Since 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
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK
Texas A&M vs. Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas: In this Southeastern Conference opener for both teams, the Aggie defense will try to keep the Razorbacks’ season on a downward spiral. Arkansas, considered a threat in the SEC West, has lost consecutive games to Toledo and Texas Tech and now faces its third “T” team in a row. Texas A&M’s defense is one of the best in the country. The Aggies lead the FBS in sacks with 15 (80 yards in losses) through three games. Ends Myles Garrett (5.5 sacks for 27 yards in losses) and Dasehon Hall (4 sacks for 20 yards in losses) are the ring leaders. Arkansas ranks 28th in the country in passing at 305.3 yards a game and 35th in total offense at 476.3 yards a game, but those numbers will be challenged by the Aggie defense.
BRONKO NAGURSKI BANQUET NEWS
AutoNation FWAA DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF WEEK No. 3
Michigan State safety RJ Williamson scored a touchdown on a fumble return and had an interception on a late Air Force drive, providing two of the Spartans’ multiple big plays that helped them move to 3-0 on the season with a 35-21 win. His third career touchdown return helped him earn him the AutoNation FWAA Defensive Player of the Week honor for games of the weekend of Sept. 19.
Williamson, a 6-0, 215-pound fifth-year senior from Dayton, Ohio, impacted the game when it was only eight minutes old when he scooped up an Air Force fumble and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 Michigan State lead. It was the first fumble return for a score of his career. He had two interception returns for touchdowns last season.
His interception – the eighth of his career and second this season – halted an Air Force drive at the MSU 8-yard line with 5:11 left in the game with the Spartans protecting a 35-14 lead. He later recovered an onside kick attempt with 2:10 left to preserve the win.
“He’s a great leader on the defense,” Michigan State co-defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett said. “He’s seen a lot of different things. He understands the in-game adjustments, which are more important than anything, being able to communicate them to the other players as well as to the coaches, what he sees. You could see him and his game going to another level.”
MEMORABLE DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCES FROM LAST WEEK
Colorado linebacker Kenneth Olugbode: He had a team-high 13 tackles (five unassisted), a key third-down stop and his first career interception in the Buffaloes’ 27-24 overtime victory over Colorado State in the Rocky Mountain Showdown. Olugbode returned the interception 60 yards for a touchdown, giving the Buffs a 24-17 lead with 8:50 remaining in the game. He became the 15th Buffalo since 1992 to return his first career pick for a score. This was on his 20th birthday.
Florida State linebacker Terrance Smith: Florida State’s 14-0 victory at Boston College was its first shutout on the road since 2003. Smith had six tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and forced a fumble in the fourth quarter on the game’s biggest play. Smith forced the ball free and teammate Jalen Ramsey returned the fumble for a touchdown. FSU allowed Boston College only 195 yards total offense. The FSU 39-yard line was the Eagles’ deepest point of penetration.
Texas Tech defensive back Jah’Shawn Johnson: He registered a career-high 16 tackles with four unassisted and 12 assisted in Texas Tech’s 35-24 victory at Arkansas. He also contributed one tackle for loss, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble.
Missouri safety Anthony Sherrills: He made the game-saving interception on a Connecticut fake field goal attempt in the closing seconds and returned it 50 yards to secure Missouri’s 9-6 victory. He also had a forced fumble that he recovered in the second quarter to go along with three unassisted tackles. It was the lowest score for a Missouri win since a 3-0 victory over Notre Dame in 1978.
Ole Miss lineman Robert Nkemdiche: He was a dominant player in the trenches in leading Ole Miss in its smashing victory at Alabama. Collected six tackles with 2.5 tackles for losses and 0.5 sacks while opening up opportunities for his teammates. He assisted on a key sack late in the fourth quarter. He led a Rebel defense that forced five Alabama turnovers during Ole Miss’ first victory in Tuscaloosa since 1988.
SCOOBY WRIGHT III UPDATE
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 has hoped to return for the UCLA game on Saturday, the Pac-12 opener for the Wildcats. He is practicing on the knee this week. For more information, CLICK HERE.
SPOTLIGHT ON A BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY CANDIDATE
Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker is a leader for the 3-0 Wildcats. CLICK HERE to read more.
SPOTLIGHT ON A BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY WINNER
Ndamukong Suh is off to slow 2015 start for the Miami Dolphins. Suh, a Nebraska defensive tackle, captured the Bronko Nagurski Trophy in 2009. CLICK HERE to read more.
NCAA FBS INDIVIUDAL DEFENSIVE STATISTICS NATIONAL RANKINGS
BRONKO NAGURSKI WATCH LIST
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 214-870-6516.
ABOUT THE CHARLOTTE TOUCHDOWN CLUB AND ITS SPONSORS
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 email@example.com). The official website of the Charlotte Touchdown Club is touchdownclub.com.
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