Bronko Nagurski Trophy names 2 SEC players among 4 finalists
As the season reaches the stretch run, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy has named 4 finalists for its annual award given to the nation’s top defender.
In alphabetical order, the finalists are Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr., Pitt defensive tackle Calijah Kancey, Georgia safety Chris Smith and USC defensive end Tuli Tuipulotu. Anderson won the award last season.
The award will be presented at the Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet on Dec. 5 at the Charlotte Convention Center. N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren will be the keynote speaker.
Here are the descriptions of the SEC players:
Will Anderson Jr., LB, Alabama (6-4, 243, Jr., Hampton, Ga.): The 2021 Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner will have a chance to match Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern (1995-96) as the Trophy’s only repeat winner. The junior linebacker has had another standout season for the Crimson Tide. He leads Alabama in tackles for loss (14.0, t-11th in FBS) and sacks (8.0, t-12th) with combined losses totaling 103 yards. Anderson led the nation in both categories last year at 17.5 sacks and 34.5 TFL’s (an NCAA record since 2000). He is currently in the top 3 of Alabama’s career lists in both categories. He has recorded at least one tackle for loss in 28 of his 38 career games. Anderson is tied for seventh on the team with 42 overall tackles (18 solos), has an interception with a 25-yard return for a touchdown, and owns 10 quarterback hurries.
In addition to Anderson in 2021, Alabama’s other Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner was defensive end Jonathan Allen in 2016. The Crimson Tide has now had finalists in 11 of the last 12 seasons.
Chris Smith, FS, Georgia (5-11, 195, Sr., Atlanta, Ga.): Known as a big-game player, Smith is fourth on the team with 37 tackles, 26 solos, and has 4.0 tackles for loss and a sack. His two interceptions include 29 yards in returns, including a 22-yarder that set up a score in Georgia’s season-opening win over Oregon. His career single-game high of seven tackles came in the win over arch-rival Florida. With Smith as its anchor in the secondary, Georgia’s defense is second nationally, giving up just 11.6 points per game. and is one of the most stout on third downs, giving up first downs only 27 percent of the time, third nationally.
— Nagurski Trophy (@NagurskiTrophy) November 16, 2022