We've talked this season about the impact the hybrid football defensive players will have on the field as they come into prominence on the collegiate landscape. Guys like Jarvis Jones, Chase Thomas, DeVonte Holloman and Khaseem Greene are looking to set the tone for their respective teams. However, with the revealing of the 2012 Butkus Award Watch List, the hybrid defender may be at a loss where the Butkus hardware is concerned.
The award, given to the nation's best linebacker, has been slow to embrace the emergence of the hybrid defender. Of the last decade's worth of winners, only Von Miller from Texas A&M in 2010 was able to take home the trophy as a hybrid linebacker. That year linebackers were thin, as Miller and Aldon Smith of Missouri were the only two linebacker types taken in the 2011 draft, both hybrid players.
This year, the linebacking class is most certainly not thin. The headliners at the traditional spot include big names at power schools like Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, Alabama's Nico Johnson, Penn State's Gerald Hodges and Tom Wort at Oklahoma. Throw in traditional linebacking players who are among the best in the nation like Kevin Reddick at North Carolina, Shayne Skov at Stanford and A.J. Klein at Iowa State, and what you have is a tough row to hoe for the hybrid players.
The four hybrid favorites to win the award—the aforementioned Jones, Thomas, Holloman and Greene—will have to battle out players in more traditional roles. The players are most certainly capable, but with the field stacked against them, it is going to take quite the push to break the traditional linebackers' hold on the award.
2012 should be a good season. As linebackers play their behinds off from both the traditional spot and the hybrid spot, the Butkus award should be hotly contested throughout the year.
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