2011 Bednarik Award Player Rankings: Week 11

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The Bednarik Award is presented by the Maxwell Football Club and given to the College Defensive Player of the Year. Like the Maxwell Award honoring the nation’s top college player, the Bednarik Award is voted on by sportscasters, sportswriters, NCAA head coaches, athletic administrators and also the membership of the Maxwell Football Club.

You can vote for the Maxwell Award, the Bednarik Award, the new NFL Fantasy Player of the Year Award, and other prominent awards presented by the oldest football club in America by obtaining a RotoExperts Maxwell Football Club membership.

All to often the skill position players on the offensive side of the ball get the notoriety and fame. More often than not however, games are won are won and lost on defense. Taking a look at the standout defenders in NCAA Football, here’s how the landscape for the College Defensive Player of the Year shakes out after nine weeks of play.

The Maxwell Football Club announced its semi-finalists for the Bednarik Award Monday, which you can view HERE. Here’s where college writers Danny Hobrock and Dory LeBlanc stand.

1. Luke Kuechly, LB Boston College

Kuechly had 20 tackles against Florida State Thursday night. 20! And it wasn’t his season-high (23 vs. Duke on September 17). The Eagles are having a disastrous year at 2-7 and fell to the Seminoles on Thursday by a score of 38-7. Still, Kuechly has racked up double-digit tackles in 31 straight games and he’s the most productive player in the country in that respect. “I don’t think with this team, with this BC team, anybody’s going to quit,” Kuechly said referring to the Eagles’ elimination from bowl contention. “I don’t care about what’s not available. I’m going to come out and win against NC State [next week].” – Danny Hobrock

2. Tyrann Mathieu, CB LSU

Mathieu was an early favorite for the Bednarik and also a candidate to be the first primary defensive player to win the Heisman since Charles Woodson in 1997, but a suspension in the Auburn game, followed by an off week  have slid him behind Kuechly. Last week, we told you Mathieu was explosive, talented, and athletic enough to regain the top spot with a strong outing against Alabama this week. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Mathieu registered five total tackles in the defensive battle, albeit four were solo. Through seven games, Mathieu has 47 total tackles (33 solo), two interceptions, four forced fumbles with three recoveries (two returned for touchdowns), and five passes broken up. – Dory LeBlanc

3. Whitney Mercilus, DE Illinois

Listed as having a 40-time of 4.6, it’s probably not a shock the 6’4” 265Lbs Mercilus is the nation’s sack leader with 11.5, recording 1.5 against Penn State two weeks ago. Mercilus is quick off the snap and uses his strength and athleticism at the end position to get outside the RT to get to the QB. When he plays inside in some packages, he is often double-teamed and is quick and elusive enough to get between the G & T before they can even get their hands on him. At either position, he provides constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Mercilus is tied for first with six forced fumbles and third in the country with 16.5 TFL. –Dory LeBlanc

4. Dont’a Hightower, LB Alabama

The 6’4” 260 Lb linebacker should be a sure-bet in the NFL, but has fallen in and out of our top five all year. Hightower is a quick, hard tackler who reads plays beautifully. Against LSU Saturday night, he recorded seven tackles (4 solo) and two quarterback hurries for a total of 54 total tackles (28 solo), 1 INT, 6 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 2 PBU, and 7 QB hurries. – Dory LeBlanc

5. Manti Te’o, LB Notre Dame

Te’o re-aggravated an ankle injury in the win over Wake Forest on Saturday. His head coach told reporters on Sunday that “he’s back to where he was 2-3 weeks ago.”  The ankle injury has affected Te’o somewhat this year, but he continues to rack up big numbers. He reportedly told his defensive coordinator a couple of weeks ago that he was no longer going to try to be somebody he’s not. He leads by quiet example; he’s not the “rah-rah kind of guy” by his own admission. I still say he’s the heart of that defense, though.

In the hunt:

Mark Barron, S, Alabama Crimson Tide
Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State Wildcats
Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State Sun Devils
Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU Tigers
Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska Cornhuskers
Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama Crimson Tide
Sean Spence, LB, Miami Hurricanes
Devon Still, DT, Penn State Nittany Lions
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford Cardinal
Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama Crimson Tide
Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State Spartans