2014 Preseason Award Projections: Butkus Award

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2014 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 this coming fall’s stars could be the headline players next May for the 2015 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the postseason awards that are given out to the best of college football.

The Butkus Award is given to the linebacker in college football. Last year’s winner was Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Butkus Award Winner:

Denzel Perryman, Miami

Two years ago, we hit on our preseason projection of Te’o winning the Butkus Award, but he was the obvious favorite entering that season. We made it two years in a row with picking C.J. Mosley from Alabama last year. He was another obvious choice. There really isn’t an obvious choice heading into this season. It came down to three players for me: Perryman, Benardrick McKinney and Erik Kendricks.

Perryman is a tough run-defender who can get off blocks and make tackles. To make him even more intriguing for the next level, he is very good in pass coverage.

As a sophomore in 2012, Perryman recorded 64 tackles with six tackles for a loss, two passes broken up, one forced fumble and an interception returned 41 yards for a touchdown. The junior was excellent for the Hurricanes in the 2013. He totaled 108 tackles with five tackles for a loss, one sack and three passes broken up in 2013. Perryman had a monster game against Florida with 14 tackles and a forced fumble. He recorded 11 tackles against Florida State and 15 against Virginia Tech.

The 6-foot, 240-pounder has great instincts and is always around the ball. He could be the best inside linebacker in college football in 2014. Thus, Perryman is my pick for the Butkus Award.

Butkus Runner-Up:

Erik Kendricks, UCLA

While Anthony Barr and Miles Jack have received all the headlines, Kendricks has been a standout defender for the Bruins in his own right. He’s led the Bruins run defense and has been all over the field with sideline-to-sideline ability.

Kendricks played well in 2013 with 105 tackles, four tackles for a loss and an interception. He was third in the Pac-12 in tackles. In 2012, Kendricks led the conference in tackles with 149 tackles, plus had six tackles for a loss, two sacks, four passes broken up, two forced fumbles and one blocked kick. His instincts were excellent as he did a great job of reading and reacting.

The 6-foot, 228-pound Kendricks is a great athlete like his older brother Mychal Kendricks, a linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles. Erik Kendricks could claim the Lombardi Award if his tackle numbers approaches his 2012 total.

Butkus Dark Horse:

Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State

I went with Perryman and Kendricks ahead of McKinney because of tackle totals. The Butkus Award has a preference for players who post big stat lines and lead their team to a lot of wins. McKinney hasn’t put up huge tackle totals, plus Mississippi State is firmly behind a lot of teams in the SEC West.

After redshirting in 2011, McKinney made a splash in 2012 and was a First-Team Freshman All-American according to numerous media outlets. He recorded 102 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and four passes broken up. As a sophomore in 2013, McKinney had 70 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks.

The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder is considered to be a three-down middle linebacker who has the ability to play in pass coverage. Sources like his size and feel that McKinney has good instincts. Heading into the 2014 season, it wouldn’t be surprising if the junior puts together a career year and is one of the best linebackers in college football. Perhaps he can claim the Butkus Award.

Honorable Mentions: UCLA’s Miles Jack, Oklahoma’s Eric Striker, Tennessee’s A.J. Johnson, Washington’s Shaq Thompson, Florida’s Antonio Morrison, Georgia’s Ramik Wilson, Alabama’s Trey DePriest, Tennessee’s A.J. Johnson, Oklahoma’s Frank Shannon, Michigan’s Jake Ryan, Florida State’s Terrance Smith, Central Florida’s Terrance Plummer, Washington State’s Darryl Monroe, South Florida’s Reshard Cliett and Illinois’ Mason Monheim.

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