Auburn DT Nick Fairley
There are a lot of things about college football that dont’ exactly seem very fair.
The fact that lower level teams like TCU and Boise State can go undefeated in the regular season and yet still get shut out of the BCS national title game probably angers many Mountain West and WAC folks to no end.
The business structure of college football which allows for schools to make millions upon millions every year from their football programs while the talented players that make up the teams are left out in the cold and severely punished for even the most minor money infraction isn’t exactly “balanced” when you analyze it.
One thing that may seem really unfair though is that a single school - in this case Auburn - could possess both the best offensive player and the best defensive player in the country.
But hey, that’s just the way things end up sometimes.
We know that the Tigers already have the best overall player in college football in quarterback Cameron Newton, who decided to cap off his already remarkable season with an uber-impressive showing in today’s comeback victory over Alabama. But what we may have failed to realize is that the the Tigers might also have the best defensive player in the game, defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
Fairley, a 6‘5 300 lb. junior, has burst onto the SEC scene this season after playing a part-time role last year as a junior college transfer out of Copiah-Lincoln Community. The big interior force had racked up 47 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 18 quarterback hurries, and 18 tackles for a loss coming into today’s game with Alabama.
Fairley was once again the most dominant defender on the field today against an Alabama offensive line that many perceived to be one of the best in the country (In all fairness Fairley was going up against Barrett Jones’ replacement, offensive guard Anthony Steen, for the majority of the game). The interior defensive lineman was consistently a presence in the Tide’s backfield and made several key plays that turned the momentum in Auburn’s favor.
CBS commentators Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson alluded during the broadcast that some SEC coaches view Fairley as the best defensive tackle to grace the collegiate ranks since Warren Sapp was terrorizing opposing offensive lineman as a member of the Miami Hurrricanes back in the mid-nineties.
That’s a mighty big statement and no small praise, but it actually could very well be deserved.
If you don’t want to consider Fairley as the top defensive player in college football, that’s fine, but you at least have to put him in the top five.
Sure, players like LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers have each proved worthy of consideration this season, but there’s no doubt that Fairley belongs right in the mix with college football’s elite defenders.
He’s a nightmare to try and block and the type of takeover player that changes the face of games.
He may not quite be Ndamukong Suh, a defensive tackle who was otherworldly for Nebraska last year and ended up being the second pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. But Fairley has proved special in his own right.
He’ll likely add some much deserved hardware to his collection during the annual rounds of college football awards week, and when all is said and done, it would be a shock if Fairley doesn’t end up being one of the top 20 players selected in next year’s NFL Draft if he decides to leave school early.
If Cam Newton is the brightest star of the 2010 college football season then Nick Fairley might be the most under-appreciated.
His value to this Auburn team may not quite compare and equate to what Newton’s been offering up week in and week out, but without their big, havoc causing man in the middle, it’s doubtful that the Tigers would be where they are today.