The initial watch list for the Butkus Award was announced by the Butkus Foundation, pushing 51 players into the national spotlight. The award is given annually to the nation’s top linebacker since 1985.

Oklahoma's Travis Lewis, Boston College's Luke Kuechly, Alabama's, Texas's Keenan Robinson, Miami's Sean Spence and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o return to the list after being semifinalists for the 2010 award won by Texas A&M's Von Miller. Kuechly is the only returning player from last year's group of five finalists.

An independent Butkus Award selection committee comprised of 51 experts including professional, college and high school scouts and prominent sports journalists will conduct the award's selection process.

2011 Butkus Award Watch List
Player School Player School
Emmanuel Acho Texas Mychal Kendricks California
Ryan Baker LSU Jake Knott Iowa State
Chris Borland Wisconsin Luke Kuechly Boston College
Jon Bostic Florida Travis Lewis Oklahoma
Nigel Bradham Florida State Chris Marve Vanderbilt
Tanner Brock TCU Michael Mauti Penn State
Arthur Brown Kansas State Carmen Messina New Mexico
Zach Brown North Carolina Tyler Nielsen Iowa
Ramon Buchanan Miami (Fla.) Corey Paredes Hawaii
Marvin Burdette UAB Kevin Reddick North Carolina
Vontaze Burflict Arizona State Keenan Robinson Texas
Miles Burris San Diego State Shayne Skov Stanford
Tank Carder TCU Sean Spence Miami (Fla.)
Audie Cole NC State Kenny Tate Maryland
Jamie Collins Southern Miss Bruce Taylor Virginia Tech
Lavonte David Nebraska Mike Taylor Wisconsin
Darius Fleming Notre Dame Manti Te'o Notre Dame
Jerry Franklin Arkansas Danny Trevathan Kentucky
Chris Galippo USC Courtney Upshaw Alabama
Zaviar Gooden Missouri Bobby Wagner Utah State
Max Gruder Pittsburgh Tahir Whitehead Temple
Dont'a Hightower Alabama Garrick Williams Texas A&M
Jelani Jenkins Florida Korey Williams Southern Miss
James-Michael Johnson Nevada Dwayne Woods Bowling Green
Nico Johnson Alabama Tom Wort Oklahoma
Josh Kaddu Oregon