Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List: Ranking the Top 10 Candidates
There aren't many awards in college football better than the Bronko Nagurski Award because it gets straight to the point. There is no beating around the bush when it comes to this hardware, as it is given to the best defensive player in the country. That player can play any position on that side of the ball; he just has to be the best at what he does.
There are tons of players that play this side of the ball, but today, the watch list for this award was released, giving us a heads up on who we should keep an eye on this season.
You could make a case for probably half of those players, but here are just 10 that have a greater shot at winning the 2012 Bronko Nagurski Award.
10. David Amerson, NC State
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After the season North Carolina State cornerback David Amerson had, it would be a crime to leave him off this list.
The sophomore led the nation with an amazing 13 interceptions last season, which shattered an ACC record. He also broke up five passes and added 59 tackles for good measure.
He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award and should receive a lot of attention in 2012, especially if he comes anywhere close to another fantastic year.
9. Kawann Short, Purdue
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At 6'3", 310 pounds, Kawann Short could be playing in the NFL right about now. But he decided to return to Purdue for his senior season after having his best year of his career.
He led the Boilermakers with 17.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He should have another productive season in the Big Ten and will likely be picked in the first round of next year's NFL draft.
8. William Gholston, Michigan State
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William Gholston is entering the perfect situation at Michigan State. He is playing on one of the best defenses in the country, which returns the majority of its starters, and will enter his second full season as a starter at defensive end.
Last season, Gholston was named All-Big Ten second team, as he produced five sacks, 16 tackles for loss and 70 total tackles.
7. Corey Lemonier, Auburn
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The Auburn Tigers defense didn't exactly fare too well in 2011. But you can't blame defensive end Corey Lemonier for any of those issues.
He led the team with 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss, generating 15 quarterback hurries as well. He was named first-team All-SEC by the coaches and should help this Tigers defense become more consistent in 2012.
6. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
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Jackson Jeffcoat led the Texas Longhorns in sacks with eight and tackles for loss with 17. He also added 63 tackles and broke up three passes, which helped him earn Second Team All-Big 12.
With Jeffcoat coming off the edge, the Longhorns hope to climb back into the BCS spotlight in 2012.
5. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
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Jadeveon Clowney was the highest-rated recruit of the 2011 class, and he did not disappoint his freshman season. He was named 2011 Freshman of the Year, finished seventh in the SEC with eight sacks and added five forced fumbles on top of that.
Clowney has a ridiculous combination of speed and athleticism, and he should improve on those numbers heading into his sophomore season.
4. Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
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Linebacker Manti Te’o would have been a first-round pick in last year's NFL draft, but he decided to return to South Bend for his senior season.
He has led the Irish in tackles the last two seasons in a row and will likely do the same once again. Te'o is a leader on and off the field and was a Second Team All-American for the second consecutive season in 2011.
3. Sam Montgomery, LSU
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I don't think there is a faster defensive end in the country than the Tigers' Sam Montgomery. The way he explodes off the ball and gets into the backfield is just simply unfair.
In his first year as a starter, he finished with 49 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks. He was named a Third Team All-American by the AP and should continue to get even better, because there aren't many linemen who can slow this guy down.
2. Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
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Tyrann Mathieu did a little bit of everything for this LSU team last year. He was tied for the most tackles on the team with 76, he intercepted two passes, broke up nine, returned fumbles for touchdowns and was a major factor on special teams.
He was also a Heisman Trophy finalist, and an argument could be made for why he should have won this award.
1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia
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Tryann Mathieu had a ridiculous all-around season in 2011, but if we are strictly talking defense, it didn't get much better than Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones.
He finished the year with 70 tackles, tied for second in the country with 13.5 sacks and had 19.5 tackles for loss.
With that being his first year in the SEC, I can imagine he will have a similar season with some experience behind him.