BOISE, Idaho — During the 2021 college football campaign, Boise State opponents quickly learned going through safety JL Skinner is something much easier said than done.
The San Diego native brought the wood last fall and now, his name is appearing on nearly every major hype list.
On Tuesday, Skinner was named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List. The award is given annually to the nation's top returning defensive player.
Skinner - who decided to return to Boise State for his senior season rather than declaring early for the NFL in December 2021 - led the Broncos with 92 total tackles last fall.
85 defensive players from 61 Division I programs were named candidates for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy. Skinner is one of 18 safeties on this year's watch list.
The physical, 6-foot-4, 218-pound safety also landed on the 2022 Paycom Jim Thorpe Award Watch List on Monday. The award is given to the best defensive back in college football each year.
Last fall, Skinner racked up 7 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries and 2 forced fumbles.
The 35 Jim Thorpe Award candidates come from 10 different NCAA conferences and one independent school. Skinner and Fresno State senior safety Evan Williams were the only two Mountain West defensive backs named to the watch list.
This year, the Mountain West is loaded with stellar safeties. At the conference's media days last week, two of the best safeties in the league said Skinner sets the bar.
"We got an elite DB class this year, to say the least … As a competitor you want to be the best of the best against who you play with," Williams said. "So, [Skinner] definitely raised the standard from my perspective. Definitely motivates me just to be the best I can everyday, to get better everyday, 'cause I know there's other guys in the conference doing the same."
Skinner was one of four Broncos named to the 2022 Preseason All-Mountain West Football Team last week, along with defensive lineman Scott Matlock, offensive tackle John Ojukwu and placekicker Jonah Dalmas.
The all-conference team's defensive back group included Skinner, Williams, New Mexico's Jerrick Reed II and San Diego State's Patrick McMorris.
"I figure you ask that question because [the Broncos] have, you know, JL Skinner. So, yeah, I do my research, I watch my film, just to see the competition, see what they're doing that I'm not and vise versa," Reed said.
Earlier this month, Pro Football Focus College ranked Skinner as the 7th-best draft-eligible safety in the NCAA.
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