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2011 Bednarik Award Power Rankings: Week 12

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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 on October 31st, which you can view HERE. Here’s where college writers Danny Hobrock and Dory LeBlanc stand.

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1. Luke Kuechly, LB Boston College

Another day, another 18 tackles. No big deal. Kuechly now has 168 total tackles, which leads the country. He’s recorded double-digit tackles in every game since last year’s regular season finale against Syracuse when he recorded nine. Kuechly has failed to reach 10 total tackles in a game only four times in his career, and the first three came in his first month as a collegiate athlete in 2009. What a player. – 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. Against Western Kentucky, Mathieu recorded seven total tackles (4 solo), .5 tackle for loss, one pass broken up, one QBH, and had two punt returns for 39 yards. Through nine games, Mathieu has 54 total tackles (37 solo), two interceptions, four forced fumbles with three recoveries (two returned for touchdowns), six passes broken up, two QB Hurries, and 17 punt returns for 158 yards. – 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 12.5, recording a sack against Michigan Saturday. 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 also leads the nation with seven forced fumbles and third in the country with 17.5 TFL. – Dory LeBlanc

4. Dont’a Hightower, LB Alabama

The 6’4” 260 Lb linebacker should be a sure-bet in the NFL, and has been in our top list of candidates the last two weeks after falling in and out of our top five previously. Hightower is a quick, hard tackler who reads plays beautifully. Against Mississippi State he recorded 11 tackles (4 solo), 2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, and one PBU in his best performance of the season. Through ten games, Hightower has registered a total of 65 total tackles (32 solo), 1 INT, 8.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 3 PBU, and 7 QB hurries. – Dory LeBlanc

5. Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama Crimson Tide

Upshaw leads the Tide’s top-ranked defense with 6.5 sacks and has been an integral part of the second level with Hightower. He’s recorded a sack in each of the last four games and five of the last six. – Danny Hobrock

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
Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina Gamecocks
Sean Spence, LB, Miami Hurricanes
Devon Still, DT, Penn State Nittany Lions
Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame Fighting Irish