2013 Preseason Award Projections: Nagurski 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 Bronko Nagurski Award is given to the best defensive player in college football. Last year’s winner was Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.

Bronko Nagurski Award Winner:

Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

If Clowney lives up to the media hype, he’ll win this award and every other award that a defensive player is eligible for, with the exception of maybe the Walter Camp and Heisman.

The 6-foot-6, 272-pounder is a complete player who is a good run-defender while being a monster pass-rusher. Clowney has a rare skill set with elite speed, strength and athleticism. He has incredible explosion off the snap. Clowney is lightning fast coming off the edge and has natural power to shed blocks. He already has a developed arsenal of pass-rushing moves.

Clowney was one of the best players in college football last year. He amassed 54 tackles, 23.5 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles, two passes batted and 13 sacks. The sophomore finished sixth for the Heisman Trophy. Clowney was an overwhelming force at the point of attack throughout the season. He destroyed offensive game plans and mandated double-teams all year long.

Clowney was the SEC Freshman of the Year and a Second-Team All-SEC selection in 2011. He totaled 36 tackles with eight sacks, 12 tackles for a loss and five forced fumbles.

The Gamecocks have a tough schedule and Clowney will see some quality left tackles in North Carolina’s James Hurst, Tennessee’s Antonio Richardson and Florida’s D.J. Humphries. Clowney could see more single blocks when going against those linemen. However all the double- and triple-teams that will be sent his direction could cause his numbers to decline. I think Clowney will able to get close to what he did last year and with the hype machine that should be good enough to win a lot of postseason honors.

Bronko Nagurski Award Runner-Up:

C.J. Mosley, Alabama

I think the player that is most likely to have a Te’o-like season is Mosley. Both are well-rounded linebackers who make impact plays in run defense and pass defense. Both have produced good numbers in a variety of categories while being the leader of the defense. Another similarity: they are featured players at a high-profile program. Alabama is going for its third straight National Championship, a lot of eyes will be on Mosley.

Mosley was the leader of the Crimson Tide’s defense in 2012. He led the team with 107 tackles. The junior also had 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 versus the Aggies. 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 a valuable contributor. He totaled 37 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks and an interception in 2011. 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.

As long as Mosley stays healthy, there is no reason to think that the senior’s production will fall off in 2013. Alabama has good talent around Mosley, 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. He 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.

Bronko Nagurski Award Dark Horse:

Kyle Van Noy, BYU

I really like Van Noy and think he is being underrated nationally. He was an animal for BYU last year and was the best player on its defense. That is saying something considering Ezekiel Ansah ended up being the fifth-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Van Noy was far more productive and provided a much bigger impact than Ansah.

Ansah had 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 capped the season with eight tackles, two touchdowns, an interception, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and one blocked kick in the Cougars bowl game. It was a game for the ages. The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder is very fast and instinctive. He is a fabulous pass-defender who has the ability to make splash plays in coverage as well as blitzing.

It could be hard for Van Noy to repeat that production in 2013 as offenses are going to try and double-team him rushing off the edge. However, Van Noy is capable of doing a wide variety of things and lining up all over the field. That could help him to avoid double-teams as Georgia was able to do with Jarvis Jones over the 2011 and 2012 seasons. With Van Noy’s superb instincts and play-making ability, he could end up having another great season and stealing the Nagurski Award along with other postseason honors.

Honorable Mentions: UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr, Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton, Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix, Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt, Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, TCU defensive end Devonte Fields, Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, Florida defensive end Dominique Easley, South Florida defensive end Aaron Lynch, LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton, Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, Stanford defensive end Trent Murphy, Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby, Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, TCU cornerback Jason Verrett, Georgia cornerback Damien Swann, Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler, 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 Shane Skov, Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough, Florida linebacker Ron Powell, Iowa linebacker James Morris, Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens, Alabama linebacker Trey DePriest, Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson, Florida State safety Lamarcus Joyner, Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson, Stanford safety Ed Reynolds, Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, LSU safety Craig Loston, North Carolina defensive back Tre Boston, Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman, Alabama safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard, Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson and USC defensive end Leonard Williams.

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