steele entering the 2022 season.
The Patrick Mannelly Award is presented by Zebra Technologies and benefits Bernie’s Book Bank.