PHILADELPHIA -- The race for the 2011 Buck Buchanan Award kicked off with The Sports Network's announcement that six returning finalists from last season are part of a 20-player watch list for the Football Championship Subdivision's top individual defensive honor.

The Buchanan Award is in its 17th season and will be presented to the FCS' outstanding defensive player at the national awards banquet on Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas.

This season's winner will join a list of Buchanan Award greats such as Dexter Coakley, Jared Allen, Rashean Mathis, Kroy Biermann and 2010 winner J.C. Sherritt of Eastern Washington.

Wofford defensive end Ameet Pall tied for second in the voting last season and returns to the watch list as a senior. Also returning are New Hampshire junior linebacker Matt Evans, who finished fourth in last year's voting; Massachusetts senior linebacker Tyler Holmes (fifth); San Diego senior defensive end Mario Kurn (sixth); Georgia Southern junior nose tackle Brent Russell (12th); and Montana senior cornerback Trumaine Johnson (19th).

Linebacker leads the position battles with six nominees while five defensive ends made the initial list. The watch list has six senior defensive backs including five cornerbacks.

Among the top returning vote-getters, Pall finished eighth in the FCS after collecting 22.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. Evans was the only sophomore on last year's ballot, posting 156 tackles for the second-highest single-season total in New Hampshire history and finishing fifth in the FCS in tackles per game (12.0). Holmes had 110 tackles, including 12 for loss, and five interceptions for the Minutemen, who are playing their final season in the FCS this year.

Also, Kurn led the FCS with 17 sacks and had 27 tackles for loss. Russell helped Georgia Southern reach the FCS semifinals last season, while totaling 71 tackles, including 18.5 for loss and eight sacks, with five quarterback hurries. Johnson enters his senior season with 13 career interceptions, including four last year.

The Buchanan Award watch list will undergo revision during the 2011 season. Ballots will be sent to a panel of about 200 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and others after the regular season on Nov. 21.

2011 Buchanan Award Watch List
Player Position School Player Position School
Kadarron Anderson LB Furman Brian McNally DE New Hampshire
Ben Boothby DT Northern Iowa Zack Nash DE  Sacramento State
Jeremy Caldwell CB Eastern Kentucky Ben Obaseki DE Indiana State
Moses Ellis CB Prairie View A&M Ameet Pall DE Wofford
Matt Evans LB New Hampshire Keith Pough LB Howard
Tyler Holmes LB Massachusetts Derek Rose LB Northwestern State
Asa Jackson CB Cal Poly Brent Russell NT Georgia Southern
Matt Johnson S Eastern Washington Ryan Steed CB Furman
Trumaine Johnson CB Montana A.J. Storms LB Idaho State
Mario Kurn DE San Diego Renard Williams DT Eastern Washington