2014 Preseason Award Projections: Lott IMPACT Trophy

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 Lott IMPACT Trophy is given to the top Defensive Impact Player of the Year in college football. Last year’s winner was UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.

Lott IMPACT Trophy Winner:

Eric Striker, Oklahoma

The Lott IMPACT Trophy has a big inclination towards linebackers. A linebacker has won the award in three straight years and five out of the last six. In 10 years, only three times has this honor gone to a non-linebacker. Thus, I’ll follow the trend. With that in mind, Striker seems like a great prospect for the Lott IMPACT Trophy.

Striker was an unknown heading into the 2013 season, but the sophomore broke out as one of the top defenders in the Big XII. The conference’s coaches selected him as a Second-Team all-conference pick, while the media had him as a first-teamer. He totaled 50 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble for the year.

The 6-foot, 220-pounder is lightning off the edge and has a real speed advantage over offensive tackles. Playing in college football’s version of the Arena League, the Big XII, Striker should produce a big sack total. Moving into double digits seems likely. The Seffner, Florida product could be poised for a massive junior season and end up as one of the highest-impact linebackers in the nation.

Lott IMPACT Trophy Runner-Up:

Leonard Williams, USC

Two of the previous non-linebackers who won the Lott IMPACT Trophy were former Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt and LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. I could see Williams making a run at the Lott IMPACT Trophy because he fits in that kind of mold. Watt and Dorsey didn’t have huge stat lines in college, but each caused a lot of havoc at the point of attack.

Williams earned a starting spot in 2012, and the freshman took the Pac-12 by storm. The Daytona Beach, Florida product excelled for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Williams recorded eight sacks, 64 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, four passes batted, an interception and two fumble recoveries in a fabulous freshman season.

Williams played well for USC in 2013, but he was banged up for part of the season. The sophomore recorded 74 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and five sacks. Williams generated more pass rush than the numbers indicate. Still, the 6-foot-5, 290-pounder is very disruptive and is capable of producing a huge 2014 season.

Lott IMPACT Trophy Dark Horse:

Denzel Perryman, Miami

Considering the Lott IMPACT Trophy’s strong inclination to go with linebackers, Perryman could be a dark horse to bring home the hardware. There is a lack of a high profile middle linebacker for this coming season. Contrast that against the past three years with players like Luke Kuechly, Manti Te’o and C.J. Mosley. Perryman could be the best middle linebacker in college football in 2014.

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. He was excellent for the Hurricanes in the 2013. The junior totaled 108 tackles with five tackles for a loss, one sack and three passes broken for the year. Perryman had a monstrous 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-pound Perryman has great instincts and is always around the ball. He could prove to be what the Lott IMPACT Trophy is looking for.

Honorable Mentions: UCLA outside linebacker Miles Jack, Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory, Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney, Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley, Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun, Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, Texas defensive end Cedric Reed, Florida State defensive tackle Mario Edwards, Florida defensive end Dante Fowler and Alabama defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson.

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