2019 Preseason Award Projections: Bednarik Award

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2019 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and the next fall’s stars could be the headline players next April for the 2020 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the postseason awards that are given out to the best of college football.

The Chuck Bednarik Award is given to the best defensive player in college football. Last year’s winner was Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen.

Bednarik Award Winner:

Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma

The Bednarik Award has a strong inclination to go with defenders in the middle of the defense as evidenced by 16 of the 24 winners having been linebackers. Only four defensive linemen have won the award, Julius Peppers (2001), Ndamukong Suh (2009), Aaron Donald (2013) and Jonathan Allen (2016). Four defensive backs are the other winners, Charles Woodson, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Given the strong track record, it makes sense to chose a linebacker.

The Bedarik Award has a tendency to go to players who produce huge state lines regardless of their prospects for the next level. The committee seems to be inclined to large tackle or sack totals, so Murray looks like an obvious top contender. By looking at the stat line, Murray should be a favorite to win a lot of awards this fall, as he was a tackling machine for the Sooners in 2018. He was one of the nation’s leaders in 2018 with 155 stops, which is an especially huge number considering he plays in a passing conference. Murray also added 12.5 tackles for a loss with two passes batted. If Murray can stay consistent with his 2018 production. he should have a lot of awards coming his direction at the end of 2019 and definitely could end up winning the Bednarik Award.

Bednarik Award Runner-Up:

Troy Dye, Oregon

Dye has been a good defender for the Ducks over the past three seasons. His best season came as a junior in 2018 when he totaled 115 tackles with eight tackles for a loss, two sacks, one interception, and eight passes defended. Dye has shown progress in pass coverage over his time at Oregon, and as a freshman, he had 91 tackles with 13 for a loss, 6.5 sacks, and an interception. He notched 107 tackles in 2017. Dye should be one of the top linebackers in college football as a senior, and if his tackle total increases, I could see him winning the Bednarik Award.

Bednarik Award Dark Horse:

Dylan Moses, Alabama

Alabama has been a factory for NFL linebackers under Nick Saban, and Moses should continue the tradition that has seen the likes of C.J. Mosley, Dont’a Hightower, Reggie Ragland, Reuben Foster and more. Moses flashed in 2018 with 86 tackles, 10 for a loss, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one pass batted. He should take on a bigger role as a junior in 2019 with Mack Wilson in the NFL. Playing for Alabama should provide plenty of attention for Moses and land him a lot of postseason honors. However with all the talent on Alabama’s defense around him to eat up some stats and the fact that in many games their starters sit out a lot of the second half, Moses may not produce the tackle total necessary to win the Bednarik Award. However, it would’t be surprising if he ends up being a highly acclaimed star this fall and he’s so good you can’t rule him out for the Bednarik Award.

Honorable Mentions: Ohio State DE Chase Young, Auburn DT Derrick Brown, Alabama DT Raekwon Davis, Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos, Auburn DE Nick Coe, Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa, Northwestern LB Paddy Fisher, Utah State LB Tipa Galeai, Alabama LB Anfernee Jennings, Mississippi State LB Willie Gay Jr., Michigan LB Josh Uche, LSU LB Michael Divinity, Tennessee LB Darrell Taylor, Clemson S Isaiah Simmons, Florida CB C.J. Henderson, Alabama CB Trevon Diggs, Utah CB Jaylon Johnson, Mississippi State CB Cameron Dantzler, Alabama S Xavier McKinney, and Alabama CB/S Shyheim Carter.

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