Given out each year to recognize the most outstanding defensive player in the country, the Bronko Nagurski Award is one of the most coveted in the country. With last year’s winner, Notre Dame Fighting Irish LB Manti Te’o, now off to the NFL, we’re guaranteed a brand new winner this season.
Now while not many expect anyone other than South Carolina‘s Jadeveon Clowney to walk away with this award, and with good reason, crazier things have happened. All of the names included on this year’s watch list are exceptional defensive players and could make a viable run at the trophy.
As far as the ACC goes, the conference is represented by a total of 12 athletes. Of those 12, the North Carolina Tar Heels, Florida State Seminoles and the Virginia Tech Hokies were the only schools to land more than one player on the roster.
Representing Florida State are DT Timmy Jernigan, DB Lamarcus Joyner and LB Christian Jones. These three men make up the backbone of what should be another great Seminole defensive effort throughout 2013.
Carrying the torch for North Carolina are DB Tre Boston and DE Kareem Martin. In a year where the Heels return some talented pieces on a team that could have possibly won an ACC title last year had it not been for sanctions preventing such an event from happening, these young men are back to make sure they don’t have to miss out on that opportunity this season.
Virginia Tech is led on the list by shutdown DB Antone Exum, who hopes to return in time for the season opener after recovering from offseason ACL surgery, and LB Jack Tyler. These two hope to accentuate the view of their talents by leading the Hokies to a much better campaign than last year’s 6-6 letdown.
The rest of the ACC is well represented as well by exceptional athletes.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets DL Jeremiah Attaochu, Duke Blue Devils DB Ross Cockrell, Pittsburgh Panthers DL Aaron Donald, Wake Forest Demon Deacons DL Nikita Whitlock and Boston College Eagles LB Kevin Pierce-Louis round out the names on this year’s preseason list.
Jack is the ACC College Football Writer for Rant Sports. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackJ14RS