Top Five in 2008 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Race

Chris WhitmoreCorrespondent INovember 20, 2008

Offense may put fans in the stands but football analysts state that defense win championships.  The 2007 Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner Glenn Dorsey, proved the theory right when Louisiana State beat Ohio State to win the BCS Championship.  The Bronko Nagurski Trophy recognizes the top defensive player in college football.  Just ask the 2007 Ohio State offensive line.

With the trophy presentation on December 7th, the Bronko Nagurski Charlotte Touchdown Club has narrowed the 2008 defensive field down to five players.

  • Jerry Hughes, Texas Christian senior defensive lineman
  • Brandon Spikes, Florida junior linebacker
  • Brian Orakpo, Texas senior defensive lineman
  • Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest senior defensive back
  • Rey Maualuga, Southern California senior linebacker

All five players have made a name for themselves against offenses throughout the 2008 season.

Jerry Hughes

Hughes leads the nation in sacks with 14.  He has 17 assisted tackles and 26 solo tackles.  He returned an interception for a touchdown against Southern Methodist University, and completed another interception against New Mexico.  Hughes also features 20 total tackles for a loss, including four solo tackles for a deficit against Brigham Young University.

Brandon Spikes

Spikes was last seen on national television tearing apart the South Carolina offensive, including an interception returned for a touchdown.  He has 33 assisted tackles and 37 solo tackles.  His interception against South Carolina marked his third of the year.  His other two interceptions came against LSU with one of them being returned for a touchdown.

Brian Orakpo

With six solo tackles against Oklahoma State, Orakpo shows the Big 12 he is one of the top defensive players in the nation.  He has nine sacks on the year include two sacks in four games.  His biggest contribution to the Texas defense is his ability to make tackles. He has 13 tackles for a loss on the year including three against Oklahoma.

Alphonso Smith

Smith is the lone cornerback on the finalist list and deservedly so.  The senior leads the nation in passes defended with 13 pass breakups on the year.  His five interceptions have come in crucial games as Wake Forest has won every game that Smith has an interception in. On the season he has 23 solo tackles and 8 assisted tackles. 

Rey Maualuga

Maualuga showed early on in the season that he is one of the top defensive players when he returned an interception against Ohio State for 48 yards.  He seems to constantly find the ball with his 39 solo tackles and 27 assisted tackles this season. This is all on top of sitting out of the Oregon game.


If I was in the Bronko Nagurski Charlotte Touchdown Club, my vote for the top defensive player in 2008 would go to TCU's Jerry Hughes.  He is terrorizing quarterbacks and offensive lines with his sacks and tackles for a loss.

All stats as of Week 12.