Today, the Nagurski Award announced its finalists for the best defensive player in the country. The players named including C.J. Mosley of Alabama, Aaron Donald of Pittsburgh, Lamarcus Joyner of Florida State, Michael Sam of Missouri and Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State. These players have been great this year, but the committee that comes up with the nominees for this award have have left off some of the best defensive players in college football this year that just so happen to play in smaller conferences or are independent.
The player who should win this award was not even a finalist, which is Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. People can use the MAC as a reason to leave him off the list, but in a game against Ohio State, he was the most dominant player on the field with 2.5 sacks and an interception he returned for a touchdown. His production has been out of this world this season. 47 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 5 forced fumbles, 6 pass deflections, and two touchdowns. Mack has been must watch television this season. He has done it all from playing the run to dropping into coverage to rushing the passer while lined up as a defensive end, outside linebacker and inside linebacker.
Another deserving player that has been left off the list is BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Van Noy has been a do everything player for the Cougars. He has played any number of different positions in Provo this season and while he had a once in a lifetime season last year in terms of production, Van Noy was still fantastic this season. Van Noy has had 33 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 7 passes broken up, 2 interceptions and a touchdown.
The last player is from the Mountain West Conference and that is Shaquil Barrett from Colorado State. Barrett has been incredible this season and been dominant against big time opponents. Just against Alabama, Barrett posted 1.5 sacks. Overall, Barrett has had a great year with 29 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 1 interception, 2 pass break ups, 3 forced fumbles and 2 blocked kicks.
The five players nominated have been great, but few of them have put up the type of seasons these three have and no one in the country can touch what Mack has done as a defensive player this year. If the award is designed to reward the best defensive player in the country, they screwed the pooch. If it is to reward the best defensive player from an automatic qualifying conference, fine, but they should make that clear in the nomination process. Mack has an argument to be in the Heisman conversation with how dominant he has been this year, let alone the best defensive player in the country.