ACN Bronko Nagurski Report — Sept. 17

broko logosSince 1995, the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club have partnered to bring you the Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner each year.  The Best Defensive Player in the entire country is announced at the Westin Hotel in downtown Charlotte each December before sellout crowds, with this year’s 21st  straight banquet, sponsored by ACN and slated for Dec. 7. Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn will deliver the keynote speech.

Five finalists for the award, named after the legendary Minnesota Gopher and Chicago Bears lineman, will  appear on stage before the winner is announced by 2015 FWAA President Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald. During the evening, the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award, sponsored by East Coast Railways, will also be feted–Ohio State linebacker Randy Gradishar (1971-73).

Arizona’s junior linebacker  Scooby Wright III will attempt to become only the second player to win back-to-back Nagurski Trophies after Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald in 1995 and 1996. Wright is just the second sophomore to win the award after Ohio State linebacker James Laurinatis in 2006.

The weekly ACN Bronko Report will bring to you updates on what is happening on the defensive side of the ball during the 2015 season, top matchups and also provide links to stories on Bronko Nagurski Alumni and occasional feature stories about current top defensive players who might wind up in Charlotte the first week of December


This Saturday the high-scoring Ole Miss Rebels head to Alabama to face the Crimson Tide, a team Mississippi beat last season in Oxford. Mississippi has opened up by averaging 74 points (tops in FBS) in blowout home victories against Tennessee-Martin and Fresno State. Now, the Rebels, ranked 13th in the FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll, step up in class against the second-ranked Crimson Tide, which has a solid opening-season victory over Wisconsin on a neutral field and an easy home victory over Middle Tennessee. The question will become can Alabama’s defense corral Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly, who has passed for 557 yards and six scores in the first two games? Not to be overlooked is the Ole Miss running game, which is averaging an FBS third-best 7.8 yards a rush. Alabama’s rush defense is ranked 12th in the nation, allowing only 2.42 yards a carry. Something is going to have to give. The Crimson Tide boasts three players on the Bronko Nagurski Watch List: tackle A’Shawn Robinson, end Jonathan Allen and linebacker Reggie Ragland. Mississippi has two players on the list: tackle Robert Nkemdiche and defensive back Tony Conner.


 Adam Zucker Selected Master of Ceremonies


Gus Malzahn named keynote speaker for 2015 Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet

Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet Reservation Form


BYU free safety Kai Nacua picked off three passes, the last of which sealed the Cougars’ second dramatic final-minute win in as many weeks, as BYU rallied to beat Boise State, 35-24.

Nacua’s interception total tied the school record, and earned him the AutoNation FWAA Defensive Player of the Week honor. Each of Nacua’s three interceptions played a key role in the game, but the one that will be remembered most was the third, which he snagged at midfield with 30 seconds remaining and returned for a touchdown only moments after a long touchdown pass had given BYU a 28-24 lead.

The first pick for Nacua, a 6-2, 213-pound junior from Las Vegas, came at the BYU one-yard line late in the first quarter to kill a Boise State drive. The second set up BYU’s third touchdown, which sliced Boise State’s lead to 24-21 in the fourth quarter after he returned the interception 26 yards to the Broncos’ 12.

Nacua was suspended for BYU’s first game and did not play in the Cougars’ win at Nebraska. Against Boise State, he also had five tackles (four unassisted) and a pass breakup.

The three interceptions tie BYU’s single-game record held by Tyson Smith against Wyoming in 2000.

“It’s great to have Kai Nacua back. He changed the game,” BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “The range he covers and the plays he makes, that’s really who he is. I’m really excited for him, regarding all the scrutiny he’s been under. For him to be able to come out and play that way, it’s fitting. It shows who he is and how he’s worked so hard to be back on our team.”


Michigan State junior linebacker Riley Bullough: He recorded a career-high 14 tackles and a pass break-up in Michigan State’s 31-28 victory over Oregon in East Lansing. Bullough was credited with a quarterback hurry on Oregon’s fourth-and-16 play that ended with a victory-clinching incompletion with just more than a minute remaining in the game. He anchored a Spartan defense that held Oregon to 123 rushing yards, the lowest total for the Ducks since 2013.

Temple senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich: He led a defense that forced five turnovers as Temple won, 34-26, against Cincinnati, which was the preseason favorite to win the 2015 American Athletic Conference title. Matakevich finished with a game-high 13 tackles and had two second-half interceptions, including a pick in the end zone with 13 seconds left, which clinched the victory at Cincinnati.

Oklahoma junior linebacker Zack Sanchez: He recorded six tackles, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hurry and the game-clinching interception in Oklahoma’s 31-24 come-from-behind double-overtime victory at Tennessee. The interception was the ninth of the junior cornerback’s career and marked the final play of the game as OU rallied from a 17-0 deficit. The Sooners trailed 17-3 with less than nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. Sanchez helped the Sooners’ defense hold the Volunteers to just 125 passing yards (4.0 yards per attempt) and 254 total yards (3.3 yards per play).

Missouri senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers:   Brothers tied a career-high with 16 tackles for the second straight week to go along with a career-best two interceptions in Missouri’s 27-20 victory at Arkansas State.   Both of Brothers’ interceptions came in the fourth quarter.  The first came on a play over the middle when he wrestled the ball away from a receiver who appeared to be in the process of securing the reception.   Brothers leads the FBS through two games with 16.0 tackles per game.

Air Force junior safety Weston Steelhammer: He recorded six total tackles as the Falcons held San José State to just 16 points in a 37-16 victory. Had one quarterback sack and a career-high three tackles for losses (-12 yards). Steelhammer registered an interception in the fourth quarter to seal the victory with the Falcons up by two scores. His three tackles for loss are the most by an Air Force player this season.


2014 Bronko Nagurski winner Scooby Wright of Arizona.

2014 Bronko Nagurski winner Scooby Wright III of Arizona.

Arizona’s junior linebacker Scooby Wright III, the 2014 Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner, went down with a left knee injury midway through the first quarter of the Wildcats’ 42-32  season-opening victory over Texas-San Antonio on Sept. 3. He had surgery to replace a torn lateral meniscus two days later. He hopes to return for the UCLA game on Sept. 26, the Pac-12 opener for the Wildcats. For more information, CLICK HERE.




The St. Louis Rams’ James Laurinaitis was the 2006 Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner from Ohio State. He was the first sophomore to win the coveted award. He’s now doing big things as a starting linebacker for the Rams, which won their 2015 season opener over the Seattle Seahawks. CLICK HERE to catch up with Laurinaitis, who was selected in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft by St. Louis.


NCAA Current FBS Sack Leaders

NCAA Current FBS Solo Tackle Leaders

NCAA Current FBS Tackles for Loss Leaders

NCAA Current FBS Total Tackle Leaders



Andrew Billings, Baylor

Kenny Clark, UCLA

Maliek Collins, Nebraska

Sheldon Day, Notre Dame

Adam Gotsis, Georgia Tech

Chris Jones, Mississippi State

Gerrand Johnson, Louisiana-Monroe

Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech

Corey Marshall, Virginia Tech

Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

Travis Tuiloma, BYU

Adolphus Washington, Ohio State

Anthony Zettel, Penn State

ENDS (21)

Jonathan Allen, Alabama

Derek Barnett, Tennessee

Joey Bosa, Ohio State

DeForest Buckner, Oregon

Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State

Kamalei Correa, Boise State

Ken Ekanem, Virginia Tech

Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

Jordan Jenkins, Georgia

Bronson Kaufusi, BYU

Carl Lawson Auburn

Shawn Oakman, Baylor

Pat O’Connor, Eastern Michigan

Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State

Drew Ott, Iowa

Dadi Nicolas, Virginia Tech

Sheldon Rankins, Louisville

Pete Robertson, Texas Tech

Ian Seau, Nevada

Charles Tapper, Oklahoma

Lawrence Thomas, Michigan State


Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma

Kendell Beckwith, LSU

Vince Biegel, Wisconsin

Kentrell Brothers, Missouri

James Burgess, Louisville

Su’a Cravens, USC

Ed Davis, Michigan State

Kyler Fackrell, Utah State

Leonard Floyd, Georgia

Myles Jack, UCLA

Darron Lee, Ohio State

Curt Maggitt, Tennessee

Blake Martinez, Stanford

Tyler Matakevich, Temple

Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn

Antonio Morrison, Florida

Jared Norris, Utah

Joshua Perry, Ohio State

Reggie Ragland, Alabama

Jovan Santos-Knox, UMass

Joe Schmidt, Notre Dame

Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame

Terrance Smith, Florida State

Eric Striker, Oklahoma

Jeremy Timpf, Army

Scooby Wright III, Arizona

BACKS (31)

Budda Baker, Washington

Dante Barnett, Kansas State

Vonn Bell, Ohio State

Quin Blanding, Virginia

Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Minnesota

Maurice Canady, Virginia

Michael Caputo, Wisconsin

Lloyd Carrington, Arizona State

Jeremy Cash, Duke

Tony Conner, Mississippi

Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech

Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida

Adoree’ Jackson, USC

William Jackson, Houston

Jonathan Jones, Auburn

Karl Joseph, West Virginia

William Likely, Maryland

Jordan Lucas, Penn State

Danzel McDaniel, Kansas State

Adrian McDonald, Houston

Jalen Mills, LSU

Fabian Moreau, UCLA

Eric Murray. Minnesota

Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

Will Redmond, Mississippi State

KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame

Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma

Jordan Simone, Arizona State

Darian Thompson, Boise State

Xavier Woods, Louisiana Tech

Ronald Zamort, Western Michigan

Conference Breakdown:  SEC (20), Big Ten (17),  ACC (13), , Pac-12 (12), Big 12 (11), Independents (7), Mountain West (4), American (3), Mid-American (3), Conference USA (1), Sun Belt (1).

The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,400 men and women who cover college football. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at or 214-870-6516.


The Charlotte Touchdown Club is a non-profit organization founded in 1990 for the purpose of promoting high school, collegiate, and professional football in the Charlotte, N.C., region. The club’s activities and services focus community attention on the outstanding citizenship, scholarship, sportsmanship, and leadership of area athletes and coaches. For more information, contact John Rocco (704-347-2918 or The official website of the Charlotte Touchdown Club is

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