Bednarik Award Watch List: Ranking the Top 10 Candidates
You know college football is right around the corner when the watch lists for every college football award begin to come out. One of the watch lists that has been released is for the Bednarik Award.
This award that goes to the defensive player of the year. It has been presented every year since 1995, and for the last two seasons, the award has gone to players who play for the LSU Tigers. Can that streak continue in 2012?
There are many great defensive players on this list, but of course there are the favorites for who should separate themselves from the pack.
Here are the top 10 candidates for the 2012 Bednarik Award.
10. Gerald Hodges, LB, Penn State
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Gerald Hodges really stepped up his junior year, leading the Nittany Lions with 106 tackles in only his second season at the linebacker position. He also broke up four passes, had 10 tackles for loss and finished third on the team with 4.5 sacks.
He was named First-Team All-Big Ten and should make a case to win this year's award. After all, Penn State does have four Bednarik Award winners, which is the most of any school in the country.
9. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
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Shayne Skov is one of the scariest defensive players in the country. In 2010, he was an honorable All-Pac-10 selection, finishing the year with 83 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, seven sacks and five passes broken up. In 2011, he missed majority of the season with a knee injury, which later required surgery.
If Skov can get back to regular form, he is easily the best defensive player on this team and will play a huge part in the Cardinal success.
8. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
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Jackson Jeffcoat did not see much time as a freshman, but he showed his abilities last season, as he was an All-Big 12 selection. He tallied 63 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and three passes broken up. He also led the Longhorns with eight sacks.
On a Texas defense that returns the majority of last year's squad, Jeffcoat should separate himself as one of the better players in the Big 12 in 2012.
7. Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
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Kawann Short may not get a lot of love because he plays for Purdue, but this defensive tackle is the real deal. He would have been a solid pick in last year's NFL draft, but he decided to return for his senior season after racking up 17.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 2011.
He will be one of the best available players in next year’s draft and could become the first Boilermaker to win the Bednarik Award.
6. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
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Jadeveon Clowney was the highest-rated recruit in 2011, and he did not disappoint in his freshman season. He only had 36 tackles on the year, but he did manage 12 tackles for loss and finished second on the team with eight sacks.
With a year under his belt, Clowney is only going to improve those numbers and find more creative ways to beat double-teams.
With Melvin Ingram no longer on the roster, Clowney must continue to grow as a player, but there is no question the talent and potential are there.
5. William Gholston, DE, Michigan State
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Michigan State returns the majority of last year's defense that ranked sixth in the country. Arguably the best player on the squad is defensive end William Gholston. He was named to the All-Big Ten second team last year, as he finished with 16 tackles for loss, 70 tackles and five sacks.
In the Outback Bowl victory over Georgia, he had five tackles for loss alone.
This is the year that Gholston takes that next step and really emerges as one of the best defensive players in the country.
4. Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
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There is not a faster defensive end in the country than the Tigers' Sam Montgomery. In just his sophomore season, Montgomery led the team in sacks with nine and added 49 tackles. He was a First-Team All-American, and his 13.5 tackles for loss were good for eighth in the SEC.
There aren't many offensive linemen that can block this guy due to his speed, and as he enters his junior year, he will only continue to get even better.
3. Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
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Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o is a two-time Second-Team All-American and a leader for this Irish defense on and off the field. He has racked up over 100 tackles the last two seasons, and he finished last year with 13.5 tackles for loss and was second on the team with five sacks.
Te'o could have been a first-round pick in last year's NFL draft, but he decided to return for his senior season. With the brutal schedule that awaits the Irish, he will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself on a big stage.
2. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
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Was there anything that Tyrann Mathieu did not do last season? He led the Tigers with 76 tackles, had 7.5 tackles for loss, scored touchdowns on defense and special teams, and he seemed to make every big play for this defense.
There is a reason he won this award last year.
Now that the other cornerback, Morris Claiborne, has moved on to the NFL, this side of the ball belongs to the Honey Badger. It should be interesting to see if he can continue to produce at that rate, even with the added pressure.
1. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
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While everybody was busy giving all the love to Alabama and LSU's defense, the Georgia Bulldogs weren't bad, finishing fifth in the country. A lot of that success was because of linebacker Jarvis Jones, who had 70 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks, which was second best in the nation.
It was Jones' first year in the SEC after he transferred from USC, and if he has another year like that, this award should be gift-wrapped for him. This kid is the real deal, and he should have an even better season with a year under his belt in Georgia.