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).
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
FIVE BRONKO NAGURSKI FINALISTS NAMED ON NOV. 19
Five finalists for the 2015 Bronko Nagurski Trophy will be announced on Nov. 19 after a meeting earlier in the week of the FWAA All-America Committee by conference call. The 13-person committee considers nominations and polling from the entire FWAA membership before deciding on the finalists. All five finalists will be present at the banquet on Monday, Dec. 7 at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte.
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK
Oklahoma at Baylor. How much defense will be played in this game is a matter of conjecture for these offensive-minded Big 12 teams. But one thing for sure: the loser is out of the national title picture. The Big 12, without a conference title game, is a series of November elimination games to decide its champion. Unbeaten Oklahoma State actually holds the advantage, because it will play both these teams in Stillwater to end the season. If Cowboys hold serve at home and win this week at Iowa State, they very well could wind up in one of two national semifinal games. Defensive Players to Watch: Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker and cornerback Zack Sanchez and Baylor end Shawn Oakman and tackle Andrew Billings.
BRONKO NAGURSKI BANQUET NEWS
AutoNation FWAA DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF WEEK
Oklahoma State linebacker Chad Whitener hauled in two interceptions and made a career-high 12 tackles for the Cowboys in their dominating 49-29 win over fourth-ranked TCU in a battle of unbeatens. The performance earned the AutoNation National Defensive Player of the Week honor for games of the weekend of Nov. 7, as selected by the Football Writers Association on America.
Whitener, a 6-1, 240-pound sophomore from Mansfield, Texas, had eight unassisted tackles to lead the team, as well as half of Oklahoma State’s four interceptions of TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, who entered the game having only thrown five picks all season. Whitener set up an Oklahoma State touchdown early in the third quarter with his first career interception and a return to the TCU 1-yard line, a score that put the game away with a 35-9 lead. He was rewarded on his second pick with a 42-yard touchdown return in the final minute.
Whitener is just the 10th player in school history to pick off more than one pass in a game. He came to OSU as a transfer from California a year ago, and earned a scholarship back in August. He was thrust into the starting lineup when starter Ryan Simmons was lost for the season four weeks ago. Whitener credited his play and that of others on the defense to film study.
“Everybody cares,” Whitener told the Tulsa World. “That’s the biggest thing that I can keep saying is that everybody honestly cares and everybody works on knowing what’s going to happen.”
MEMORABLE DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCES FROM LAST WEEK
Florida International senior tackle Mike Wakefield: He tied school records in tackles for loss (5.5) and sacks (4.0) in a 48-31 victory over Charlotte. The four sacks are tied for fifth all-time in Conference USA. The team total of 7.0 sacks in the game tied the season-high in the conference. Wakefield also had one pass breakup and six quarterback knockdowns.
Utah senior linebacker Gionni Paul: In the Ute’s 34-23 victory over Washington, Paul returned a fumble 54 yards for a touchdown and returned an interception 27 yards to the Washington 8-yard line, ultimately setting up a touchdown. He had nine tackles, including a key sack in the third quarter on 3rd-and-6 at the Utah 30-yard line. His sack forced the Huskies, who were then trailing by four points, to punt.
Clemson senior linebacker B.J. Goodson: He was Clemson’s top tackler with nine in the Tigers’ 23-13 victory over Florida State. Goodson had 3.5 tackles for loss, including both sacks registered by the Clemson defense. Goodson also had a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter, marking the second time this year he recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter against a Top 20 team (also versus Notre Dame). Goodson was a big reason the Clemson defense held Florida State to just one touchdown and 13 points — the fewest the Seminoles have scored against Clemson since 2003.
Nevada freshman defensive back Dameon Baber: He intercepted three passes in the fourth quarter of Nevada’s 30-16 victory at Fresno State. His interceptions were the second-most in a game in Wolf Pack history and the most since 1974, when Greg Grouwinkel collected four against Portland State. He is one of seven players in NCAA FBS this season with three interceptions in a single game. The three interceptions helped Nevada shut out Fresno State in the second half and post a 13-0 scoring advantage during the final 30 minutes.
Northern Illinois senior linebacker Boomer Mays: He made one of the biggest defensive plays of the game on the final drive when he intercepted Toledo quarterback Philip Ely and secured the Huskies’ 32-27 road victory. It was Mays’ second career interception. Mays also led the Huskies with 10 tackles, five unassisted. The Huskies gave up only 10 points after the first quarter and forced three Toledo turnovers. Mays ranks second on the NIU team in tackles with 62.
South Alabama senior linebacker Blake Dees: He set a school record with 20 tackles — the most recorded in the Sun Belt this season — and forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in the Jaguars’ 52-45 victory over Idaho. With South Alabama trailing by 10 points in the third quarter, he helped force two Idaho punts. He then forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown to reduce the deficit to three. It was the first time this fall that Dees had a double-digit tackle total, but the fourth time he has led the team in tackles..
Ohio State junior safety Vonn Bell: He opened the scoring with a 16-yard interception return for a touchdown as Ohio State won its 29th consecutive Big Ten regular-season contest, over Minnesota. He tied for the game high with seven unassisted tackles and 10 total. He recorded his second defensive touchdown of the season, following a fumble return against Hawaii.
SPOTLIGHT ON BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY CANDIDATES
Notre Dame tackle Sheldon Day’s return for his senior season has been a nice encore. CLICK HERE to learn more.
UCLA’s Kenny Clark making waves on the West Coast. 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org). The official website of the Charlotte Touchdown Club is touchdownclub.com.
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