The season is still nearly two months away, but three members of the Wisconsin football team are already in the running for national player of the year honors.
The backfield trio of junior running back Montee Ball, sophomore running back James White and senior quarterback Russell Wilson each were named to the preseason watch list for the 2011 Maxwell Award this week.
The award, which is presented annually to the top player in college football, released an initial list of 66 players. With its trio, UW ties for the most representatives of any program in the nation, joining Arkansas, South Carolina and Texas A&M.
In all, 10 players from the Big Ten made the initial cut, with Michigan State (QB Kirk Cousins and RB Edwin Baker) the only other league team to have multiple representatives on the list.
The Maxwell Award went to Auburn quarterback Cam Newton in 2010.
Former Badger Ron Dayne is the only UW player to claim the honor, which he did as a senior in 1999 as part of an awards season that also saw him win the Heisman Trophy, Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and Doak Walker Award.
Ball is coming off a breakout season in 2010 that saw him rush for 996 yards -- at an average of 6.1 per carry -- and 18 touchdowns. As a freshman, White was the Badgers' leading rusher and finished the season with 1,052 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Wilson, a transfer from North Carolina State, threw for 3,563 yards and 28 touchdowns last season in leading the Wolfpack to a 9-4 record and win over West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl.