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One year after successfully returning from a knee injury that cost him most of the 2010 season, C.J. Barnett's comeback season was rewarded on Friday, when he was named to the watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award.
The award, which is presented by the Jim Thorpe Association out of Oklahoma, is presented annually to college football's best defensive back. Since its inception in 1986, two Ohio State players have received the award: Antoine Winfield in 1996 and Malcolm Jenkins in 2008.
One of 35 defensive backs to be named to this year's list, Barnett led the Buckeyes in tackles in 2011 with 75. The Dayton, Ohio native also recorded two interceptions, six pass breakups, and eight passes defended.
A fourth-year junior, Barnett is penciled in to start for the Buckeyes at strong safety heading into fall camp. The 6-foot-1, 202-pound Barnett said that he expects a big year from the OSU secondary.
"As a group that everybody just got a lot better. A lot of guys got a lot more hungry and worked a lot harder," Barnett said. "Everybody is working hard and carrying their weight. I can't really say specifically, but I just know as a group effort that we are all getting better in that area."
Absent from the Thorpe Award watch list is third-year sophomore corner Bradley Roby. Ohio State's No. 1 corner, Roby recorded 47 tackles- 3.5 of which came for a loss- three interceptions, six pass breakups, and nine passes defended in his first year of action in 2011.
The winner of the 2012 Thorpe Award will be announced from three finalists on Dec. 6, as a part of the Home Depot College Football Awards show on ESPN.
Other Buckeyes named to watch lists this week include quarterback Braxton Miller (Maxwell Award), defensive end John Simon (Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy), defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (Bednarik Award, Outland Trophy), tight end Jake Stoneburner (Mackey Award), and kicker Drew Basil (Lou Groza Award).