Philadelphia, PA - The race for the 2011 Buck Buchanan Award, sponsored by Fathead.com, kicked off Monday with The Sports Network's announcement that six returning finalists from last season are part of a stellar 20-player Watch List for the Football Championship Subdivision's top individual defensive honor. The list includes Georgia Southern junior nose tackle Brent Russell (Comer, Ga.), who earned numerous All-America honors after the Eagles' successful 2010 campaign.

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

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 was fourth; Massachusetts senior linebacker Tyler Holmes, who was fifth; San Diego senior defensive end Mario Kurn, who was sixth; the Eagles' Russell, who was 12th; and Montana senior cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who was 19th.

The most-represented position is linebacker with six. In addition to Evans and Holmes, the others are seniors Kadarron Anderson of Furman and A.J. Storms of Idaho State, and juniors Keith Pough of Howard and Derek Rose of Northwestern State.

There are five defensive ends. Joining Pall and Kurn are seniors Brian McNally of New Hampshire and Zack Nash of Sacramento State, and junior Ben Obaseki of Indiana State. Also from the defensive line are senior tackles Renard Williams of reigning FCS champion Eastern Washington and Ben Boothby of Northern Iowa, who join Russell.

The Watch List has six senior defensive backs. Five are cornerbacks - Johnson, Jeremy Caldwell of Eastern Kentucky, Moses Ellis of Prairie View A&M, Asa Jackson of Cal Poly and Ryan Steed of Furman - and one is a strong safety, Matt Johnson of Eastern Washington.

Among the 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 a revision during the 2011 season. Ballots will be sent to a panel of about 200 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries after the regular season on Nov. 21.

The Sports Network also presents the Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson awards which are sponsored by Fathead.com. The Payton Award (FCS outstanding player) and Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) are celebrating their 25th anniversaries, while the Rice Award (FCS freshman of the year) is in its inaugural season.