Handicapping the Jim Thorpe Award: Alabama's Landon Collins
Landon Collins is a man on a mission this season.
Alabama’s leader in tackles, passes defended and interceptions has blossomed into one of the game’s premiere safeties as a junior, headlining the top defense of any team featured in the first College Football Playoff.
The SEC defensive player of the year candidate will try and take home one of several prestigious honors revealed on Thursday at The Home Depot College Football Awards Show in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The SEC has dominated the award over the last several years, winning it four times since 2009 — Johnthan Banks, Mississippi St. (2012); Morris Claiborne, LSU (2011); Patrick Peterson (2010); Eric Berry, Tennessee (2009).
A relative non-factor on Alabama’s 2012 national championship team, Collins has a chance to make his mark as the next great Crimson Tide defensive back against Oklahoma in one of two Playoff semifinals on Jan. 1.
MEET THE FINALISTS
LANDON COLLINS, ALABAMA, JR. — Collins, a Thorpe semifinalist last season, bettered his numbers in nearly every statistical category as an upperclassmen and leader of Kirby Smart’s ferocious defense. The Crimson Tide rank fourth in scoring defense (16.6) and second in rushing defense (88.7 yards per game) nationally. The expert tackler is one of college football’s top safety prospects, making substantial improvement during the last year after taking over the starting job at the back end from Vinnie Sunseri following an injury during the 2013 campaign.
IFO EKPRE-OLOMU, OREGON, SR. — Don’t let the low interception total (2) fool you. Ekpre-Olomu’s is the Pac-12’s top coverman, arguably the nation’s best corner. A potential lockdown defensive back at the next level, Ekpre-Olomu’s presence forced opposing offenses to avoid his side of the field this season. Oregon’s secondary struggled as a unit this season, giving up 259.5 yards per game through the air, but Ekpre-Olomu was rarely beaten.
GEROD HOLLIMAN, LOUISVILLE, JR. — With one more interception, his 15th this season, Holliman will set the FBS record for picks in a single season. This ballhawk benefits from several more games — and pass attempts — than Washington’s Al Worley (1968), but 14 total interceptions thus far for the Cardinals is an incredible feat.