The watch lists for the college awards are released this week. Two awards announced their watch list on Monday. The Maxwell Award goes to the nation’s best player, while the Chuck Bednarik Award goes to the nation’s best defensive player. The Ohio State Buckeyes have 4 players on that list, more than any other team this year. However, no Buckeye has ever won the award.
That got me thinking.
Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald won the very first Bednarik award in 1995, and then again in 1996. That started a trend that has held mostly true for the entirety of the award. The award tends to go to the guy from a not so glamorous school or situation. Obviously Jonathan Allen from Alabama last year was the exception. The year before, Tyler Matakevich from Temple won. Before him, it was Scooby Wright III from Arizona, and Aaron Donald from Pitt in 2014. There are obviously other exceptions, but the winner’s list is loaded with guys that weren’t in contention. A few of the guys that did win that were in contention tended to be defensive backs.
A lot of football awards lean toward the best player in a glamour position on one of the best teams. This award goes to the guy at a school that might not be in contention, but has personally put on a dominating performance. Or to a guy in the backfield that might not get the recognition that a quarterback killer or tackling machine might get. In fact, it’s almost like the award has a thing for the underdog.
That’s why I wont be shocked if the award doesn’t go to a Buckeye, or Wolverine or Crimson Tider(whatever the hell that is). It might just go to one of these guys.
Godwin Igwebuike, Safety, Northwestern Wildcats
This guy hits all the markers. He plays in the backfield for a team that might not be in the top 4 even at 12-0.
In 2016, he had 108 tackles, 78 solo, and 6 for a loss. He also had 2 picks, 7 pass break ups, 1 fumble caused and a fumble recovered. How is that for a stat line? It was good enough to be named second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches.
Jermaine Carter, Linebacker, Maryland Terrapins
The Terrapins already have a Bednarik winner on their resume. E.J. Henderson took home the award in 2002, which helps the narrative that this award goes to players at places like Maryland.
Carter has led the Terrapins in tackles the last two seasons. The Big Ten East will probably be getting a lot of attention, and that could play right into his hands. If he has monster games against Ohio State, Michigan, and/or Penn State, that very well could land this trophy in Carter’s case.
Steven Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Minnesota Golden Gophers
PJ Fleck has rowed into town, and there will be plenty of attention on the Golden Gophers this season.
Meanwhile, Richardson has spent most of his time in opposing backfields. He has 25 tackles for a loss in his career, including 11 last season. Nothing quite gets the football juices flowing like a 300 pounder in the opposing team’s backfield.
Disclaimer: I did not say these are the three most likely to win the award out of the Big Ten, nor did I say they were the three best defenders in the Big Ten. Proceed to the comments section with caution.