by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
On Sunday night, LSU's linebacker Damone Clark joined Cincy's Darrian Beavers, Wyoming's Chad Muma, Utah's Devin Lloyd, and UGA's Nakobe Dean as 2021's nominees for the Butkus Award, given to the best linebacker in America....and most of Tiger Nation loved Damone's chances:
Enjoying an incredible season recording 135 total tackles, 77 solo stops, 17 pressures, 15 tackles for loss, 6 QB hits, 5.5 sacks, 3 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and his first career interception, punctuated by 8 games of 10+ tackles & never lower than 6 per contest, it appeared the Tigers' #18 would win the award.
Instead, the Butkus committee had different ideas....
After Georgia's worst defensive outing of the season, their linebacker Nakobe Dean was insanely given the award.....and we're not letting them get away with it....this is egregious.
Georgia's Nakobe Dean had a strong season, posting 61 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 2 INTs, one returned for a touchdown, but his year doesn't even come close to the accomplishments of Damone Clark's 2021 season;
Comparatively, Damone was the #1 leader of a defense which lost its two starting DEs & both starting corners, 3 of those 4 defenders being All-Americans; the defense also relied upon Damone's playmaking while also still holding enough strong contributors on defense to make each tackle competitive (Micah Baskerville at 83 tackles, Jay Ward at 60, Cam Lewis at 54). As well as suffering numerous injuries across the entire unit, LSU's defense went through a couple scheme changes: once after UCLA, then again following Kentucky.
Meanwhile, Nakobe Dean was playing alongside one of the true historic defenses of the last 25 seasons in college football. Despite their 41-24 defeat to Alabama, UGA's defense had only surrendered 83 points all year until the SEC title game, including 3 shutouts, 2 other offensive shutouts & only allowing offenses to score 17 at most all year.
That speaks to an incredible defensive unit.....one which Dean was a part of.....in fact, he's not even the leading tackler on the team, sharing that distinction with DB Lewis Cine, a player who has 4 more solo tackles & twice as many passes defended (8) than 2021's "Butkus Award Winner".
Did they seriously give Nakobe Dean the Butkus Award over Damone Clark?
Damone has 74 more tackles than Dean, playing in the same conference, toughing through the hardest division in college football and Dean played in an extra game, too....how is this possible?
When you look for a prototype to represent the future of football's linebacker position, you either put in all 3 of Devin White's playoff games from last year's Tampa Bay Super Bowl run, or you put on Damone's performances vs Miss St, Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida or Texas A&M, steambreathing showcases of absolute savagery which literally defined the word linebacker.
How Damone Clark didn't win this award isn't just sad, silly or enraging....it's a crime.
After enduring the trials of 2020, nonstop second guessing of whether he could pair the hard-won mental attributes of the best linebackers alongside his prodigious athleticism, while being roasted by many analysts and fans, 2021 was make or break for Damone.
It all appeared uncertain...that was until Clark found a second chance under the development and guidance of LSU's 2021 LBs Coach Blake Baker;
Over the past 10 months as he listened to vitriolic criticism for an entire off-season or was forced to adjust to a new defensive staff for the third year in a row, Clark transformed himself from one of the most disappointing players of 2020 into the best linebacker in college football.....
As much as it would be a great thing for Damone to be able to celebrate & smell the roses after all his hard work, the Butkus committee didn't feel he was deserving....
....Even though he doubled the amount of tackles as Nakobe Dean....
....Even though Dean just had 1 game of double digit tackles compared to Clark's 8.....
....Even though Damone registered 16 more solo tackles than Dean's total overall stops (77 to 61).....
....Even though Clark affected every whim of an offense, from shutting down the run, limiting yards after catch, breaking up passes, pulling off riveting solo tackles in space, forcing 4 turnovers, attacking QBs with 17 pressures, 5.5 sacks or blowing up plays before they even began (15 tackles for loss).....
....When you look at all the data, all the realities....there's only one reason Damone Clark didn't win the 2021 Butkus Award:
The disgraceful reality of college football's Awards Season politics.
OUR COVERAGE OF DAMONE CLARK:
#1 PRESEASON PROFILE: CAN HE REBOUND FROM 2020?
#2 IN SEASON PROFILE
#3 IN SEASON PROFILE #2
#4 IN SEASON PROFILE #3
#5 IN SEASON PROFILE #4
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
SHOUTOUTS: Damone Clark....2021'S TRUE BUTKUS AWARD WINNER