Football: Smith, Austin on Watch List

  • By Tony Fay
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  • June 08, 2011 09:52 AM
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DALLAS – Which teammates will form the most dynamic combination in college football this season?

Will it be Stanford’s dynamic trio of quarterback Andrew Luck, wide receiver Chris Owusu and tight end Coby Fleener? How about Auburn’s bruising backfield of running backs Michael Dyer and Ontario McCalebb? Or on the defensive side of the ball, perhaps Notre Dame linebackers Manti Te’o and Darius Flemming?

All three combinations are among the 48 tandems, including West Virginia's Geno Smith and Tavon Austin, on this year's Watch List, released today, for the inaugural Pony Express Award. The award, the brainchild of SMU’s legendary Pony Express backfield of Craig James and Eric Dickerson, will look at two- and three-player tandems from across the nation, ultimately honoring the combination whose work ethic, desire, on- and off-field leadership and playmaking ability best fuel their team.

The award, voted on by a blue ribbon panel of experts that will form the award’s board of directors, will be announced at the conclusion of the 2011 regular season.

“Eric and I were able to complement each other on the field in such a way that together we formed a much more potent weapon than even our individual talents would have suggested,” said James. “We have remained life-long friends, and each season we have always had fun talking about the great tandems that were making an imprint on the game that season. We decided someone should recognize these great combinations, and that really became the genesis of the Pony Express Award.”

Said Dickerson: “You usually talk about football in terms of offensive and defensive units and the individual standouts on either side of the ball. But if you look at those units, usually there are a couple of guys who stick out and really form a very tough matchup. The most obvious would be a great quarterback and a standout receiver. In Craig and mine’s case, it was two great running backs. On defense, it might be a pair of great safeties. These are the types of tandems we will be looking at.”

As one of the most prolific backfields in college football history, the Pony Express, Dickerson and James led SMU to a 10-0-1 record in 1982, finishing the year ranked No. 2 in the country. As juniors in 1981, the pair combined to rush for 2,575 yards and 27 touchdowns, leading the Ponies to a 10-1 record and the finishing the season ranked No. 5 in the AP poll. Dickerson would go on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, being named to the league’s all-decade team for the 1980s, while James had a stellar career for the New England Patriots, rushing for more than 1,200 yards in 1985 to lead the Pats to Super Bowl XX. James currently serves as a college football analyst for ESPN on ABC.

A gala dinner to honor this year’s Pony Express Award recipients will be held after the season. More information on that event will be available at the start of the college football season.


Pony Express Award, Tavon Austin, Geno Smith, West Virginia University Mountaineers

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