2013 Preseason Award Projections: Butkus Award

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2013 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 April for the 2014 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 Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.

Butkus Award Winner:

C.J. Mosley, Alabama

Last year, we hit on our preseason projection of Te’o winning the Butkus Award, but he was the obvious favorite entering the season. The same could be said of Mosley. He is the leader of the defense of the most high-profile program in the nation. Mosley is a play-maker who has helped Alabama win two straight National Championships and already is well known after being the most consistent weapon on Alabama’s defense last year.

Mosley was the leader of the stop unit last year. He led the team with 107 tackles. The junior also notched two interceptions, four sacks, eight tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and two passes broken up. While many Alabama defenders struggled with Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, Mosley played extremely well with 14 tackles and a sack. He also had big games against Michigan, Tennessee, Missouri and Ole Miss. Mosley was a consensus First-Team All-American and All-SEC selection.

Mosley split a starting role with Nico Johnson in 2011; Mosley was used more in pass defense with Johnson serving as a run-defender next to Hightower. Mosley missed two games with a dislocated elbow, but was still a valuable contributor. The sophomore totaled 37 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks and an interception. Mosley was injured again in the National Championship after he intercepted a pass from Jordan Jefferson. Mosley dislocated his hip on the tackle by Jefferson, but was fine for the start of the 2012 season.

There is no reason to think that Mosley’s production will fall off this year provided he stays healthy. Alabama has good talent around him, so he shouldn’t be put in a position of trying to make every play for his defense. The Crimson Tide coaching staff also has done a great job of putting Mosley in position to succeed. The senior has excellent instincts and is a well-rounded player. Mosley (6-2, 234) is tough against the run and superb in pass defense. He could have a huge senior season like Te’o did last year.

Butkus Runner-Up:

Anthony Barr, UCLA

Barr had perhaps the most shocking breakout season of anyone in college football in 2012. He had little impact at fullback as a freshman and a sophomore, making a grand total of 12 receptions. Barr changed positions for 2012 and dominated the Pac-12 with a breakout campaign. The junior collected 13 sacks, 83 tackles, 21.5 tackles for a loss, five passes batted and four forced fumbles. His sack total was the second largest in the nation behind only Georgia’s Jarvis Jones. Jim Mora, Jr. and his staff deserve a lot of credit for changing Barr’s position.

There is no doubt that the senior will be a marked man in the Pac-12 in 2013. Offenses will be aiming to stop him and it wouldn’t be surprising if they constantly send double-teams his direction. However, Mora has a good coaching staff which will likely move Barr around to try to get him single-blocked. Plus, the Bruins have a good supporting cast in the front seven with defensive lineman Cassius Marsh and linebacker Eric Kendricks.

It is obvious that Barr has elite speed and athleticism. He has a lightning first-step and burst off the snap. Barr accelerates in an instant with fantastic closing speed. If the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder has added some bulk to his frame and developed his pass-rushing moves he could be an unstoppable force in this season having gained a year of experience.

Butkus Dark Horse:

Kyle Van Noy, BYU

While defensive end Ezekiel Ansah was the more high-profile prospect last year, Kyle Van Noy (KVN) was the better player for BYU. Ansah recorded 4.5 sacks while Van Noy totaled almost three times that amount with 13 sacks. Van Noy also recorded 53 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, six forced fumbles, two interceptions and five passes batted. The junior was the most consistent player on the Cougars’ defense.

Van Noy closed out last season with a bowl game for the ages against San Diego State. He picked up eight tackles, two touchdowns, an interception, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and one blocked kick. One score came when Van Noy dropped into coverage along the sideline and picked off a pass to set up a 17-yard touchdown return. Another touchdown came on recovering a fumble in the end zone.

2012 wasn’t Van Noy’s first good year as he played well during his sophomore campaign. He had 68 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, three forced fumbles, three passes batted and three interceptions in 2011. Van Noy picked up 35 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, two passes batted and 7.5 tackles for a loss in 2010. He is very technically sound plus has great instincts and athletic ability.

I went with Mosley and Barr ahead of Van Noy because they have better supporting casts. Van Noy (6-3, 235) is going to be a marked man and offenses will try to double-team him or send plays away from him. Thus, it seems possible that the senior’s numbers could dip in 2013.

Honorable Mentions: Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson, Florida State linebacker Christian Jones, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard, Western Kentucky linebacker Andrew Jackson, UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks, Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov, Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough, Michigan State linebacker Denicos Allen, LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow, Florida linebacker Ron Powell, Iowa linebacker James Morris, Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens, Alabama linebacker Trey DePriest, Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson, Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison and Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland.

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