Lombardi Award 2012: Breaking Down Top Candidates

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Lombardi Award 2012: Breaking Down Top Candidates
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Lombardi Award is one of college football's most prestigious individual awards, and with four tremendous players being selected as finalists, voters won't have an easy time deciding how to cast their ballot.

Here is the official description of the award, followed by this year's Lombardi finalists (via RotaryLombardiAward.org):

Established in 1970, the annual award honors collegiate lineman who display courage, character and team spirit on and off the gridiron.

Player School Position Year
Manti Te'o Notre Dame LB Senior
Jadeveon Clowney South Carolina DL Sophomore
Jarvis Jones Georgia LB Junior
Barrett Jones Alabama OL Senior

There was an impressive number of defensive linemen and linebackers who had incredible seasons in 2012, which is why several of these types of players could be selected in the top 10 of the 2013 NFL draft. Selecting four finalists for this award certainly wasn't easy.

Let's take a look at why each of the four players above is a finalist and also make a prediction on who will win the 2012 Lombardi Award.

 

Barrett Jones

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Alabama senior won the Outland Trophy last season as the best offensive lineman in America, and after another incredible season for the Crimson Tide, he deserves to be a finalist for this year's Lombardi Award.

Jones played an important role in the Alabama offense, and helped pave the way for star running backs T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy to have great rushing statistics.

Alabama rushed for 224.6 yards per game this season and was consistently one of the toughest teams to beat at the line of scrimmage. Jones was a major part of this success.

Jones is very good at both pass and run protection, and he is a lock to be selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.

 

Jarvis Jones

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Jones is arguably the best pass-rusher in the nation and will likely be a top-five pick in next year's NFL draft.

The Georgia junior ranked T-4th in sacks and was an absolute nightmare for opposing offensive linemen to stop. Jones has impressive quickness and the strength to shed blocks and get after the quarterback.

The Bulldogs allowed just 18.8 points per game this season despite playing in the SEC, and Jones was a big part of the team's defensive success.

Georgia's two toughest opponents this season were Florida and Alabama, and Jones played very well in each game.

He made 13 total tackles and had three sacks in Georgia's win over the Gators, and made six tackles with two sacks in his team's loss to the Crimson Tide in the SEC championship game. When the Bulldogs needed a good performance from Jones, he delivered.

 

Jadeveon Clowney

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Clowney ranked T-2nd in the nation in sacks this season with 13, and was the most valuable player on the South Carolina defense.

The sophomore defensive end had at least one sack in eight of the 11 games he played in this year, including a 4.5-sack effort against the rival Clemson Tigers in South Carolina's final game of the regular season.

Clowney is also a possible top-five pick in the upcoming NFL draft because of his pass-rushing skills and consistency.

Not only does he do a fantastic job pressuring opposing quarterbacks, but Clowney is also a great tackler in the open field. He had the second-most tackles for a loss this season among all defensive players.

 

Manti Te'o

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o should be a Heisman finalist following his impressive regular season for the Fighting Irish, and he is currently the favorite to win the 2012 Lombardi Award.

Te'o finished second in interceptions this season with seven despite being a linebacker and not a defensive back. He also made 10 or more tackles in six games this year.

No other defensive player in college football played better against the run and pass than Te'o this season. He was the best all-around defensive player.

Notre Dame gave up the fewest points per game (10.3) this season, and Te'o performances and leadership were the No. 1 reason for this success.

Here are Te'o's stats against the four best opponents that Notre Dame played this season.

Team Sacks Tackles INT
Michigan 0 8 2
Stanford 0 11 0
Oklahoma 1 11 1
USC 0 5 1

Te'o was the most impressive player in college football this season, and deserves to win the 2012 Lombardi Award.

 

Lombardi Award Prediction: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

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