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
Michigan at Northwestern: Two of the top defenses in college football will be on display this Saturday in Ann Arbor when once-beaten Michigan plays host to unbeaten Northwestern. Northwestern ranks tops in the FBS in scoring defense (7.0 ppg) and Michigan is second (7.6 ppg). Michigan is No. 2 in the FBS in total defense (184.00 yards per game) and Northwestern is No. 5 (249.4 yards per game). Michigan ranks No. 2 in Team Passing Efficiency Defense (77.55) and Northwestern is No. 3 (83.35). After a season-opening loss (24-17) at Utah, Michigan has given up only 14 points in its last four games—all victories—and has posted back-to-back shutouts of BYU (31-0) and Maryland (28-0). Northwestern has registered shutouts of Eastern Illinois (41-0) and Minnesota (27-0).
BRONKO NAGURSKI BANQUET NEWS
AutoNation FWAA DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF WEEK
Linebacker Eric Striker led Oklahoma with a career-high 12 tackles in a 44-24 win over previously unbeaten West Virginia. Striker tied a career high with three tackles for a loss (for 18 yards lost), which earned him the AutoNation National Defensive Player of the Week honor for games of the weekend of Oct. 3, as selected by the Football Writers Association of America.
Striker, a 6-0, 222-pound senior from Seffner, Fla., also finished with a forced fumble and two sacks, extending his own Oklahoma record for career sacks by a linebacker to 18. The 2014 first-team All-Big 12 selection was a main force as Oklahoma forced five West Virginia turnovers. In the fourth quarter, Striker forced a WVU fumble that was returned 41 yards for a touchdown by Jordan Evans, a score that gave the Sooners a 17-point margin in the fourth quarter.
“Eric’s played well a lot. Some people don’t give you the opportunities (to rush),” Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said. “In this game, for instance, we have the lead so (West Virginia) had to throw more. I guarantee it’s more than they wanted to. So there’s more opportunity (for Eric). He was huge. He’s hard to block. A time or two he beats the guy, but they get a holding call off of a pass that was a first down and it ended up being called back — that would’ve been a sack had they not held him.”
MEMORABLE DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCES FROM LAST WEEK
Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison: He recorded 16 tackles, five unassisted, in the Florida Gators’ 38-10 upset victory over Ole Miss in Gainesville. He contributed 3.5 tackles for nine yards in losses as the Gators rose to 5-0 this season.
Iowa junior defensive back Desmond King: Spearheaded the defense in Iowa’s 10-6 victory at Wisconsin. King’s first interception and 15-yard return led to the only touchdown in the game when Iowa took a 7-3 advantage. King recorded his second interception at the Iowa 11-yard line, stopping Wisconsin’s opening drive of the third quarter. King also had five unassisted tackles, four assisted and two pass break-ups against the Badgers.
Clemson junior tackle Kevin Dodd: He had 3.5 tackles for 17 yards in losses, including a pair of sacks and a caused fumble in Clemson’s 24-22 win over Notre Dame. Dodd had six total tackles officially. He was involved in the key play of the game when he combined with teammate Carlos Watkins to stop Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kiser on a two-point conversion attempt with just seven seconds left.
East Carolina senior linebacker Montese Overton: He set an American Athletic Conference record and tied a school record with four sacks in the Pirates’ 49-23 victory at SMU. He finished the game with five tackles for loss and a pass breakup as the Pirates held the Mustangs scoreless for the last 40:08 of the game. Overton became the first East Carolina player with four sacks in a game since Rod Coleman against Wake Forest in 1997, a span of 225 games.
Central Michigan senior linebacker Tim Hamilton: He registered 11 tackles, one tackle for loss, one interception and one recovered fumble in a 29-19 victory over Northern Illinois. Central Michigan snapped the Huskies’ 15-game road MAC winning streak. Hamilton also created a pair of critical third quarter turnovers that led to touchdowns as the Chippewas outscored Northern Illinois 23-3 in the quarter. Hamilton recovered his first career fumble early in the third quarter and added his first career interception later in the same quarter.
Texas-San Antonio junior safety Michael Egwuagu: He led a stout defensive effort in UTSA’s conference-opening 25-6 victory at UTEP on Saturday night. He scored a pair of touchdowns, first on a 40-yard interception return in the third quarter and later in the final stanza when he took a Nate Gaines lateral 15 yards to the end zone following the Roadrunners’ fourth interception of the night. Egwuagu also added eight tackles (six unassisted).
South Alabama junior linebacker Kalen Jackson: In South Alabama’s 24-18 victory at Troy, Jackson intercepted two passes that led to the Jaguars’ final 10 points. He also recorded six unassisted tackles including a career-best two behind the line of scrimmage. With South Alabama leading 14-8, the junior linebacker intercepted a pass and ran it back 10 yards to the Troy nine-yard line, leading to a touchdown three plays later. With South Alabama leading 21-15 in the third quarter, Jackson intercepted another pass. Then interception set up South Alabama’s final points in the game, a field goal.
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 returned for the first time in Arizona’s game against UCLA on Sept. 26. His left knee held up, but he suffered a right foot injury in the 56-30 loss to the Bruins. Wright finished with seven tackles in the UCLA game, five unassisted. He missed the Wildcats’ loss at Stanford last week and is expected to miss an undetermined amount of games moving forward, including Saturday’s game against Oregon State in Tucson.
SPOTLIGHT ON A BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY CANDIDATE
The 2015 FWAA President Lee Barfknecht, who will hand out the Bronko Nagurski Trophy to the nation’s best defensive player on Dec. 7 in Charlotte, writes about one of the top candidates after covering the Iowa-Wisconsin game last Saturday in Madison. The game, won by Iowa 10-6, was all about defense. CLICK HERE to read about Wisconsin linebacker Joe Schobert.
SPOTLIGHT ON A BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY WINNER
A tumultuous week for the Miami Dolphins and former Nebraska tackle Ndamukong Suh, the 2009 Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner. It winds up with Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin getting fired after a 1-3 start. CLICK HERE to read the story.
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.
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