July 15, 2013
The Butkus Award is annually given to the best linebacker at three separate levels. One professional, collegiate, and high school player have been honored since 2008. The collegiate Butkus Award Watch List consists of 51 candidates from 37 universities, and is in its 29th year.
In addition to his selection to the Butkus Award Watch List, Hitchens was named preseason third team All-Big Ten by Phil Steele and College Sports Madness, as well as the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List. Hitchens earned honorable mention recognition from the Big Ten coaches and media after starting 11 games last season, missing one game with an injury. He led the team with 124 tackles, while collecting 56 solo stops and 68 assists. The senior collected a career-high 19 tackles against Iowa State, led the Big Ten and ranked fifth in the nation with 11.2 tackles per game. He currently has 158 tackles in his career.
Morris has been a starting linebacker for the Hawkeyes since his true freshman season in 2010. Last season, he ranked third in the Big Ten and 31st in the nation in tackles per game (9.4). He ranks 16th in career tackles (293). He was named a Permanent Team Captain in 2012 while earning the Hayden Fry "Extra Heartbeat" Award and the Players Choice Award on defense. Morris earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore and junior after being named Freshman All-America by CollegeFootballNews.com as a freshman.
The Solon, Iowa, native is also on the watch lists for the Bednarik Award, the Lott IMPACT Trophy, the Nagurski Award, and the College Football Performance Awards Linebacker Trophy watch list. In addition, he has garnered preseason second team All-Big Ten honors from Athlon, Phil Steele, and College Sports Madness.
Kirksey collected 95 tackles as a junior, ranking ninth in the conference in tackles per contest (7.5). The St. Louis, Mo., native ranked first in the Big Ten and second in the nation with four recovered fumbles. He was one of eight players in the nation with two interception returns for touchdowns in 2012. Kirksey was named a Permanent Team Captain and winner of the Next Man in Award in 2012. Kirksey has 211 career tackles. He is also present on the College Football Performance Awards Linebacker Trophy Watch List, and was named preseason fourth team All-Big Ten by Phil Steele.
The Rotary Lombardi award is given annually to the best lineman (offensive or defensive) or linebacker in Division I college football. Any Division I player who meets the conditions of the Lombardi award is eligible to receive it, regardless of if they were named to the initial watch list. The list will be periodically updated during the season before voting will determine 12 semifinalists. Four finalists will travel to Houston, Texas, on Dec. 11 for the presentation of the 44th Rotary Lombardi Award.
Finalists for the Butkus Award will be named on Nov. 26, and the winner will be notified on or before Dec. 10.
Iowa opens the 2013 season against Northern Illinois Aug. 31 at Kinnick Stadium. Kickoff is 2:30 p.m. (BTN).