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
Florida State at Clemson. This game could well determine if the Atlantic Coast Conference has a representative in the semifinals of the National College Football Playoff. If unbeaten Clemson successfully defends its home field against the once-beaten Seminoles, it has a clear shot to win the rest of its regular-season games against Syracuse (3-5), Wake Forest (3-6) and South Carolina (3-5) and would be a prohibitive favorite in the ACC title game. Lots of good defensive players in this game, so offenses could be neutralized. Florida State ranks 14th in FBS in scoring defense (16.6 points a game allowed). Clemson is tied for 19th (17.6 points a game allowed).
BRONKO NAGURSKI BANQUET NEWS
AutoNation FWAA DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF WEEK
Stanford cornerback Quenton Meeks robbed Washington State twice in the second half with interceptions — the first picks of his career — and helped the Cardinal stay unbeaten in Pac-12 Conference play. Making the plays that eventually led to Stanford’s winning field goal in a 30-28 comeback win earned Meeks the AutoNation National Defensive Player of the Week honor for games of the weekend of Oct. 31, as selected by the Football Writers Association of America.
Meeks, a 6-2, 195-pound freshman from San Diego, Calif., picked off his first pass late in the third quarter at the WSU 31-yard line and returned it to the 17. Stanford scored four plays later to go ahead 27-22. His second steal came at the WSU 48, when he read a screen pass and secured the ball while being bear-hugged by a receiver. His return went to the 39 with 1:54 remaining. The Cardinal then drove to the 2, and kicked a 19-yard field goal for the win.
“I was praying for those plays to happen, and it just happened,” Meeks said. “We worked so hard as a unit, on defense, to learn about our opponent and what we were going to do. I knew exactly what they were doing, before they were doing it. That’s a credit to our coaching staff, our players — for taking the time and putting in the effort — and on myself for just pushing to be great.”
Meeks also had six tackles in the game, four of them unassisted and one for a three-yard loss.
MEMORABLE DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCES FROM LAST WEEK
Washington senior linebacker Travis Feeney: He led a Husky defense that held a high-powered Arizona offense to only three points, 38.8 points below its season average, and 330 yards of total offense, 205 yards below its season average. Feeney notched 11 tackles with nine coming solo, which included 4.5 tackles-for-loss and two sacks, and forced two fumbles in the contest. This is Feeney’s second Defensive Player of the Week honor this season.
Central Michigan senior lineman Blake Serpa: He collected six tackles, four tackles for loss (two sacks) and two forced fumbles in a 14-6 victory at Akron. Serpa was part of a Chippewas’ defense that held Akron to six points and 25 yards rushing. In the first quarter, his sack and forced fumble for a loss of 18 yards stopped an Akron drive deep in Central Michigan territory. The Zips missed a long field goal on the next play.
Purdue senior cornerback Anthony Brown: He had three interceptions in the Boilermakers’ 55-45 victory over Nebraska. He is only the second Big Ten player to record three interceptions in a game since 2009 and first for Purdue since 1997. He added four tackles and one pass breakup.
Oklahoma senior end Charles Tapper: He recorded his first three sacks of the season and forced two fumbles in only three quarters in Oklahoma’s 62-7 blowout at Kansas. Tapper, who did not play in the fourth quarter, finished with four tackles and was the catalyst for an OU defense that held the Jayhawks to 216 total yards (3.1 per play) and less than 1.0 yard per rush. The Sooners recovered both of Tapper’s forced fumbles and converted them into 10 points.
Miami junior linebacker Jermaine Grace: He was a one-man wrecking crew in the Hurricanes’ victory at Duke with a career-high 17 tackles, the most by a Hurricane player this season. He also had one tackle for loss and added a forced fumble. His nine unassisted tackles were a single-game career high.
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 has missed the Wildcats’ last five games, basically eliminating himself from consideration for All-America honors again this season.
SPOTLIGHT ON A BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY CANDIDATE
Missouri linebacker Kentrell Brothers leads the country in total tackles, but misses Butkus’ 10-man semifinal list for the award for the nation’s best linebacker. CLICK HERE to read the story.
SPOTLIGHT ON A BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY WINNER
Panthers’ Luke Kuechly, the 2011 Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner from Boston College, stars for the pro team in the town where he received the award. 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.
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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