Top 10 Candidates to Win the 2014 Chuck Bednarik Award

Top 10 Candidates to Win the 2014 Chuck Bednarik Award

Aaron Donald Pittsburgh v Georgia Tech
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With the 2014 college football season creeping closer, it seems like a good time to look at some of the players who could be in contention for the major postseason awards. The Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding defensive player, was won by Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald in 2013 after one of the most dominant seasons by a defensive linemen in recent memory. Who will emerge as the nation’s best defender this season?

10. DE Mario Edwards, Florida State

Mario Edwards Discover Orange Bowl - Northern Illinois v Florida State
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10. DE Mario Edwards, Florida State

Mario Edwards Discover Orange Bowl - Northern Illinois v Florida State
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Edwards was the top recruit for the class of 2012, but has yet to fulfill his massive potential. He will be playing on one of the nation’s best defenses on the nation’s best team, so he will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself.

9. DT Michael Bennett, Ohio State

Michael Bennett San Diego State v Ohio State
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9. DT Michael Bennett, Ohio State

Michael Bennett San Diego State v Ohio State
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Bennett is one of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles in the country, as he racked up an impressive seven sacks in 2013. Bennett will be playing alongside Noah Spence and Joey Bosa on perhaps the best defensive line in the nation. That might make it harder for him to stand out, but he remains the Buckeyes’ most talented defender.

8. LB Myles Jack, UCLA

Myles Jack Washington v UCLA
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8. LB Myles Jack, UCLA

Myles Jack Washington v UCLA
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Jack became something of a folk hero as a freshman when he excelled, not just on defense, but also as a running back, scoring an incredible seven touchdowns on just 38 carries. While it remains to be seen how often Jack is used offensively this season, he will look to establish himself as one of the best linebackers in college football.

7. LB Kyler Fackrell, Utah State

Kyler Fackrell Utah State v USC
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7. LB Kyler Fackrell, Utah State

Kyler Fackrell Utah State v USC
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Every list needs a dark horse, and Fackrell certainly fits the bill here. Playing for Utah St., he doesn’t get the national recognition that other players on this list do. Though, that hasn’t stopped Fackrell from becoming one of the most productive and dominant defenders in the country.

6. S Landon Collins, Alabama

Landon Collins Allstate Sugar Bowl - Oklahoma v Alabama
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6. S Landon Collins, Alabama

Landon Collins Allstate Sugar Bowl - Oklahoma v Alabama
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The Crimson Tide are never lacking stars on defense, and Collins looks like the next in the long tradition of standout Alabama defenders. Blessed with incredible instincts, Collins was second on the team in tackles as only a sophomore. He will be a strong candidate for both the Bendarik and Thorpe awards, the latter given to the nation’s best DB.

5. CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu Oregon v Washington
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5. CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu Oregon v Washington
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Ekpre-Olomu surprised a lot of people by returning to Oregon for another season, but the Ducks are sure glad he did. Ekpre-Olomu is a difference maker, not only in coverage, but he is also one of the best run defenders at his position. Oregon’s offense will be getting a lot of attention this year, but thanks to Ekpre-Olomu, the defense won’t be half bad either.

4. DE Randy Gregory, Nebraska

Randy Gregory Michigan State v Nebraska
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4. DE Randy Gregory, Nebraska

Randy Gregory Michigan State v Nebraska
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Gregory is the best defender Nebraska has produced since some guy named Ndamukong Suh played there. The former JUCO player is a physical freak, possessing a combination of size and speed that is too much for most offensive linemen to handle. Nebraska fans hope Gregory will have a Suh-like impact on their season.

3. DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State

Shilique Calhoun Minnesota v Michigan State
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3. DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State

Shilique Calhoun Minnesota v Michigan State
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In a conference with a lot of very good defensive linemen (including numbers nine and four on this list), Calhoun might be the best of the bunch. In addition to 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss, Calhoun also scored three touchdowns off of returns last season. Calhoun should be the leader of a typically dominant Spartan defense.

2. DE Vic Beasley, Clemson

Vic Beasley Georgia Tech v Clemson
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2. DE Vic Beasley, Clemson

Vic Beasley Georgia Tech v Clemson
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Beasley has been overshadowed by teammates Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins in seasons past. That won’t be the case this year, as the Tigers’ defensive end will be gunning for every postseason award out there. With a rebuilding offense, Beasley and Clemson’s defense will need to carry the team at times this season.

1. DL Leonard Williams, USC

Leonard Williams Arizona v USC
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1. DL Leonard Williams, USC

Leonard Williams Arizona v USC
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Williams’ calling card is versatility. He can play almost anywhere along the defensive line, making him an absolute matchup nightmare. After a standout sophomore campaign when he wasn’t 100 percent, Williams has the potential to be a top-five pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. In between, he should be the best defensive player in college football in 2014.

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