The Maxwell Football Club identified Thomas as a player to watch for the Maxwell Award, given to the nation’s best player, and Gayle for the Bednarik Award, which goes to the country’s top defensive player.
The club put 75 players on both lists.
Thomas, a 6-foot-6, 257-pound senior, is coming off a disappointing season in which he still broke his own school record for total yardage (3,500). He threw for 2,976 yards, 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions and added 524 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.
He’ll work in 2013 under new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, who went about fixing his mechanics in the spring.
Gayle, a 6-foot-4, 253-pound senior, was a second-team All-ACC pick for a second straight year in 2012. He finished with 43 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss and five sacks before opting to bypass the NFL Draft and return for his senior season.
Thomas is one of eight ACC players on the Maxwell list, joining Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs, Miami running back Duke Johnson and quarterback Stephen Morris, Syracuse running back Jerome Smith and North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner.
Gayle is one of 10 ACC players on the Bednarik list, including Georgia Tech defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu and cornerback Jamea Thomas, Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, linebacker Christian Jones and safety Lamarcus Joyner, North Carolina defensive end Kareem Martin and Wake Forest defensive tackle Nikita Whitlock.
Semifinalists for the awards are announced Oct. 29, with three finalists chosen Nov. 25. The winner is announced Dec. 12.